M&C Saatchi and Clear Channel Host Powerful 56 Black Men Portrait Exhibition

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Agency teams with photographer Cephas Williams to launch exhibit at M&C Saatchi's HQ on Golden Square, London this October
M&C Saatchi and Clear Channel Host Powerful 56 Black Men Portrait Exhibition

M&C Saatchi and Clear Channel have partnered with Cephas Williams, the founder of the 56 Black Men movement, to host a high profile and important exhibition of 56 portraits of black men from all walks of life, at M&C Saatchi's HQ on Golden Square this October.

56 Black Men sets out to challenge the negative portrayal of black men in the media and change social perceptions. The vision is to see a world where black men are spotlighted for positive things as opposed to negative and help create a world where black men feel adequately represented.

The number 56 came from a Sky News freedom of information request to every police force in the country, which found 56 black people were murdered in London in 2018. Cephas identified that the visual image in the media often attached to the statistics were images of black men and that other ethnicities and genders were not spotlighted as much for heinous crimes. The issue he found was the lack of the majority of black men who may ‘fit the bill’ but are not living up to the widely spread negative perception of black men.

Cephas’ ambition is to change that singular narrative through his photography and the wider work of the 56 Black Men organisation. His portraits include black men from various walks of life, from politicians, directors, creatives and teachers – all with positive life stories that are not diminished by their choice of clothing or the colour of their skin.

Coinciding with Black History Month, the ticketed exhibition is free and open to the public Monday to Friday, between 2pm and 5pm. The show will be celebrated at an industry event on 30th October, where a panel will discuss what the creative industries can do to trigger social change.

Featuring Cephas himself, the panel will be chaired by, Sereena Abbassi (worldwide head of culture and inclusion, M&C Saatchi), Caroline Forbes, Specialist Partner at Clear Channel, with men from the campaign also taking part. It will explore the story and the success of the 56 Black Men campaign and delve into understanding the role that media and advertising agencies can play in amplifying and curating campaigns for change and widening access into the industry.

Cephas said: “I think it’s great that Clear Channel and M&C Saatchi have come together to bring this exhibition to life, I want this to help in my mission to challenge journalist and media companies to start showcasing more positive news about black men and to really get behind our mission to change the narrative surrounding black men.”

Sereena added: “It is rare that we come across art that visually, as well as intellectually and emotionally, engages us, challenges us. Where we unpack and rethink how we view others - individually, as well as societally. This is one the most important works of our time, and we are so grateful to Cephas Williams, the founder of the 56 Black Men, for trusting M&C Saatchi and Clear Channel to bring this exhibition to life.”

Writing in the Guardian earlier this year, David Lammy, Labour MP and one of the 56 portraits in the exhibition, said: “The images of black people that are most visible are those of the youth in a gang or the old man with white hair. “There is not much clear sky in between. What about those people who are neither thugs nor Morgan Freeman? This is why I got involved with the 56 Black Men project. Set up by Cephas Williams, it seeks to liberate black men from invisibility. Featuring powerful photographs of black men in hoodies, from all walks of life, the project doesn’t ask us to think about what is outside of the hood, but what is underneath it.”

This important discussion coincides with wider activity taking place during Black History Month. M&C Saatchi is hosting a panel on 15th October exploring how brands can better engage with this awareness month, with a line-up of influential speakers, including entrepreneur Jamal Edwards MBE, Engine creative CEO Ete Davies, agency creative and influencer Sophia Tassew, and founder of Black in the Day photo archive Jojo Sonubi.

It is also hosting an identity workshop, as well as celebrating in its Eatrium with a week’s selection of inspired African, Caribbean and African-American dishes and music.

56 Black Men is open to the public from October 3 for the whole month, Monday to Friday and between 2pm and 5pm. Daily tickets are limited, however, with early booking recommended.

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M&C Saatchi London, 7 months ago