Father’s Day this year fell on Juneteenth, the traditional celebration of Black American emancipation and the newest federal holiday in the United States. George Washington University’s Imani Cheers has long seen this confluence as an opportunity. In 2020, she intentionally chose that weekend as the opening date for an exhibition on positive images of Black men, for which Cheers, a trained photographer, originally planned to travel and take portraits.
Over the years since its inception, however, Cheers said she began to feel it was more important for the show to spotlight Black male artists’ visions of their own peers and communities. As an artist, as an academic, and particularly as a mother, Cheers said, her goal became “to crowdsource and curate” positive, layered images of Black men for her own son — images created by the Black men who are his potential mentors, role models, and community members.
That project is now Framing Fatherhood, a photojournalism exhibition hosted by the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design that celebrates visions of Black masculinity through the lens of 14 Black male artists. Framing Fatherhood is an extension of It Takes a Village: Basics of Boyhood and Messages of Manhood, Cheers’s ongoing media project exploring the representation and reality of Black men as children, adults, friends, partners, and parents.
“We know, unfortunately, that being Black in America is a challenging space… so when I’m raising my son in an American context, I have to consciously make sure that he knows that he is loved and valued,” said Cheers, who is interim senior associate provost for undergraduate education as well as an associate professor of media and public affairs in the School of Media and Public Affairs. “The purpose of this exhibition is for him to be uplifted by and reminded of the good that I already know exists.”
For more information, visit boyhood2manhood.com.
Framing Fatherhood is free and open to the public until July 31, Wednesdays through Sundays from 1–6pm at the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design, 500 17th Street NW in Washington, DC.