…at least that’s what some of the teenagers at the Anacostia Neighborhood Library think. Our third viewing at the “Through Your Eyes…” Documentary series yielded interesting dialogue and a great opportunity to discuss the images of Black men portrayed in media. We watched “Barak & Curtis,” a documentary short produced by filmmaker Byron Hurt, which examines the contrasting images of President Barak Obama as a black man in America against world renowned hip-hop artist Curtis Jackson, a.k.a. 50 Cent.
I had been prepping the young people for this night since the last documentary showing of “Manhood” two weeks earlier. But how would I engage them? I needed a way to spark conversation and keep their interest. They get restless and bored very quickly. Add to that the fact that if they think you’re trying to educate them on the low well, that’s just not cool, so they’ll probably leave. I decided to have them split their page down the middle long ways. (By the way, I learned a few new terms that night: split the page “hamburger,” horizontal, or “hot-dog,” vertical.) They wrote Barak on one side and 50 Cent on the other. (And for the record, they would have much rather had a comparison between President Obama and T.I., which I thought was really funny!) Then they thought about the types of images they see of Black men in media and wrote the corresponding thought under the column they though best fit either the image of President Obama or 50 Cent. We then discussed whether these images were positive or negative.
After we finished this exercise we watched the documentary. Then I showed them an MSNBC interview with the new 50 Cent, a.k.a. Curtis Jackson: the author, businessman, entrepreneur.
The final thought. You have the opportunity to define your image. You can reshape your world and who you are by making better choices in your life. I watched as their eyes glistened with inspiration and their minds started to work.