One year on from the murder of George Floyd, Cephas Williams, a speaker, entrepreneur, and photographer and mental health charity Mind in Hammersmith, Fulham, Ealing, and Hounslow (HFEH) have teamed up with Out of Home media owner Clear Channel to promote a message of hope from Black boys in the community.
‘The World I Want to See’ is a collection of letters from and portraits of Black boys in London inspired by ‘Letter to Zion’. Cephas wrote the public letter to his son, born during the George Floyd protests in 2020, expressing his hopes and dreams for his son’s future. His letter and the image of him holding his son has since been featured on billboards across the country.
‘The World I Want To See’ puts the pen in the hands of Black boys through a series of workshops co-facilitated by Cephas and professionals from HFEH Mind. The workshops involve Cephas sharing his journey – both struggles and successes as a young Black man growing up in London. The programme sees HEFH Mind link key points of Cephas’s story to themes around mental health and wellbeing.
Black boys are also encouraged to write letters to their older selves in the workshops about the world they would like to see and what they need to do to create it.
Through writing, it was hoped that the boys could explore and process their thoughts and feelings, particularly drawing on the impact of the pandemic and the horrendous murder of George Floyd. As well as reflecting on the past, the boys were asked to write about the type of world they would like to see, what needs to change to make the world a better place and who they need to be to make that vision a reality.
One of the boys, aged 14, said: “We should be in a space where we all feel safe no matter our race. I have vowed to contribute positively to the world I want to see. So to my future self, if you are reading this, I hope I have made you proud.”
Cephas Williams has photographed eight Black boys for the series. All the portraits follow his iconic photographic tone of voice, with all the boys looking directly into the lens. Each image comes in a sequence of three; Image 1 is a portrait of the boys with their eyes covered. Image 2 is a portrait of the boys looking into the camera lens. Image 3 is a collection of the eight letters written by the boys who took part in the programme.
Clear Channel will be helping amplify this creativity across their network of outdoor advertising space as part of their ongoing partnership with Cephas Williams and following on from the Let’s Not Forget campaign of 2020.
Williams said: “It’s great to see an organisation like Hammersmith, Fulham, Ealing, and Hounslow Mind taking the conversation regarding people in the Black community seriously.
“After all the commitments that companies made last year and the visibility of the Black community, it is evident that we are a long way from where we need to be and that we need to focus now more than ever on the emotional wellbeing and mental resilience of people within the Black community and the unresolved trauma many of us have faced for years.”
Williams continued: “It has become even more apparent from this programme that many of the boys who are from Gen Z don’t often see that light at the end of the tunnel, and even within their generation experience or witness discrimination and racism within the educational system and from the wider society.
“It is important this work does not stop here but goes on to make significant change across the educational system supporting the wellbeing of the Black boys affected. In the UK, many Black boys are given harsher treatment than their counterparts.
“Some boys in the programme touched on harsher punishments and even exclusion in cases where other non-Black students received no punishment. It is important that the conversations started off the back of this programme goes on to really change systems and frameworks for the better, including things such as the school to PRU/prison pipeline.”
HFEH Mind is creating a tool kit in consultation with the Black boys who took part in the workshop and the charity’s service user co-production group. The toolkit will draw inspiration from ‘The World I Want To See’ and better equip schools to address racism and support those affected.
Nana Owusu, Head of Youth Services and Clinical Lead for HFEH Mind, said: “Mind research shows that the pandemic has negatively impacted the nation’s mental health, with young people and those from different racialised communities disproportionately affected. When you add to that the horrendous racism and police brutality we have recently witnessed, it’s no surprise that Black boys may be struggling with their mental health right now.
“As we come out of the pandemic, we need to take action. It’s vital that the UK Government puts mental health at the heart of its recovery, with a particular focus on tackling the disproportionate level of detentions under the Mental Health Act among Black men. It’s part of our mission to tackle mental health inequities linked to the impact of racism, and the toolkit is part of this fight for mental health.”
To find out more about the toolkit visit hfehmind.org.uk .