Black men rarely get the chance to tell their own narrative to the world. For centuries, they’ve carried the negative labels society has used to brand them and present day is no exception.
However, Bryon Summers wants to tear down the negative stereotypes that plague black men. Through the “We Love You” project, he’s giving black men and boys a chance to define themselves on their own terms.
Summers, a freelance photographer from Prince George’s County, Maryland, wants to photograph 1,000 black men from around the country and flood the internet with their portraits. He’s sharing their images on his Instagram page accompanied with their names and the message, “Thank you for taking back your image. We love you.”
“I wanted to find a different and creative way to approach this problem of misrepresentation of Black men in mainstream media,” Summers told The Huffington Post via email. “Photography is my medium of choice and with social media at our fingertips today, we can all choose what is news worthy or what matters to us instantly... I figured if I can photograph 1,000 Black men and we all post them online in solidarity, it can borrow elements of marching to take back our image.”
Summers, who’s been practicing photography since he was 15, said he was overwhelmingly frustrated after the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile and wanted to uplift the black community with a simple phrase they may not hear as often as they need.
“This is as much an art project as it is a form of protest,” he told HuffPost. “It’s creative, nonviolent, and has potential to last for generations if not forever. It’s aiming to change the current narrative. It’s uplifting. It’s empowering and beautiful.”
So far, Bryon has photographed dozens of men in Brooklyn, New York, and Washington, D.C. He said his models have responded with nothing but gratitude and love during the photoshoot. He plans to visit other cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit and Miami to find even more participants.
In addition to the photo series, Summers sells T-shirts that read “We Love You,” on his site, and proceeds from the sales go to the families of the victims of police brutality.
After he reaches his goal of 1,000 portraits, Summers said he wants to create a book for the “We Love You” project. He also plans on spreading the love to black women. In the meantime, he’s encouraging others to share the images.
He explained that he wants his project to let black men to know one simple thing:
“The message is in the title ― We Love You... You’re strong, handsome role models and no one can take that away. You’re human and should be treated as such.”
Scroll down to check out more photos from the "We Love You" project.