GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — We continue to dive into stories from the West Michigan community for Black History Month.
The public will learn about the experiences of Black men in Muskegon County through a new documentary film ‘Black Man’ which will be shown at Frauenthal Theater in Muskegon at 3 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is free.
“You see men on the screen in ways you’ve not typically seen men. They are vulnerable. They are honest. They are transparent. They are emotional and that’s not something we typically see,” Jon Covington, film producer, said.
Covington is a native of Muskegon. The idea for the film originated from a short video he was working on for the Muskegon Museum of Art exhibit entitled Sons.
He interviewed a group of men and quickly realized there was more of a story to be told.
“I didn’t know that was where the conversation was going to go. It just went there. It was just organic,” Covington said.
The public was first introduced to a different version of the film about three years ago. On Sunday, people in Michigan will see the final version of the film for the first time.
It features 32 men between the ages of 21 to 91.
“We talk about their lives. Their loves. Their losses. Their America,” he said. “It’s a bit of a rollercoaster not what one might expect.
Will Roberson, 54, is one of the men in the film. He’s a husband, father and owns a staffing agency in Muskegon.
He describes himself as a gentle giant but says oftentimes Black men, especially those of his stature, face many stereotypes.
“We’re violent. We’re not present in our kids’ lives and for some reason. It’s our fault when we get beat by police,” Roberson said as he described some of the stereotypes. “We’re emotional. We’re passionate so when we start speaking we’re not being angry. We’re not trying to attack you, we’re just trying to get our point across.”
Alonzo Gooden, 30, also owns a business in Muskegon. He aspires to be the best role model for his son and take care of his family.
As a Black man with sickle cell anemia, Gooden opens up about his struggles in the film.
“The doctors wrote me off a long time ago,” he said. “They definitely don’t take your pain seriously as a Black man.”
Covington’s business partner and friend of over 40 years, Jim Tyler, says the film is for anyone willing to listen.
“You don’t have to be a Black man to appreciate it. It’s human sharing their story and I think anyone can connect with that,” he said.
Roberson and Gooden encourage the public to see the film. Following the showing will be a discussion with the producer, Covington and other men featured in the piece.
“Come with an open mind. Leave the stereotypes and check them at the door,” Roberson said.
Gooden added, “Come looking to be changed. When you see the film you’re going to see people in the Muskegon community right now doing huge and amazing things.”