HOUSTON, Tx. — This month, filmmaker Brian Ellison, anthropologist Marlon Hall, and sculptor Anthony Suber launched a series of conversations focused on the black male experience in contemporary society. The dinner series centers the conversation around Ellison’s documentary, UnMASKulinity, debuting next year. The first discussion was held on Friday, September 13 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where is Ellison was born and raised.
“Tulsa will always be home for me and the black community still bears the scars of the devastating race massacre of 1921,” said Ellison. “Our goal is to create spaces of vulnerability and archive the stories of black men who talk about the masks we wear each day.”
After a day spent in each community shooting for the film, the organizers host a confluence of 16 men from a variety of backgrounds in an environment of listening and learning.
The evenings include original musical composition, the work of a resident culinary artist, and intentionally structured conversation. Curated by Hall’s anthropological eye, these gatherings become pathways toward the exploration of human story and possibility while simultaneously collecting information to inform the direction of the documentary. Suber creates moving artwork that encourages guests to “remove their mask” throughout the evening.
The group, along with other experts in the arts and education, will create a curriculum to accompany the dinner series which aims to empower communities to continue the conversation long after the dinner is over. The trio of men came together after discovering their common interest in creating spaces for men to gather, share and grow–both emotionally and intellectually. According to Mental Health America, Black/African American men are particularly conscious of stigma when it comes to seeking help or advice from an expert such as a psychologist.
“We have to be willing to be vulnerable in order to be whole. However, this cannot happen if the structure that black men can relate to most does not exist,” said Hall. “Gathering around the table–be it dinner with family, cards with your friends or out on the town with friends–is something that is all-too-familiar within the black community. We hope it feels like home.”
Hall is an international lecturing anthropologist, practitioner, and storyteller who helps individuals and organizations develop sustainable practices, rituals, values, and programs that deepen their connections, strengthen their culture, and broaden their impact. His life intention is to cultivate human potential in ways that are whimsically beautiful and positively willful.
Ellison is a philanthropist and a self-taught photographer, cinematographer, and conceptual visual artist. He’s known for capturing the everyday black experience such as gentrification’s impact on historical communities, under-publicized black love and comradery, parenthood, and the persistent courage of black women and men.
Suber is a painter, sculptor and educator. Currently, he is creating an arts educational program for under-served communities in the Houston area focused not only on enrichment, but on serving the greater community by providing an effective voice to those who otherwise would be marginalized.
Brian Ellison, Marlon Hall and Anthony Suber
The tour dates are as follows:
Tulsa, Oklahoma – Sept 12th Seattle, Washington – Oct 26th New York, New York – Nov 9th Atlanta, Georgia – Nov 16th Los Angeles, CA – Dec 3rd
- Nashville, Tennessee – Jan 27th
This project is funded by grants from the John Steven Kellet Foundation, the City of Houston and the Houston Arts Alliance.