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New Film Series Gives Black Boys Space to Talk About Love

black boyBlack boys will grow into Black men with no moral compass. No spiritual anchor. No ambition. Men who lack the ability to love and be loved.

That is the dominant narrative, displayed by media images, that filmmakers Nicole Franklin and Jasmin Tiggett are aiming to deflate with their 10-film series “Little Brother.”

Camden, N.J. is the first city in the series. With a population of nearly 80,000, mostly Black and Latino residents — Camden is consistently ranked first or second in the U.S. for homicides.

“I know people in the neighborhood feel like they’re in a fish bowl all the time because [in the media], it’s the same narrative,” Franklin said. “Camden is dangerous. It’s filled with unemployment. It’s destructive. There’s no hope for Camden. And here we come [with our cameras].”

The series is made up of 15- to 18-minute segments that each intimately features one-on-one conversations with boys ages 9 to 13. The topics range from their home lives and their proximity to drugs and violence to their vulnerable admissions of how they experience love.

The names of Black boys from Camden frequently appear in headlines or obituaries, but never in the credits of a film that is positively discussing their perspectives on life and their place in the world.

Franklin and Tiggett saw the pressing need to change that.

“We have so many negative images to deflect and combat that have already saturated the public consciousness that we needed 10 films, at least, to make a dent in the armor,” Franklin says.

The stark brilliance of the Camden segment is the juxtaposition of what we often hear about these boys and what they are saying. When asked questions about a future that most critics, narrowly privy to their circumstance, say they won’t have, they respond positively and with hope.

“These young black boys still carry very idealistic beliefs. They’re going to be grown men with partners and they’re going to have children—many children!” Franklin says. “They’re going to have a good life, be financially stable, have a good job and be alive. They haven’t projected anything other than that—and they include God in that plan.”

Franklin and Tiggett are on a mission to spark conversations that will obstruct the pipeline of Black males headed from the cradle to the prison to the cemetery.

“I knew that around age 10, something was happening to Black boys—and we weren’t seeing anything on it,” Franklin said. “It’s popular to hear that when young Black boys enter the 4th grade that’s when ‘they’ start planning how many prison beds to account for.”

Tiggett agrees that this attack on Black boys and men is obstructing the images of a healthy Black family unit. And what will save our families is making space for Black men to speak on love as opposed to making space for them in prisons and cemeteries.

“It concerns me to think that in a few generations, the Black family as we know it may not exist because we couldn’t sustain ourselves, because others didn’t love us, because we didn’t love one another.  These boys are essentially the heads of household of the next generation, and what they have to say about love may give us a clue as to how to preserve it.”

 

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