Thinking Outside the Black Box: Local artist uses talent to positively highlight Black men
Local artist uses talent to positively highlight Black men (WKRC)

CINCINNATI (WKRC) - Thirteen life-size pictures of Black men are the focal point of a new mural in 21 C’s Gano Alley in downtown Cincinnati.

“Although we all identify as Black, none of us had the same upbringing. None of us had the same school experience. None of us -- the only thing we have in common is a shared trauma experience,” said creator Michael Coppage.

That trauma is spelled out, at least in part, on the shirts the men, like Greg Lawrence, were photographed wearing.

“'Black Ice.' Ice is very transparent, and it should just be clear ice. Why does it have be Black ice?”

Coppage is the artist behind the “Black Box” mural. He says most words proceeded by the word “Black” have a negative connotation.

“So what I did was I found a group of them that I thought could be used to accentuate the point I was trying to make -- that there’s a deliberate and intentional demonization of African-American men through the use of language, a language that we learn as young people,” said Coppage.

The images have been up just a few days and already it appears the project is making an impact. It instantly caught the eye of two women visiting from Virginia.

“Amazing and very much so needed. Needed in these times; needed for everybody. Honestly, needed for this world, this earth,” said Oluwasimana Folawiyo.

“And in talking with the creator and him saying, 'It was my anger.' It was the feeling that created this,” said Kanesha Strader.

And Coppage created more than just art. Each photo has a corresponding podcast episode that can be accessed from QR codes on the art.

“The podcast was very much meant to create intimate space between you and whatever gentlemen you choose to listen to,” said Coppage.

“My message is to open your eyes and take a look and see just -- take a look into our bodies and take a walk in our shoes and see what it means to us the day-in...operations of our lives and all the hurdles we have to jump through in order to get across the street where other races don't have to do that,” said Lawrence.

A message quite literally designed for everyone.

“I think that because the word “Black” is in the title, people think that it’s only for Black people. So how can you be trying to bridge a cultural and racial divide and you’re only making art for Black people? That’s not what’s happening here."

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