'Sons' exhibit at the FIA features 49 African American men from the Flint community

FLINT, MichiganFrom Jan. 22 through Apr. 16, The Flint Institute of Arts presents an introspective exhibition titled, Sons: Seeing the Modern African American Male. The collection was brought to light by renowned African American photographer Jerry Taliaferro and features black-and-white and color photographs of 49 African American men from the Flint community.

Ranging in age, religious and Greek affiliation, occupation, and marital status, the men represent a glimpse into the psyche and experience of African American males in 2022.

“Recent events in our nation’s history have demonstrated that [this exhibition] is relevant and timely. This exhibition is unique in that it requires as much from the community hosting it as it does from the artist,” says Taliaferro in his artist statement. “Firstly, it requires a community to be courageous enough to confront issues of race, then it requires members of the community to give of their time and experiences. In this regard, Flint has set a new standard.

In early 2021, the community nominated the 49 men photographed by Taliaferro. The powerful imagery is separated inside the Flint Institute of Arts and in the accompanying exhibition catalog into two sections: a black-and-white portrait of only their face and a full-body color photograph showing their uniqueness and personality.

However, the Sons display is more than just photography. It also aims to unearth and explore internal and societal perspectives and biases and will be a catalyst for conversation and increased understanding.

“Honestly, it’s kind of overwhelming. [The Flint Institute of Arts] was the first museum I was introduced to as a kid. To see myself amongst so many African Americans, all I can say is, it’s a blessing,” says Lee Grant Allen Jr., father, philanthropist, entrepreneur in Flint. 

“It’s heartwarming to know that somebody out in the community has taken note of my contributions. A lot of help is needed and received from me. It’s helpful for me to be able to help others and advise other people to do for their community,” explains Sons youngest member, 17-year-old DeAndrew Chilton Jr.

“I think it’s fantastic. It’s an honor to be named among people I recognize from their work and longevity. To be a part of this group is an honor. The process was very professional and easygoing,” explains Elder Will I. Morgan, Pastor of Pentecostal Temple Church.

“Seeing us exhibited in this fashion and to be able to showcase as one body, you have no idea of how many influential Black men who’re making an impact in their community. You don’t grasp the scope of who’s around you because you hear all the other stuff. It’s cool to capture us in this way,” exclaims Theron Patrick Wiliams, IT professional and father of three.

Sons: Seeing the Modern African American Male is a follow-up of Jerry Taliaferro's 2017 Women of a New Tribe exhibit that featured 49 African American women from Flint. 

For more information and to listen to the audio tour, visit the Flint Institute of Arts website. An accompanying exhibition catalog is available for purchase in the Flint Institute of Arts Museum Shop.

Read more articles by Xzavier Simon.