56 Black Men
Cephas Williams is the founder and photographer behind the groundbreaking 56 Black Men campaign launched in 2018. The mission of 56 Black Men is to put Black men at the forefront of their own conversation. Cephas set out with an aim to dramatically reduce the negative portrayal of Black men throughout various forms of mainstream media. Over the years the image of Black men in the media has often been demonised, as Black men are mainly spotlighted in association to being perpetrators or victims of violence/crime. Until Black men are adequately represented in mainstream media the mission will continue. Over the years, Cephas has leveraged resources, allies and the unity between members to help bring about this change and help change the narrative for life.
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As part of the work Cephas does, he speaks with organisations and companies across a range of topics. Much of his work over the years has centered around equity, inclusion and belonging, the Black community and how we create a fairer world.
Before his work around the Black conversation, much of his talks centered around connecting to a greater sense of our shared humanity. This is still a core part of his message and story. Over the years he has spoken to thousands of people from a range of companies and events across a variety of industries and countries. His talks have included executive boards, national and global conferences, lunch time talks and talks within the community to mention a few.
Letter to Zion
After the murder of George Floyd Cephas spent the whole of summer 2020 writing a letter to his son, Zion. Zion's due date was set for the 26th of May 2020, at a time where Cephas was expecting to welcome a Black boy into the world, George Floyd was murdered. This put Cephas in a conflicting space. At a time where he was meant to be in a good space to welcome his first child into the world, he was not. Letter to Zion outlined what was happening at the time, how Cephas felt, what some of the issues he saw were, his hopes for the world he'd like to see and a call to action/sense of accountability for the readers. His commitment/accountability came by introducing the Black British Network, as a tool to work together and consistently on this mission to dismantling systemic racism and creating an equal playing field for the Black community.
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Cephas Williams doesn't just talk about the change we need to see from a far, he actively spends time with people on the ground. He's made a point to not only do things at a large scale with large organisations and leaders from some of the biggest companies in the country, but to always be accessible. Keeping an ear to the ground and making time for people in the community. He often travels on foot where possible (hence the term '10 toes' and sits with people from various walks of life). Over the years Cephas has sat with 1000's of people across the UK specifically within the Black community and supported 100s of people behind the scenes. He continues to make this his personal mission to use his platform, his resources and relationships to support others wherever possible and has now channeled this agenda through the Black British Network as a vehicle for seismic change.
pictured; College Student & Cephas Williams
Portrait of Black Britain
Portrait of Black Britain was created by Cephas Williams, with the intention of exploring the question ‘What does it mean to be Black living in the UK?’. In Cephas’ words a big part of the renaissance we saw in 2020 was our visibility and a united sense of what it meant to be Black. Since its launch, Portrait of Black Britain has been co-commissioned and launched at Manchester International Festival 2021 and again by Landsec at Bluewater shopping center 2022. This major public exhibition photographs and profiles a range of Black people living in the UK today, their heritage, the contributions they make and the roles they play in society.
Portrait of Black Britain centralises Black-led representation on what it means to be Black in the UK right now. It is a reminder of the beauty in identity and diversity, the fact that the Black community is not a monolith. It is a moment to give the spotlight to the community to which this conversation belongs. And it is a powerful and positive affirmation that Black Lives Matter: not just in news stories about trauma or tragedy nor during Black History Month – but every day.
In 2021 Cephas Williams was harassed by House of Fraser security at Bluewater shopping center. A situation where he was wrongfully accused of stealing products he had purchased turned into Cephas being apprehended and forcefully held against his will. In a situation that could have ended extremely negatively, Cephas used this an an opportunity to build a bridge. He took the time to unearth the issues behind the racial profiling and why it needs to stop. Cephas later connected with Mark Allan, the CEO of Landsec. This resulted in them coming together publicly and in solidarity. Landsec also supported Portrait of Black Britain with plans to do more.
pictured; Mark Allan, Landsec, CEO & Cephas Williams
The BBN is part of Cephas Williams commitment as seen in his letter to his son, Zion. The BBN launched as an organising body bringing Black British professionals and the wider Black community together creating a united voice regarding business and economic advancement in the UK. In response to the murder of George Floyd, many companies have put out statements, action plans and manifestos indicating where they need to change and address a race or 'diversity' issue. The BBN wants to champion a more reflective response as opposed to a reactive one, by centralising the dialog, keeping the conversation going and working together to dismantle systemic racism.
Corporate Members Include