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Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Reginald F. Lewis Museum launches ‘Men of Change’ exhibition spotlighting achievements of influential Black men

A profoundly compelling and unique artistic exhibition has made its way to Baltimore.

The Reginald F. Lewis Museum has announced the opening of “Men of Change: Power. Triumph. Truth,” an exhibition that highlights the contributions of Black men over the course of American history, particularly in the 20th and 21 centuries.

   The official announcement came on Feb. 21 – the same day the Men of Change program was held on the second-floor lobby of the Lewis Museum. The event highlighted revolutionary men – from Muhammad Ali, to James Baldwin and Kendrick Lamar, to Baltimore native Ta-Nehisi Coates – and the exhibition launch kicked off a week of activities that culminated Black History Month.

   “I think it’s incredibly fitting that this exhibit is here,” said Reginald F. Lewis executive director Terri Freeman.

   Through a partnership between the Ford Motor Company Fund, the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service and the Lewis Museum, the exhibition was able to come to Baltimore. 

   “Men of Change highlights revolutionary men— including Muhammad Ali, James Baldwin, W.E.B. DuBois, Kendrick Lamar, and Baltimore natives Frederick Douglass and Ta-Nehisi Coates— whose journeys have altered the history and culture of the country through politics, sports, science, entertainment, business and religion,” according to a Reginald F. Lewis museum statement.

   “Each biography is paired with original artwork by a noted artist that accentuates the subjects’ individual legacies. The exhibition weaves a collective tapestry of what it is to be an African American man, past and present, and the legacy that only strengthens across generations.”

   In conjunction with the exhibit opening, Ford is bringing two signature grassroots community initiatives to the Baltimore region: a Men of Courage Barbershop Challenge, which is in effect, and the Men of Courage Leadership Forum set to launch in the spring.

   The exhibition, which consists of paintings, drawings, portraits, multimedia, profound quotes and more, will be on display until August 14, 2022.

   Terri Freeman, executive director of Reginald F. Lewis Museum, Marquette Folley, content director of the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service; and Justin Kimpson, national program manager of the Ford Fund’s Men of Courage Program, delivered remarks during the 20-minute program. 

   “Men of Change is an exhibition that says unabashedly—at this point in our time, look for heroes. These are heroes. Some flawed, some not, but the truth is every human being in this exhibition, be it a voice or a face, is a hero,” Folly said. “I am proud to be a part of this project. It could not have been done alone, and we are so thankful to the Ford Motor Company Fund for helping to make this exhibition possible and for their continued commitment to community enrichment. This support builds on our long relationship with the Ford Fund to tell the American story through a variety of exhibitions and programs.” 

   The exhibition tour that followed remarks and presentations gave program guests an up-close look at the artistic imagery that uplifts the positive achievements and contributions Black men have made in shaping American culture.

   “Men of Change” is a traveling exhibit, and has launched in other cities including Detroit and Los Angeles.

   The Men of Courage Barbershop Program is an initiative of Ford Men of Courage Program. Concurrent with the exhibition program was the naming of the Baltimore City and Prince George’s County barbershop finalists. 

   Derick I. Ausby, Sr. of Conheads Men’s Grooming in Baltimore, Nathaniel M. Crittenden, owner of N’Style Hair Grooming in Lanham, Md., were named the barbershop challenge finalists and will compete over the next three months to win a $10,000 grant based on their implementation of initiatives and activities that educate and reinforce positive narratives around Black men. Joseph A. Powell III, co-owner of N’Style Hair Grooming, stood alongside Crittenden in receiving honors.

   The very site where the exhibition will be is a constant reminder and example of a “Man of Change,” Freeman said, speaking in reference to Reginald F. Lewis, who became the first Black American to build a billion-dollar company. 

   “These individuals utilized their power. They understood what it is that they could contribute… they overcame difficulties to triumph” Freeman said, paying homage to the 25 Black men highlighted in the museum’s exhibit. “Again, I compared this to Reginald F. Lewis, who was determined that he was going to not just be at the table, but he was going to create a table for his own, and that regardless of where he started he was going to end up in a certain place. And he was going to do it by making sure, there was integrity and truthfulness behind it.”

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