African Americans of today live in very complex and trying times. Since the beginning of the television and radio age, the media has been portraying African Americans as the dangerous and unstable majority. We are rarely highlighted for our accomplishments and are often made a mockery at the white man’s expense. Morning talk shows would rather in discuss the killing of an animal rather than the senseless killing of a 12-year-old Black boy.
Current day media coverage on African American lives is a complete slap in the face, and Dallas native Justin Adu has decided to slap the media write back with reality. Adu has teamed up with the African American Museum of Dallas for his African Amedia exhibit. This exhibit is doing what broadcast networks won’t do, and that is show the truth. African Amedia is a fictional television network that shows the negative representations of African Americans as well as stereotypes that the media loves to show off to the world.
Race in America is always a touchy subject for people who fear to embrace its issues. Adu wants to knock down that guarded wall and expose what being Black in America really feels like. The exhibit creator shares his thoughts for this Saint Heron exclusive:
Saint Heron: What inspired you to create this exhibit?
Justin Adu: For the last three years, as I took a step back and looked around, I saw the negative way that African Americans were perceived as it pertained to police brutality. Not only were we the victim in many cases, but also we continued to be even through times of being leaders and protesting or speaking out about police brutality.
Why do you think the media portrays people of color the way it does?
This is something that has been happening for years and I just think it is a matter of not being educated. It’s not only in the news that this happens, but also even from a television sitcom or entertainment aspect this is something that is continuously happening.
Why is digitizing the revolution a beautiful thing?
I often wonder how much African American history has been lost or not recognized for years. I understand the value of content and particularly content as it pertains to social media and digital platforms. Many often say that the use of the Internet is overkill, but I simply look at it as a resource that our generation is using to bring light to so many issues that may have went unrecognized.
What are your thoughts on media diversity? Is it getting better or still a tad bit generalized?
It’s very generalized, however this is an issue that many people are starting to bring to light. Most recently, Lee Daniels during a discussion with a few other directors and producers brought up the issue of diversity in the writing room, asking other directors how many African American writers they have on their staff and many had 0-1. The problem comes in when you are trying to write in roles held by people of color, but since you are unattached from the race or better yet culture the interpretation of those characters are out of whack.
Explain how modern day journalism and social media is changing the world and how African Americans should use it in a positive way.
#BlackLivesMatters is probably one of the most historical protest campaigns in which I am glad I am apart of and can witness. When you think back to the 50’s-60’s you had several campaigns in which were protest slogans that we have known of for years and the way that they went about gaining a following was different. From I AM A Man, Black Pride, Fight The Power, and so many other campaigns, all are meant to uplift African Americans and also bring awareness to the struggle that African Americans face.
Do you think art can motivate a movement?
Art comes in many forms and whether that is through a photograph, painting, or music art can motivate a movement. One example outside of art as it pertains to contemporary art would be the recent album by Kendrick Lamar which features many motivational songs geared towards millennial feeling like they are worthless. By simply creating songs like “I” and “ Alright”, I think he did an excellent job at using other platforms to bring awareness to the issues African Americans are facing today.
What is the message you want to pass on from your exhibit?
That the issues we are facing today is the reality of today. So often we shy away from issues that people know are very relevant, however due to the fact that what we are witnessing is so disheartening it does not mean that we should close our eyes. We must all take action and taking action can take place in many different ways. For me, my silent protest was African Amedia.
What’s next from you? What can we expect?
I am very excited about my next project. Thus after doing African Amedia I feel that the message was received well and that is a topic that needs to continue to take place, however I am ready to start a new conversation. What that conversation is? I am still working on that but just stay tuned.