John J. | Memphis, TN

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I’m Not That Guy

“I was doing a job [yard work] and a guy pulled up and said ‘I seen you.’ I asked ‘do you need anything?’ He says ‘I see you come out of my house last night.’

Then he called the police on me and the next thing, the police came and arrested me and gave me a charge. I later found out that the guy didn’t see no one. I found out it was his wife that said she saw a guy on a bicycle that looked like me with a backpack… but I ain’t got no backpack.

I went to jail and they let me go after 3 months because the lady didn’t show up in court.  They took 3 months of my life… I lost a lot of customers after that. People I was working with for years… people that left me at their house and everything.

I work for a living. I’m an honest person.”

– Harbert Ave. | Memphis, TN

Arthur “Gist the Essence” | Queens, NY

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Value Human Life

“I work with incarcerated kids. What I noticed with these kids is that we have to just give them a little bit of trust and it goes a long way. Kids need to learn to live for themselves and learn how to live for themselves. We always saying ‘yo I’ll kill for my mother… I’ll die for my mother.’ We need to learn how to live for our mothers. We need to re-think the value of human life.”

Queens Village Station | New York

Malik J. | Baltimore, MD

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Super Goofy | Super Smart

“I try to be really positive all the time, even in the worst situations. Dancing is what I do. It calms me. It’s what I do when I get upset. It’s what I do when I don’t have anything else to turn to. When I dance I get so happy… it’s just like happiness out of no where.”

Landsdowne High School | Baltimore, MD

Jahcobie C. | Hollywood, CA

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A Resilient Survivor

“Embracing myself as a survivor is one of the biggest mountains I’ll climb, and one of the most beautiful. I’m a survivor of where I came from. I’m a survivor of stage 4 cancer. No matter what I go through, I’m willing to get back up and get back up stronger.

At the end of the day, I want people to know me as someone who loves and loves hard. The lover in me is the color I wear.”

– N. Normandie Ave | Hollywood, CA

Mike A. | South Memphis, TN

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“Memories…. these memories [pointing to house], you can’t get back. Memories are what define you… that’s your legacy.

I remember living here and my mom was on crack… my dad was an alcoholic. I was resentful of both my parents, but I realized I have to accept what it is and who they are. It made me who I am. I did the opposite. I have an appreciation for life because of those hardships.”

– 381 Michigan St. | South Memphis, TN


Daryl L. | Memphis, TN

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Dogmatic | Determined | About Change

“My dad is a big part of who I am. My father built these railroad tracks. He had an 8th grade education, worked 3 jobs and worked on the railroad to provide for us.

My dad would say life is the same ol’ soup, just a different bowl warmed over.  And later on in life he realized that even if it’s the same ol’ soup you just have to add something to it.  If you want something different, make it different.”

– West Carolina Ave. & Kentucky St. | Memphis, TN

Meka E. | Memphis, TN

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Fatherhood | Education | Empowerment

“At a young age I vowed to be ‘a father.’ I want my daughters to have the advantages that are afforded with two parents. I want them to know what a father means so that when they start their own family they have a standard of what is a father. I want them to have a high standard for whoever they choose to be their partner and hold them accountable… all the things I didn’t have growing up.”

– National Civil Rights Museum – The Lorraine Hotel | Memphis, TN

Walt B. | Brooklyn, New York

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A Contradiction. WEB

“I’m trying to figure out who WaltBrown is every year. I am a country boy from the South and no one expects me to be here.  When I’m at the height of my success, no one would have expected me to be here.  No matter what I’ll always remember the advice of a high school friend – ‘Please be yourself, because who you are is really f**king cool.’”

– Halsey St. Bed-Stuy | Brooklyn, New York

Jacob G. | Los Angeles, CA

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From The Ashes Rize Eternal | Luv, Jacob

“Every time I wear this shirt it throws people off. This is my family. My birth mother had enough love for me to know that I’d be better off in the care of  others.  There’s part of my background where I know I’m a product of a darker side of humanity… but I use that as motivation to shine. The Phoenix… from the ashes he rises and takes flight.”

– CalArts | Valencia, CA


Marcus H. | New York, NY

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In the Moment

“My grandmother was always found ways to inspire her grandchildren.  She’s a big reason I’m a play write, a director and an actor. As a kid, this is where my grandmother and I would come to relax.  We would come here and she would lay her head in my lap.  Now with my grandmother being sick, this is a place I can come to talk to her. This is also a place I come to mourn my two brothers who passed away. “

– 94th St. & Central Park West | Upper West Side, NY

Kwesi + Xolani J. | Whittier, CA

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Artist | Teacher | Father

“Being a dad is important to me. I want to be there for him… for him to understand who he is. Based on how he looks, I don’t want it to get lost that he’s a black man.

Being a father is about being honest with my kids and myself.”

– J. Family Home | Whittier, CA

Jamal W. | Memphis, TN

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Humble | Loving | Leader

“This is my hometown. This is one of the most symbolic things here. They slayed a leader where I live. What happened to Dr. King is in the soil.

I picked this location because it’s symbolic to who I am. I wouldn’t be who I am…. been to school… been able to sit on the bus… if it hadn’t been for him. The sacrifice that he made is one of the greatest you can make.”

– National Civil Rights Museum – The Lorraine Hotel | Memphis, TN

Reggie W. | New York, NY

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Reg .E is.. a people person | Motivated by them all

“A lot of what I learned about myself happened on the train. It’s on the train that I learned how to deal with people. Whenever I’m around people I try to engage them. I try to make someone laugh… pass on information. I now see how that translates into what I’m doing now as an event planner.  Going from being an engineer to an event planner inspires people because they see what I’m doing now and knew what I was doing then. It all feels right.”

– 6 Train | Midtown to the Bronx, New York

Spencer L. | Boston, MA

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Learning | Jesus | Engineering | Technology | Science | Helping | Family

“Visiting science centers is what started it all… that and my grandmother who told me when I was drawing spaceships that ‘you should be an aerospace engineer’… and today that’s what I am.

As a black man… my wife always tells me I beat the odds.  But I don’t see it that way.  I see it as just standing on the shoulders of my family.”

– Boston Science Museum | Boston, MA

Deshawn W. | Los Angeles, CA

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Dreamer | Brother | Actor

“Acting is my therapy. It gives me drive to do anything I ever wanted to do. If I didn’t have acting or the stage, I don’t know where I’d be.  As an actor, I want to make sure I have a legacy. When I die I want to be among the stars.”

– CalArts | Valencia, CA

John G. | Memphis, TN

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Be Here Now

“Being here now is about being with people when I’m with them… It’s about staying within the present moment and being present to what you’re doing in the moment. The greatest gift you can give people is your presence.”

– Leadership Memphis, Main St. | Memphis, TN

Andre C. | Knoxville, TN

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Quiet | Rebellious | Kind

“I was Trayvon Martin in 2002.  At 17 years old… I had baggy clothes, cornrowed braids, often seen with no shirt… and rarely smiled.  I was also an honor student, painfully shy, never suspended from school, never took drugs or alcohol, attended school almost all the time, and helped my grandfather in the yard every weekend.

By my appearance, I was a thug and up to no good.  I wore those clothes because rappers wore them.  I wore cornrowed braids because Allen Iverson and the group Outkast had them. What I wore was not evidence that I was a thug… it was evident that I followed popular culture.”

– Highlander Research and Education Center | Knoxville, TN

Thomas M. | Weston, FL

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I Will Be The One

 “I’m a musical genius.  Music is my passion. ‘The One’ is one of the first songs I composed. ‘I will be the one to answer our call to go where no one has gone before.’  For many are called but few are chosen.  I will be the one.”

– Home Studio | Weston, FL

Adeshi M. + Andres O. | Little Rock, AR

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“The thing about love… we look at it from a divine aspect. Love is eternal… for today, for tomorrow and forever. Even as we’re out here for a 6 mile run… we talk about love everyday.

We’ve known each other for 4 years. This is my brother.”

– 10th St. & M.L. King Jr. Dr. | Little Rock, AR

Ian J. | Atlanta, GA

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A Modern-Day Renaissance Man

“Railroads are what made Atlanta. Atlanta used to be called Terminus back in the 1800s… because here is where tracks from the Western and Atlantic Railroad ended. Like the tracks that you see, I too have a history.  As a Modern-Day Renaissance Man, I shape my work through a lens of re-examining the past. I tell stories through my photography… through my art… through my music… through my style.”

– Peters St., Castleberry Hill | Atlanta, GA

Bobby E. | Potomac, MD

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Believer | Educator | Man

“Manhood is defined in so many ways and it’s challenged in so many ways. My father was principal in helping me define that. Growing up as a gay black boychild I always had a conflict with how manhood is defined… it’s often defined by how may women you sleep with, how aggressive you can be… it’s about your prowess. My father taught me that manhood is actually about accountability, it’s about responsibility… Now I’m at an age where I am confident in knowing what it means to be a man.  I am a proud, black, gay, educated man.”

– McLean School of Maryland | Potomac, Maryland

Maurice S. | New York, NY

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Sankofa (go back & fetch)

“Sankofa is most certainly a guiding principle for many of actions I take on as well as Kujichagulia and Ifogbintaayse. Sankofa is a Twi concept from Ghana. It’s the idea that while we are striving for something better and a desired outcome, that it’s ok to evaluate the past for idea and inspiration.”

– El Hajj Malik Shabazz Birthday Commemoration Run | Harlem, NY

Adam T. | Washington, D.C.


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Considerate | Loving | Persistent | Confident

“My mother is a hard-working Greek woman that stepped outside the box and had two children with a black man.  Growing up, I was always back and forth… am I black… am I white. When I got to college I blossomed… I realized… I’m biracial. That’s who I am.”

– Voice of America Studios | Washington, D.C.

Devon B. | Boston, MA

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You hear the stat that over 25% of black males over 21 are either dead or in jail… when I turned 21 I felt like I won the lottery. There are some exceptions, but when you watch the news and see the images of black males… it’s all about thuggery. As a community there are things we need to address. I know it can happen.”

– Taberna de Haro | Brookline, MA

Kenny T. + Dontrell M. | Oakland, CA

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“This is our home. We’ve invested our heart… our life into this. This is where we can creatively let go no matter what’s going on in the world… at home. You get in a argument with a chick… go to the studio. You feeling happy… go to the studio. They elected Obama… go to the studio. They killed Oscar Grant… go to the studio. We’re at war. This is war. There’s an invisible war going on everyday. Trayvon… Oscar… we’re all casualties of war.”

– The Garage (Studio) | Oakland, CA

Terrell S. | Memphis, TN

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Energetic | Passionate

“I have the love for the craft of barbering. I’m constantly moving… on the go. I’m constantly looking for ways to be better. I don’t sleep. I’m constantly looking for ways to make myself better as a barber.”

– Headz Up Barbershop | Memphis, TN

Jesse J. | Memphis, TN

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Friend | Convener | Fighter

“As a black man I always have to do twice as much as my white counter parts…. Twice as much to get a job… twice as much to get respect… twice as much to do whatever.

It’s been a big struggle my whole life… fight for what’s right and fighting against racism.  I believe in fighting for what is right… fighting for those who can’t fight for themselves.”

– Mina Ave. & Tennessee St. | Memphis, TN

Joe T. | Knoxville, TN

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Servant Leader | Artist

“I’m a musician and an actor but one of my primary goals is trying to figure out how to get young people involved and let them know they can be advocates. I want to both lead and serve those who are undeserved, marginalized and not afforded similar opportunities.”

– Remedy Coffee Shop | Knoxville, TN

Moses A. | Atlanta, GA

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Father | Son | Brother | Humble | Blessed

“One of the biggest issues we face is that we don’t communicate well. As men we’re not supposed to have feelings and express ourselves. This is a problem because we have so much anger built up… I try to express myself in the most humble way possible.”

– Waffle House, Hwy 85 | Atlanta, GA

Chris B. | New York, NY

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 “I am the extreme version of passionate. I’m passionate about anything I’m a part of. Luck and passion…that’s how I got where I am today. That’s how I got connected to Lee Daniels and David O. Russell.  I try to talk to other younger brothers in film and tell them they can go beyond music videos… they don’t have to limit themselves to just BET.”

– 54th St. & 10th Ave. | Hell’s Kitchen, New York

Andrew N. | Great Falls, MD

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“Being here reminds me of the beauty of simple things. Most people would assume I don’t like to be outside or think I’m just a pretty boy. I prefer to be outdoors – fish, hike, run… I like a lot of different things. There’s a lot more if you get to know me.”

– Billy Goat Trail | Great Falls, MD

Roberto A. | Los Angeles, CA

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Peaceful Warrior

“I was taught through martial arts at a young age to be a peaceful warrior. The life of a warrior is like the life of an artist… discipline… devotion… Remembering that helps me everyday. It’s about love, respect, care, responsibility.”

– West Hollywood Whole Foods | Los Angeles, CA

Stephen K. | Boston, MA

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“The other day I had a student who noticed that all the pictures of evolution depict Caucasian looking men… she asked me – ‘Where are the women? Why are all the images of men?’ And if she as a white girl can’t see herself in that curriculum, how can that young Asian kid or black boy see themselves in that curriculum?”

– Lexington Montessori School | Lexington, MA


Eugene R. | Roxbury, MA

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Teacher | Mentor | Builder | Learner

“As a teacher I like to push the limits of thinking wherever possible.  I often try to get my students to think, ‘What’s their perception of self? What’s their perception of race and class? Why are things the way they are?’ A lot of what we do [as teachers] is building.  I’m one of many builders of this final product.”

– Madison Park Technical Vocational High School | Roxbury, MA

R. Lemoyne R. | Whitehaven, TN

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Leader | Culture | Education | Youth | Community

“I grew up in this community and would walk past this building every day. At the time it was a catholic school. Every day I saw kids that looked nothing like me going to this school. I always thought kids that were going in and out must have something better and something bigger than me. When the property became available it was no question that I had to buy it to provide it for my scholars. Youth development is what I do on a daily basis… as a school founder and chancellor and more.”

– City University School of Liberal Arts | Whitehaven, TN

Tarrence B. | Boston, MA

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“As an educator, I’m determined to change the role of the African-American male.  If the children I work with can grow up in life not seeing black males as scary or violent and actually see a soft side… hopefully it can have a ripple effect.”

– Lexington Montessori School | Lexington, MA

Jonathan A. | Boston, MA

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Man of God | Family Man | Motivated

“I keep trying to push myself to be better… I did mechanics in the Army.  Through that experience I realized that I can do mechanics anywhere in the world. Through God everything is possible.  I try to stay closer to him because if I stay closer to him everything will work out.”

– Boston Common | Boston, MA

Levon S. | Fort Myers, FL

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Quiet | Strong | Skilled

“There’s a lot of history here in this school.  This school dates back to 1942 and is an addition to the first government funded school for black students in the city.  I spent 35 years as a teacher in the school system… 22 years as a high school basketball coach.  I was the third black head coach in this area.”

– Lee County Black History Society/1942 Addition to the Williams Academy | Ft. Myers, FL

Antonio “2 Shay” | Memphis, TN

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Humble | Thankful | Passionate

“I come from humble beginnings. I’ve been homeless twice. I am grateful to be where I am. I am a sitting state representative for the state of Tennessee. I am thankful for having that story to tell and being in a position to help people, my people.”

– Silver Spoon Restaurant | Memphis, TN

Greg B. | Los Angeles, CA

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Husband | Father | Friend

“Baseball taught me discipline… it taught me work ethic.  Baseball played a big role in me passing the CPA.  It plays a big role now in who I am as an accounting professor. It taught me focus.  It taught me that being a good person and being a good baseball player all fit within building character.”

– Rancho Cienega Sports Complex | Los Angeles, CA