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In All Ways Human was born out of 10 years of Dr. Jocelyn R. Smith Lee’s community-engaged research examining the marginalized trauma and grief of young Black men impacted by community and police violence.
In All Ways Human is a visual storytelling and narrative change campaign committed to spreading the simple and profound truth about Black boys, men, and families: We are always, and in all ways, human and deserving of dignity, safety, care, and opportunity.
In All Ways Human was born out of 10 years of Dr. Jocelyn R. Smith Lee’s community-engaged research examining the marginalized trauma and grief of young Black men impacted by community and police violence. In 2020, our team was selected by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as 1 of 28 winners of the Voices for Economic Opportunity Grand Challenge out of more than 1,200 submissions.
Our goal: Help change the national conversation about poverty and economic mobility in the U.S. by exposing the root cause of dehumanization and creating a national platform where Black boys and men can leverage the power of visual storytelling to spread images of themselves as they wish to be seen and to tell fuller stories about their lives–their unaddressed pain and often overlooked promise.
From these groups, Jocelyn interviewed 40 young Black men ages 18-24 whose lives had been impacted by violent injury and death. As part of in-depth interviews, participants completed what she named Chronologies of Loss where participants charted the frequency and developmental timing of losing loved ones to violence.
In All Ways Human emerged from Dr. Jocelyn’s R. Smith Lee’s program of research, Centering Black Voices (CBV). While as a doctoral student at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Health, Dr. Jocelyn R. Smith Lee partnered with clinicians at the HEBCAC Eastside Youth Opportunity (YO!) Center to develop loss and grief groups that were facilitated weekly at this GED and Job Readiness Training center. As a licensed mental health clinician, Jocelyn, then affectionately known as “Ms. J” developed the grief and loss group in response to earlier in-depth interviewing with young Black men at the YO! Center and observations from center GED Instructors like Mr. Zizwe Allette (Mr. Z) that YO! Members were coming to class having recently been exposed to violent injury and homicide. The development of this group met a gap in center programming and lightened the burden of existing YO! clinicians. Thanks to the corralling of Eric McKnight (aka Coach and The Ambassador), this group quickly became one of the highest and most consistently attended sessions at the center, reflecting young people’s hunger to have a supported space to process their pain as they pursued their professional goals.
Photo of “Ms. J.” and YO! Members celebrating the 1 year anniversary of the Grief and Loss Group in February 2013
Photo of “Ms. J.” & YO! Alumni “Coach” Eric McKnight, The Ambassador, Akire Lane, and YO! Clinician Yvette Dehn at a Town Hall Meeting celebrating Black History Month, February 2012
Photo of “Ms. J” & YO! Alumni Kesean Dargan celebrating his GED graduation and hard earned Maryland HS Diploma, June 2012
Newly minted PhD. Dr. J with beloved HEBCAC YO! Members, celebrating the shared accomplishment of Dr. J’s graduation. Some YO! Members and Staff were present when she was hooded at the University of Maryland, College Park. Others could not make it so she brought graduation to them. Mr. Z captured this special moment at the YO! Center in June 2013. This photo is a visual reminder of Dr. J’s WHY.
From these weekly grief and loss groups, Jocelyn interviewed 40 young Black men ages 18-24 whose lives had been impacted by violent injury and death. As part of their in-depth interviews, participants completed what she named Chronologies of Loss where participants charted the frequency and developmental timing of losing loved ones to violence.
History and research make clear that the health disparity of homicide which disproportionately claims Black life in Baltimore and across the United States is perpetuated and maintained by race-based structural violence that manifests as residential segregation, systemic divestment from Black neighborhoods, poverty, underfunded schools, unequal job and opportunity structures, hyper policing and mass incarceration, and a lack of access to healthcare/mental health services and providers who are racially diverse, culturally competent, and contextual-informed. These vestiges of slavery are the legacy of white supremacy that structure economic opportunity, health, and well-being for Black Americans.
Foundational to it all is dehumanization.
We see dehumanization as a root cause of institutional, interpersonal, and internalized racism and violence. We are on a mission to transform the ways Black boys, men, and families are seen, see one another, and see themselves.
In 2020, Dr. Jocelyn R. Smith Lee, HEBCAC YO! GED Instructor and Photographer Mr. Zizwe Allette (Mr. Z!), and visual artist and educator, Zun Lee, MD, MBA teamed up on a mission to use visual storytelling to disrupt dehumanizing narratives of Black men in poverty. We set out to use Photovoice (a community based participatory and action approach) and create a national platform where intergenerational Black boys and men in Baltimore could reclaim the narrative about their lives, deepen local and national understanding of the structural barriers to their economic mobility, and engage intergenerational Black males and key decision-makers in transformative visual dialogue.
Mr. Z and Dr. J together at YO! Baltimore in March 2019. Dr. J visited YO! Baltimore while local presenting research at an Invited Symposium of the Society for Research on Child Development (SRCD).
First meeting of Dr. Jocelyn Smith Lee and visual artist and educator Zun Lee, MD, MBA at a showing of Zun Lee’s Father Figure exhibit at The Bronx Documentary Center in NYC 24 hours after Jocelyn’s faculty interview at UNC Greensboro. This serendipitous meeting was the seed of future collaboration.
When we applied for the Voices for Economic Opportunity Grand Challenge, we could not have imagined that a global pandemic would disrupt every area of our lives, claim a million more, and physically distance us. Over the past 20 months, we have worked to complete this project with deep commitment, love, and care over zoom.
“Dr. J” (Greensboro, NC), “Mr. Z” (Baltimore, MD), Zun Lee, MD, MBA (Toronto, Canada) and “Coach” Eric McKnight, The Ambassador (Baltimore, MD), meet via zoom in June 2020 amidst the COVID-19 Lockdown.
“Dr. J”, “Mr. Z”, Zun Lee, “Coach” Eric McKnight, The Ambassador, Kevin Harvey, Jr., Leon Fountain III, and Centering Black Voices Lab Members wrap up June 2021 Virtual Rapid Photovoice Summer Intensive amidst the Delta Variant surge.
“Dr. J” (Greensboro, NC) interviews two elders (YO! Baltimore) over zoom at the December 2021 Portrait/Interview Day.
We are so proud to launch In All Ways Human and present this virtual collection of portraits and stories and local exhibits. Over the past year, we have photographed 50 intergenerational Black boys and men ranging from age 2 to 72. By creating the opportunity for Black boys and men to take control over how they wish to be seen, our portraits and collective stories reveal what history has worked to deny: Black boys, men, and families are always and in all ways human and deserving of dignity, safety, care, and opportunity.
This photovoice and community-engaged portrait project intentionally aims to disrupt the dehumanizing narrative of Black male criminality by replacing mugshot images the media widely circulates with portraits of 50 Black boys and men that foreground their humanity, resilience, and value. We also seek to center and uplift the images and stories of Black boys and men of all ages in life, not death, while honoring the homicide victims this group of survivors carries with them in their hearts and minds.
June is National Gun Violence Awareness Month and Men’s Health Month. In commemoration, we will launch our visual storytelling and narrative change campaign (@InAllWaysHuman #InAllWaysHuman) and install our first local exhibits in East Baltimore.
On June 1, 2022, we will begin installing our In All Ways Human portrait mural on the N. Wolfe St. side of the former Elmer A. Henderson Elementary School that stares at the redevelopment zone of Eager Park and the medical campus of Johns Hopkins. This wheatpaste exhibit, a temporary ethos of action that visually represents the intentional inclusion of Black boys and men in this site of displacement, will create a visible presence of this intergenerational group of Black males one block from the Eastside HEBCAC Youth Opportunity (YO!) Center. The strategic placement of our outdoor installation will serve as a physical bridge between these worlds that we hope will also transform relationships and outcomes.
On June 1, we will also kick off our #InAllWaysHuman social media campaign to connect In All Ways Human participants with a national audience. We will release daily portraits and stories across the month of June which commemorates National Gun Violence Awareness Month and Men’s Health Month.
On June 2, a pop up exhibit featuring YO! Center Alumni and HEBCAC staff will be installed at the Starbucks on Ashland and Wolfe Streets. Located two blocks from the HEBCAC Eastside Youth Opportunity (YO!) Center and one block from the In All Ways Human Portrait Mural on the N. Wolfe St. side of the Former Elmer A. Henderson Elementary School, this pop up exhibit will bring students, trainees, employees, and patrons of the Johns Hopkins medical center in conversation with the In All Ways Human campaign. This exhibit, featuring YO! Center Alumni and HEBCAC staff will be on location through Summer 2022.
On June 3, to kickoff National Gun Violence Awareness Day and Weekend, In All Ways Human participants will install their portraits on the N. Wolfe St. side of the former Elmer A. Henderson Elementary School.
On June 5, 2022, we will dedicate the portrait mural, celebrate our lives, and recommit to advancing this In All Ways Human movement. Join us!
In Summer/Fall 2022, we will release our short documentary In All Ways Human which provides a deeper look at the story of our work and the young men whose lives are the heart of this endeavor.
In All Ways Human makes clear that Black boys and men of all ages are people to be embraced, not social problems to be pathologized, punished, policed, and pushed out. We invite all Baltimore residents to engage and embrace Black boys and men as their neighbors and challenge Baltimore decision-makers to prioritize the economic mobility, mental health, and care of Black boys, men, and their families in their work. Our hope is to grow this message across the City of Baltimore, the state of Maryland, the nation, and wherever the myth of white supremacy shapes the value of Black life.
Stay tuned for the release of our In All Ways Human short documentary!
We seek to grow this movement. To bring In All Ways Human to your city or to fund this work, Contact Us.
Join our movement! Follow us and engage on Twitter and Instagram @InAllWaysHuman