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This striking photo essay from Boston, MA based photographer Khabeer Sultan features the images and words of men with varied, unique perspectives. Dubbed “a celebration of the brilliance and complexities of black men and men of color,” each photo in the project creates an intimate and personalized illustration of black manhood along with the ideals that define its diverse interpretations. Part reclamation of black male identity and part refutation of negative stereotypes, “An American Experience” is a noteworthy and timely project that certainly demonstrates the power of art to capture very real, thoughtful, and visceral moments.

Click here to read our interview with Khabeer about the “An American Experience” project.

To view the entire version of “An American Experience” visit 

An American Experience

a photo essay
by Khabeer Sultan

“I am the stone that the builder refused. Being multi-ethnic in all communities including the black community can be a challenge. Being wrapped together with so many ethnicities like Mayan, Filipino, and African American can leave people confused and leave you left out. The way a stone becomes a precious gem is by tumbling and reshaping itself over and over again. I have spent years refining myself to become the Cure. I am the cure for what holds us all down. I am prana. I am Qi...”

— Mike Massey, Yogi 

“I believe I defy every stereotype of a stereotypical black man. I seek knowledge, I am motivated, I am loving, and caring. I hope to really change the world and change the image or representation of a black man in America. And, I will do this by motivating young black men and teaching them that their life is as important as their counterparts. No matter what race, creed, or religion. ”

— Reginald Fils, Entrepreneur, High School Student 

“I am an entrepreneur, Photographer, Videographer, Music Producer. This goes completely against the stereotype of the Black Man. Ironically I gained most of my knowledge in these fields from other Black males. Photography I learned from my father, a strong Black male. Music production from many of my peers all across the world that are Black men, my first industry placement was from help of a Black man. Videography, I learned from Black men younger than me that are very savvy with technology. Unity and sharing of knowledge is often not portrayed in the media among Black men but it is very prominent.”

— Warith Sultan, Photographer, Videographer, Music Producer 

“I embrace my black color. I am proud of myself. I am proud of the black community. It doesn’t matter if you’re black or white or whatever the race, it all depends on your personality. What matters is how you perceive yourself as whoever you are or whoever you may become.”

— Boston Okundaye, Singer, Actor, Model, Dancer, College Student 

“In contrast to the images of what the media portrays is that rather than be a “statistic” I strive to set an example for young men looking for a way to be successful outside of being an athlete, entertainer, or criminal. Sometimes I feel like many young men feel they are trapped if they don’t fit into a particular category of what they see as “successful” in mainstream media. I was an athlete, I went to college, went to grad school, became a father at a young age, have many tattoos but with all of that found a way to reach back to those in my community ...particularly those who look like me and use my own experience as a point of reference to connect with inner city youth. I am no angel but what I have learned is that those who came before me worked so hard for me to have opportunity...I truly stand on the shoulders of giants. In understanding my ancestor’s sacrifices I have no choice but to be great...and even better than them so that the next generation are inspired to be better than me...that is the only way for our culture to progress. ”

— Jae Williams, Father, Entrepreneur, and Arts Education Advocate 

“I was raised and taught to travel and think outside the “box” that America has set forth for me, and to always push beyond the confines of the generic and comfortable stereotypes that mainstream has forced upon me as a young black male. I may have grown up in the projects in Detroit by a single mother on welfare, but I was raised by single mother who was a black feminist, who worked with the black panthers, and who was a Univ. Mich. Alumni with a degree in Archeology and a minor in black studies. I grew up in poverty with always a massive library of books, and National Geographic magazines, and where listening to NPR, and watching PBS programs were second nature...”

— Askia "Mr. Ghana" Acquah Hanson, Sociologist|Co-Founder|Artist|African Dad|Nerd|Farmer|Writer|Adventurer| Cultural Entrepreneur|Professional|Visionary and Do-er 

“An old African proverb said “If there is no enemy within the enemy outside can do us no harm”. You can ignore us, you can take our history out of the textbooks, but you CAN’T take away the fact that we were here. We ARE here. We Are Fathers, Sons, Brothers. We are Men, Kings, We Are One. I Am A Model, I Am A Lover, I Am A Black Man.”

— Omar Parkman, Model, Lover, Black Man 

“I am a black unicorn compared to the media’s portrayal of black men. I was raised understanding the value of knowledge and love and like many great black men that I know, I use love to fuel everything I do. Love for my passion, love for my community, love for myself. I choose to block out the noise from stereotypes by pursuing my passions and sharing my findings with others who share the same interests. Educated black men like myself are not a rarity or a statistic. We are the norm and the younger generations need to know that we are there for them just as we need to remember that we need to make ourselves visible to them as well.”

— Roberson Castor, Mentor, Engineer, Brother and Advisor 

“I believe the image painted by mass media on Black men is mostly based on assumptions which are in itself a form a mental laziness. The truth of the matter is black men, just like any other race, run a gamut personality types and experiences. We are individuals who have a story to tell. I see myself as the antithesis to what mass media tells black men they are supposed to be. I seek to break down assumptions and make people question their ideas of what a black man is and what a black man could be.”

— Mohamed Vandi, Accountant 

"I’ve always fought hard to not be portrayed in America’s stereotypical view of a Black man. I’ve always fought to not be put in a bucket. As a Black-Latino I am so many things so guess what, I don’t fit in your bucket. My family is from the Dominican Republic. I was born in Puerto Rico. I love Hip-Hop. I love Bachata. I love John Mayer. I have a Degree in Engineering and a minor in Math. You can never know these things about me if you don’t endeavor to see beyond my Blackness.”


— Bolivar Geraldo Jr., Computer Engineer 

“I have to admit that at one point in my life I did believe the media. I lived “that life.” No good came from it. And I finally woke up and realized that I didn’t have to be who they portrayed me to be as a black man. I could be a good man. I could get married and raise a family. I could love my wife. I could be a great father to my kids. I could teach my son to be a man and my daughter what a man should be like. So today I can say the media had it all wrong. I’m big, I’m black and I’m amazing.”

— Fanel Lalanne, Assistant Manager, Henley Enterprises, LLC 

“I grew up in a household led by a black Trinidadian revolutionary. At a young age, I learned the stories of Toussant L’ouverture, Steve Biko, Malcolm X and Walter Rodney, to name a few. A black man, in my eyes, was always powerful, intelligent, and had a firm and unwavering commitment to justice. My father, a leader in the Black Power movement in Trinidad, was one of the many who epitomized the strength and impact of black men. I aspired to follow in their footsteps, and pursued my journey towards activism and justice through medicine...”

— Dr. Sherar Tshe Andalcio, Physician 

“As a Black Man in this country, I’ve never gone the way of the societal expectation of the Black Man. In that sense, I AM an anomaly. I AM spiritual, a healer, a teacher, a sharer and gatherer of knowledge. I AM a legacy builder; working to change the misspoken narrative and tattered image of Black Men in my community and in the world. I AM one with nature, I AM a cultivator of tree-huggers, I AM a trailblazer; following trails that have been laid before me. I AM history, I AM significant, I AM important. I have always mattered. It’s my responsibility as a Black Man, as a Black Father of Black Boys, to set an example and break negative perceptions of Black Males on a global scale. To quote Maya Angelou, I AM ‘Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, I AM the dream and the hope of the slave.’”

— Jerel Ferguson, Father, Farmer, Founder 

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