To 'abolish' is to formally put an end to a system, practice or institution. The effects of the transatlantic slave trade still shake our communities, and although it was 'formally' put to an end, it still haunts black people through the means of more acceptable systems. I created this work with the intention of exposing the effects of white supremacy, institutional racism, and prejudice on the Black Man. According to mentalhealth.org.uk, people from black and minority ethnic groups living in the UK are more likely to be diagnosed with mental health problems, but also less likely to engage with mental health services, leading to social exclusion.
When a young black man switches on his television or laptop, he is scarred by the countless video clips of innocent black men being killed by police officers, or more commonly, one other. Looking at both historical events and current happenings in the world, he sees that black men are criminalised; whether it be the predator that is lynched and left hanging from a tree like strange fruit after wrongly being accused of rape, or the hyperactive black kid that spends more of his time in the head teacher’s office than he does in class. There is psychological trauma that needs to be dealt with in black communities, but the Black Man feels that he has no one he can turn to. He does not want to emasculate himself by sharing his anguish with another party. In some instances, he can’t quite put his finger on why he feels the way he does.
To depict this solitude, I captured some UK based black men as they went about their daily activities and pursued their passions, whilst still capturing their inner torment. One of the subjects is a musician, and we see him playing his saxophone in the centre of his living room. The blinds are shut to represent his severe seclusion and all we see of him is a silhouette. There is a small amount of light hitting his saxophone, making it visible to us and enabling us to see that despite his suffering, he still has something to live for and express himself through; music.
To abolish is also to ‘do away with’ and we must not abandon the Black Man. I hope that this work brings awareness to these themes of institutional racism, and its effect on the mental health of black men, but also encourages the Black Man to break away from his social exclusion and open up about the problems that he faces.