Profession: Performing Arts
One Word That Describes You: Artist
The mainstream media has portrayed black men as thugs, criminals, and uneducated. In response to these damaging stereotypes, EJ Brown created a photo series to change the narrative with he photo project titled “The Mugshot Series,” includes seven black-and-white images of young black men dressed in cap and gown, holding plaques that indicate their names, ages, and academic majors. Part of a larger campaign Brown launched called “A Perception of Complexion,” he hopes people will associate the faces of black men and boys with more than what they see in the media.
Through his love of the performing arts, Brown is creating his own story. He wants his black peers to know that they are not stereotypes, and that they have the power to define their own story. Inspired by Michael Jackson, one of the greatest performers in our history, Brown believes that through art he can make a huge impact. “The arts are the only thing that truly allows you to freely open up and be honest about your vulnerabilities and insecurities,” Brown says. “For many people, that’s a very difficult thing to do. To me, art has a responsibility to temporally take on the burdens of others, which is called escapism. Under the surface of it all, that is the reason why I do what I do — to escape and to help others get away for a while.”
For the 25-year-old Point Park University graduate, getting away for a while is as simple as smiling. Wrestling with his own combative nature from time to time, Brown has learned to compromise. “I don’t like being wrong, while at the same time I’m afraid of trusting advice given to me from others,” Brown tells BE Modern Man. “I’ve learned that there’s nothing wrong with compromising, as long as it is constructive for both parties. This has helped me become a better leader. People like working with someone who will listen.” This young man, just beginning his career, has his smile, understanding, education, and, most importantly, determination to propel him forward. “Failure is progress if you learn from it. A major pitfall would be: succumbing to doubts because of that failure.”
So far his campaign, which has been described as “bold” and “liberating,” is being well-received by community and media outlets. A huge step in the right direction, Brown says that even the youth are looking at the project and beginning to change their perspectives. “Not too long ago I was told that a lady’s son saw our pictures, and said he wanted to be like us and go to college,” says Brown. “Our youth are seeking leaders and we’re the ones who have to do it. Young women have seen these images and are given hope that we, the young men, are making a change and setting up the foundation for excellence.” With hopes to soon be able to provide scholarships to deserving students through a foundation in the future, he will impact where he can by organizing art showcases and performances to raise money and awareness.
Brown believes that art creates awareness, and the BE Modern Man initiative is clearing a pathway. “We are creating history that our children, and generations after them, will read about.”
The BlackEnterprise.com team congratulates EJ Brown, a young man who wasn’t afraid to use his creativity to combat the negative stereotypes that flood the media.
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