Columbus, OH

YMCA of Central Ohio to screen ‘Black Boys’ this February, speaks on meaning of being a Black male in the US

The Lantern
YMCA of Central Ohio’s chief people, equity and inclusion officer Erik Farley speaks to a group of YMCA of Central Ohio employees about the “Black Boys” documentary. Credit: Courtesy of Jessi Starkey

Despite the fact “Black Boys” premiered in September 2020, its legacy is alive and impacting viewers.

The documentary, which is an examination of what it means to be a Black boy and man in the U.S., will be shown for free at the Lincoln Theatre Saturday.

Notable Columbus community members, who identify as Black men, will participate in a panel discussion on the movie’s impact more in-depth after the showing, Erik Farley, chief people, equity and inclusion officer for YMCA of Central Ohio, said.

Amongst the panelists are Marshall Shorts, co-founder of Creative Control Fest that uplifts Black creatives, and Landon Adams, the chief learning officer and director for the department of maturity at New Salem Baptist Church, Farley said.

Ohio State alumnus Tai A. Cornute, the principal of Columbus City Preparatory School for Boys and a designated panelist, said he is looking forward to analyzing the film’s four segments: body, mind, voice and heart.

Cornute said working in education allows him to realize just how vital the conversation is to Central Ohio.

“There’s a lot of suburban districts that are becoming much more multicultural, much more diverse in their student population,” Cornute said. “The conversation around this film is one that I think everyone needs to be aware of.”

Farley said the idea for a public screening came from YMCA of Central Ohio’s annual professional development activity, which is a tradition Farley created last January in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.

This year, employees were invited to watch “Black Boys” and take part in conversations about its content, Farley said. From childcare teachers to housing and shelter specialists, each person was able to grow their capacity to respectfully engage with different identities, he said.

“For those folks who came into that experience, without any understanding of what a Black male may experience in the world, they left with a burden of awareness,” Farley said. “It’s important people feel that, and they try to figure out for themselves, ‘How am I going to contribute to the solution?’”

After witnessing “Black Boys” inspire constructive discourse firsthand, Farley was motivated to localize the documentary’s themes to Columbus even further, he said.

“We all have a responsibility to be concerned about human beings,” Farley said.

Affirming Black boys’ humanity and potential in classroom settings is a necessary action all teachers should take, Cornute said. He said self-deprecation can become habitual from a young age.

“Especially for Black boys, I think that oftentimes we downplay the importance of our mind,” Cornute said. “Or, it’s downplayed for us because our bodies are such a prevalent part of our identities in terms of our imagery in the media.”

According to the National Library of Medicine, Black Americans see discrimination in their “immediate environments.” These include classrooms, neighborhoods and workspaces. A 2018 study explains a five-week intervention to engage Black American youth and caregivers in conversations on race, manage stress and trauma from experiences of discrimination and promote parent-child bonding through communication on race. The study concluded that these three actions increased the confidence to handle experiences and problems associated with discrimination.

Though the post-screening talk will be roughly two hours in length, broader discussions about topics, such as intergenerational bonds, cannot be confined to mere moments in time, Cornute said.

“These conversations must take place because it will show our young people that old age is possible,” Cornute said. “They can see themselves beyond the doom and gloom of, you know, being in debt, ending up dead or in jail by a certain age.”

Compassion and curiosity are two emotions “Black Boys” aims to stir up in viewers regardless of their race, producer, CEO and co-founder of Never Whisper Justice Jon-Thomas Royston said.

“I feel like finding that kind of deepness and richness and understanding also, you know, increases your capacity to love yourself,” Royston said.

The culture of belonging was first promoted by “Black Boys” almost three years ago and is still growing and expanding today, Royston said.

“We are creating a companion piece to our first film, entitled ‘Black Girls,’” Royston said. “We do believe we started the conversation with ‘Black Boys,’ but we have much more to say, and we’re excited to do so.”

The YMCA of Central Ohio’s community screening of “Black Boys” is scheduled for 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday at the Lincoln Theatre. Additional information about the event can be found on the organization’s Facebook page .

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