We talk with Damon Mosley about his new book that fights Anti-Black Male Racism With a Smile
“Black men are the easiest targets in the world. I wanted to ‘shoot’ us a different way,” Damon Mosley said. The Ohio writer/photographer’s new photo book Smile For We is dedicated to changing the way the world sees and treats Black men.
Mosley said he got the idea for the project as a response to the police brutality problems witnessed around the country. “Countless images of police violence against Black men are on a loop on our screens and in our heads. It breaks us down mentally, so I wanted to do something about it.”
However, police shootings are just one side of the equation, Mosley explained.
“Every time you turn on the TV, you see Black men getting killed, ridiculed, or stereotyped at the first opportunity. In general, the media constantly portrays us as threats, not human beings. My goal is to keep positive Black men visible and relevant.”
Instead of famous athletes and entertainers, Smile For We features everyday people. Hard-working, 9 to 5 guys who live in the same towns and attend the same schools and churches as you.
“We don’t all play sports, rap or sell drugs,” Mosley noted. “Black men are just like everybody else. Nuanced. Complex.” He continued, “Don’t wait until we’re on a mural or a t-shirt. Give us our flowers today.”
Despite the book’s good intentions, Mosley ran into an unexpected hurdle when many of his subjects were reluctant to smile.
“I was like, ‘Guys, it’s in the title!’” he laughed.
“We’ve been conditioned to act so hard that we’re immune to being happy. In the end, it was very rewarding and satisfying to see Black men exist with their full range of feelings.”
Along with being an opportunity to serve his community, his hope for Smile For We is that the sentiment expands into other areas like music, films, and TV.
“We need more positive Black male representation in media. Smile For We is about separating ourselves from the stigma. Reshaping our public image, our brand.”
Smile For We by Damon Mosley is available at www.smileforwe.com.