A Hero’s Journey Takes Center Stage in Series Showcasing 1,000 Black Men
In SummaryThe producers of "Hero of a Thousand Faces" are attempting to change societal narratives about Black men one story at a time.
When you look at the Black men you know, you may see a father, brother, husband, partner, teacher, activist or leader in your community. But some people in society view Black men as criminals, thugs, or people who are only good for rapping lyrics and dribbling balls.
A new project created by two Black men is on a mission to change societal narratives about them by telling the stories of 1,000 different Black men.
Gabriel Andrews and Michael Anderson are the producers of A Hero of a Thousand Faces, a project dedicated to changing societal narratives of Black men who are often villainized in the media.
In 2010, Andrews was a videographer for a conference hosted by the League of Black Women. The panelists inspired him as they discussed what the Black woman of the future looked like, causing Andrews to wonder what the future for Black men could be. He left the conference with one question in mind: What does the Black man 2.0 look like?
He sat on that thought for several years as he experienced a pain common in the Black community—death caused by racial violence. “Unfortunately, we had Trayvon Martin pass and that just begins to sit,” he said as he recounted the various names of Black men slain at the hands of racism and police violence. “Then you had Mike Brown and then fast forward a couple more years, you had Alton Sterling and Philando Castille.”
This caused Andrews to see the young Black boys he taught in an urban summer school program as children who may meet the same fate. “I went outside throwing the football, throwing the frisbee and I just saw them running around with targets on their back,” he said. “I just don’t want to see something like this happen to any of my students.”
Andrews then loped in Anderson and together, the two set out to change the way men were viewed, even after their death. Not only did they both have a common goal, but the Florida natives also had personal stories that gave them extra motivation to pursue the project.
Anderson’s father, a restaurant owner in Liberty City, Florida, was killed in a robbery when his son was just 14 years old. Other Black men in his life stepped in to help mentor him and keep him on the right path. “They were just being who they were and they were just being shining examples of ‘let’s do it this way’ so when we started down this road with [Hero of a Thousand Faces] what stood out to me is like a hero isn’t about having a lot of money or having a lot of fame,” Anderson said. “It was just people that were doing that every day, doing their everyday thing and making a difference in their own homes and their communities.”
For Andrews, many of the men in his life were incarcerated, leading to his desire to change how the world viewed Black men and how Black men also viewed themselves. He met Anderson at Budget Video in Fort Lauderdale, where the two men worked on different production aspects of different projects. After passing each other several times, they sparked up some conversations and became friends.
Once Anderson and Andrews realized their mutual desire to produce positive stories about Black men, they began working, using their resources to create the project. They started by interviewing men who were heroes within their own personal networks and communities and then it grew. From there, heroes they interviewed recommended other heroes, and the project continued.
The selection process for identifying heroes is not about monetary status or fame, but rather about the good the man does. “We look for individuals who have had success in their particular endeavor,” Andrews said. “Again, success may not be, you know, the mansion on the hill overlooking the waterfront, but they’ve had a certain amount of success in their particular field.”
One of the most inspiring heroes interviewed for the project was Captain Barrington Irving, a Jamaican native who previously held the Guinness World Record as the youngest person to fly solo around the world. Irving also founded Flying Classroom and the nonprofit Experience Aviation, which offers STEM programs to students across the country. Through this, Irving met and taught young Trayvon Martin before his death.
Crossing paths with Irving began back at Budget Video when Anderson was digitizing VHS tapes of the pilot’s trip worldwide. After completing the project, watching Barrington’s most vulnerable moments flying alone, Anderson called Barrington’s assistant to request an interview. “I was like, man, I would love to meet this guy because it feels like I know him now,” Anderson said.
The A Hero of a Thousand Faces episode that features Barrington caught the attention of the American Black Film Festival and while Andrews and Anderson don’t do it for recognition, they said it was nice to have the piece accepted. Another episode highlighting Dwayne Wade’s personal chef Richard Ingraham won the Suncoast Regional Emmy Awards.
The work they do to tell the stories of 1,000 Black men requires blood, sweat, tears, and a lot more. “We need people to watch,” Anderson said. “We need people to take the time to hear and just become a part of the conversation.” In addition to more eyes on their series, financial support is needed.
To donate, you can contact Anderson and Andrews on the project’s official website. There you can also see a full list of the heroes, watch episodes, and track their journey to reach 1000. “It is about the hero, but it’s really about the hero’s journey,” Anderson said. “It’s about their story. It’s about the path that they have taken and so we just want to hear a thousand different paths.”