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The goal is to encourage more nuanced coverage of Black men in the city

Detroit NABJ event to tackle Black male media representation, mental health

The goal is to encourage more nuanced coverage of Black men in the city

For decades, Black Americans have loudly protested against how they are represented in media, and though some progress has been made, there is still concern that young Black boys are still seen as thugs and criminals -- even when they are innocent – compared to their white counterparts whose innocence is always presumed.

To help address these concerns, the National Association of Black Journalists developed the Black Male Media Project, an initiative that gives local chapters around the country the flexibility to design programming that best fits the needs of their respective  communities. On June 1, 20 local NABJ chapters, including Detroit, will convene in separate but concurrent meetings across the country to discuss this issue, as well as how it overlaps with wellness and mental health among Black Americans. 

Detroit’s NABJ chapter offers a panel discussion this weekend focused on the challenges Black men and boys experience with mental health and it is addressed – if ever -- in Detroit media coverage. NABJ chapter member Jeremy Thomas, this year’s organizer, found inspiration for Saturday’s theme from celebrities such as Kid Cudi and Big Sean openly discussing their maintenance of their mental health. 

Current Detroit Chapter President Vincent McCraw has long had an inside look at how local media creates narratives about Black men in the city. McCraw has over 30 years of experience in the news field, recently retiring from a long stint at The Detroit News.

“In the Detroit media market, far too often Black men are primarily crime suspects,” he said. “Too little media attention is given to the black male entrepreneurs or community activists or leaders.”

“In the Detroit media market, far too often Black men are primarily crime suspects,” he said. “Too little media attention is given to the black male entrepreneurs or community activists or leaders.” 

Saturday’s panel includes Robert Jamerson, interim CEO at Detroit Police Athletic League; Kevin Fischer, executive director National Alliance on Mental Illness Michigan (NAMI Michigan); Dr. Curtis Longs, child psychiatrist; Dr. Karlin Tichernor, behaviorist: and Rev. L. T. Willis, pastor New Jerusalem Baptist Church. 

WJBK reporter and anchor Josh Landon will moderate the discussion and host a live interview with Detroit motivational speaker and Black male mentor Jason Wilson, author of "Cry Like A Man: Fighting for Freedom from Emotional Incarceration."

“NABJ works to increase the visibility of black men in the industry by making sure they are in the spaces where they can get access to opportunities,” McCraw said. “We periodically remind local media leaders to be vigilant in their diversity and inclusion efforts in their newsrooms. This is especially key given the restructuring, buyouts and layoffs at the two daily papers in recent years.” 

The media veteran hopes the Black Male Media Project will open doors for the next generation of Black men in the news business. “Black journalists need to be on all the spaces in which we can tell the stories of our communities, be it legacy media, social media, blogs, vlogs and the rest.” 

The Detroit NABJ: Black Male Media Project takes place June 1 at the new Detroit PAL headquarters from 10:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. Youth leaders are also encouraged to register their young men for the event by emailing Jeremy Thomas at thomas.jeremyl@gmail.com or calling 313-485-0236.  Registration is available here