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19-Year-Old Myles Loftin Creates Platform To Erase The Negative Black Male Stereotype

"When you're a black man in a hoodie, all of a sudden you're a criminal"

When it comes to the mainstream media's depictions of black men, the portrayals we see on TV and in print are often negative. But one teen's new multimedia project is aiming to erase these stereotypes.

Myles Loftin, a photographer and videographer based in New York City, started the HOODED project in hopes of "humanizing and decriminalizing" the image of the black male in the eyes of larger society.

"The media has always put a negative light on black men in hoodies and even when you google ‘black boy hoodie’ you get images of criminals while the search 'white boy hoodie' produces cookie cutter stock photos of white teenagers smiling," he tells Milk. "I photographed four black teens and men and portrayed them in a positive light that is in direct contrast of the media representation that has oppressed us."

"The final product is a series of photographs, screenshots and a film that attempts to shift perception."

In the video, the 19-year-old features audio snippets of former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's "super-predator" speech, as well as the chilling 911 call made by George Zimmerman, the man who murdered Trayvon Martin.

Like Loftin, Netflix's Luke Cage star Mike Colter shared similar concerns around the stereotypes of black men with HuffPost Canada back in September 2016.

"When you're a black man in a hoodie, all of a sudden you're a criminal," the actor said. "That's something we shouldn't have to deal with, but we do. It's a double standard.

"We can't cover our head when it's cold and raining because God forbid someone sees us and puts our life in danger."

Other initiatives to change this stereotypical image are already in play as well.

Musician Chance The Rapper began popularizing the hashtag #BlackBoyJoy after the MTV Music Video Awards last year. Since then, Twitter and other social media platforms have been flooded with positive images of happy black boys and men from all different walks of life.

#brotherhood #welldressed #theblackmancan #kings #morroco #blackboyjoy #iammybrotherskeeper 📸@eltonandersonjr

A post shared by TheBlackManCan, Inc. (@theblackmancan) on

But while Loftin does note media representation is slowly improving, he still thinks there's a long way to go, and encourages other artists to do their part in changing the narrative.

"One of the best ways to tackle it is to just put yourself out there — putting out the positive side," he says in the interview with Milk. "The side that the media doesn’t really show accurately. Me being a successful black photographer is one way of rebellion against the media which is trying to portray a different image of what black boys are."

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