The second floor of San Francisco's Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD) is lined with beautiful photos of Black men in suits. The men look like they’ve contemplated every detail of their well-fitting ensembles. The colors, accents and textures are all intentional. Urban landscapes from New York to Moscow serve as their backdrop. The crisp tailoring invokes the dapperness of the Harlem Renaissance.
“There’s a state of urgency, not just here in the U.S., but also around the world,” says Shantrelle P. Lewis, curator of Dandy Lion: (Re) Articulating Black Masculinity, on view at MoAD through September.
“There’s a necessity to express a multitude of stories that explain and also express our true selves, our culture, our aesthetics, our spirituality, and our cosmology," says Lewis. "I feel like Dandy Lion is a juxtaposition of a very narrow, pathological story about Black people and specifically about Black men.”
The traveling exhibition is in its sixth year of showing across the country and internationally. The current iteration includes photos taken in South Africa by Harness Hamese, a short film by Terrance Nance, and interviews filmed during London’s African Street Style Festival in which participants talk about redefining what it means to be Black men in urban environments.
While Dandy Lion is often talked about as countering stereotypes by showing Black men in something other than baggy pants, Lewis is clear that this exhibit is not about respectability politics.