IF YOU GOOGLE news stories about "black males," among what you'll read is that a baby born today stands a 1-in-3 chance of ending up in jail or prison, the group has a higher rate of prostate cancer than whites and that stereotypes about them being violent criminals abound.
Such headlines, and the steady parade of life-and-death clashes with police that has given rise to the "Black Lives Matter" movement, has cast a decidedly dim light on the image of the black man.
Tonight, in an effort to acknowledge and affirm positive aspects of black manhood, men who are enduring and overcoming life's challenges will be spotlighted at "Beyond Expectations: Engaging Males of Color," a performing arts showcase created by the city of Philadelphia's Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services in partnership with First Person Arts, a nonprofit story-telling organization.
"This really is an opportunity for us to highlight in a very positive way the stories of men who are doing well. They're resilient, they've overcome adversity in their lives and we want to hold them up," said DBHIDS Commissioner Arthur Evans, a clinical psychologist.
"People want to change the conversation that we're having about African-American men. This is an opportunity for that to happen," he added.
The event, the first in a three-part performing arts series, begins with a 7 p.m. reception at the Philadelphia Theater Company's Suzanne Roberts Theatre, on Broad Street near Lombard.
For tickets visit DBHIDS.org, Firstpersonarts.org or call 267-402-2055.
Among those who will be telling their stories are Philadelphia-born retired defensive end Raheem Brock, a standout at Temple University who won a Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts. Tariq "Black Thought" Trotter, 43, the lead vocalist and co-founder of Philadelphia's celebrated hip-hop band the Roots will also be featured, as will be Rich Medina, the noted DJ, who hails from Lakewood, N.J.
They will be joined by Michael Green, a Rowan University counselor and Camden, N.J., native who will speak about breaking the cycle of violence in which he was raised; Gregory King, a Swarthmore College visiting assistant professor of dance; Christian Axavier Lovehall, who was born female and is now a transgender male; and Russell Walker, a United States military veteran who has overcome post-traumatic stress disorder.
"There's going to be some very compelling stories that will help us really raise the issue of, what are men doing about their mental health?" said Evans, whose department recently launched the Engaging Males of Color Initiative.
Its mission is to address the impact of health, economic and educational disparities experienced by males of color.