Last Tuesday I posted “No Excuses“, a cartoon juxtaposing the post-election meme about African-American possibilities with the realities of systemic racism. Documentarian Byron Hurt recently released “Barack and Curtis: Manhood, Power and Respect”, a ten-minute film making a similar juxtaposition between the success of Barack Obama and the life of another popular black figure, 50 Cent, who has led a more difficult life plagued by crime, drugs and violence. As quoted by Reuters, Hurt recognizes both the difficulties confronting young black men and the hope that Obama’s example inspires among them:

“The only way that he (Obama) can make a substantial change is if he addresses things like poverty and joblessness and those deep pervasive factors that affect black boys and men,” said film maker Byron Hurt.

Even though Obama’s election was not a panacea for black men, the importance of the example he sets could not be underestimated, Hurt said in an interview.

“The boost that he has given black men is more symbolic than anything else,” said Hurt. “But I don’t want to undervalue symbolism and image. When I see images of Barack Obama in a baseball hat taking his daughters to school … that is a powerful image.”

In his film, Hurt shows a wide range of analytic voices commenting on the racist culture that has shaped black male identity, and how everyday black men, poor and middle class, straight and gay, educated and robbed of education, create their identities in response to it. There are more nuances presented here than at first suggested by the dramatic contrast between Obama and 50 Cent, and if you haven’t viewed the film, do so.

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