Year of Da King is the project of Educator and Photographer Antwan Belmer McHenry. He’s know as Mr. Openyonated. Being a budding photographer, I wanted to know how I could lend a hand to his movement to which he quickly responded, “You take care of the southside connections and I’ll take care of the westside connections.” I’m excited to be apart of a movement to uplift Black men. While I didn’t don’t care for being called a color, it’s the reality of the country we live in. For the sake of this blog we’ll use “Black” but for those who take offense I apologize in advance. I’m reading Stamped from the Beginning by Ibrahm X. Kendi. I get it.
I asked Mr. McHenry some questions I thought relevant to his mission and to shed some light on the trajectory of Year of Da King.
What gave birth to “Year of Da King”?
Year of Da King was born out of necessity. I have always felt that there were tons of things in existence to empower and encourage women and girls but very few efforts to empower and encourage men
What role do you think the three “M’s” play in the portrayal of Black men, Music, Media, and Movies?
Music Media and Movies are very important in the portrayal of men. We consume them 24 hours a day. They all play a part in telling our story and in programming us. The messages embedded in them all will empower us or help destroy us. They also tell our stories so we have to be careful of what we allow to be put out and what we take in.
Why is this movement important to Chicago, is there an attack on Black male masculinity and How does sexual identity play a role in Year of Da King?
I think the movement is important to Chicago because currently men are being demonized and all thrown into a bag there is no balance in the narrative that is being put out. I personally don’t think there is an attack on masculinity. There may be attempts to chip away at toxic or distorted masculinity though. Everyone has masculine and feminine traits however most men are taught to look down or distance themselves from anything feminine unless it’s of a sexual nature. Sexual identity does not play a role in YODK. I’m not a fan of internal division but I do realize that those who are not confident in their own sexuality may feel threatened by men who are attracted to the same gender. YODK’s goal is to encourage all men and bring them to the table to work together.
Why is Photography your medium for capturing Black men for YDK?
I love photography, I’ve been taking pictures since 1994 I believe image is everything. If you look at advertisements you don’t see a lot of images of men particularly Black men in a positive light. I thought that it would be a great medium to get the message over
I recently learned that Moors built and made Spain what it is today, but 700 years of their history in Spain, except for architecture, has been removed. Why is it important for gangs and young influential Black children to get the full articulate representation of African history and ancestry?
I think it’s important for young Black influential children to get full representation because they’ve only been taught the narrative from a European perspective and that only paints Europeans in a positive light. When most people think about the past of people of African ancestry they automatically think about slavery.
What’s next in your vision in 2020 for YDK?
In 2020 I hope to have put together a group of men to have regular YODK routable discussions, building sessions, and having men regularly supporting each other in different areas.
As we grow this movement, you can find the Hall of Kings by clicking the link. Remember, no one can tell you who you are if you control the narrative.
Thanks for stopping by!