Men Of Color Get Real About Mental Health In New Documentary Series

Oct 17, 2019

Milwaukee-area photographer Corey Fells has unveiled a new documentary and photography series – and this time, he's putting men under the spotlight. His name may be familiar because we met Fells at the beginning of the year, when he introduced his “100 Womxn Project.” That project highlighted millennial women of color in Milwaukee.

Now, 20 black and Hispanic men from the south and north sides of Milwaukee have the chance to tell their stories. They're also discussing mental wellness, something men of color aren’t typically given the space to do. The documentary series is titled 20 MxN.

Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes (left), and Corey Fells get set up before going on camera for the "20 MxN" documentary.
Credit Mahdi Grandberry

"It's taboo for men to have emotion," Fells says. "There's no middle ground for men, especially men in lower developed environments to be able to have that dissection of, 'Hey, this is how I feel. I don't have to feel mad or happy, I can feel in the middle some days. Or 90% of my year, I can feel in the middle.' So, I felt like this project really needed that."

Local artists, musicians, public figures and athletes are among those featured in the series. Two of them, Mag Rodriguez and Webster X, talk about what it was like for them to participate. They also talk about how men of color aren't usually able to talk about their emotions or what they're going through because of the pressure from society.  

But both say they're at a point where they're comfortable with being vulnerable. Rodriguez says while some might consider the word "vulnerable" to be a negative thing, he thinks it's really putting you in a position of growth.

Mag Rodriguez (left) and Webster X photographed for the "20 MxN" documentary.
Credit Mahdi Grandberry

"I think as men of color we're targeted every single day in the workplace, in just regular society where like if you get pulled over and you show emotion, you might strike fear in the police officer ... if you show emotion at work, it's, 'Oh, he's an aggressive employee.' So, I think so much of the black and white has been instilled in us through society. And I started speaking up against it when I started going to therapy," he explains.

Rodriguez is an audio engineer, producer, graphic designer and entrepreneur. And he's also the program director for Backline Milwaukee, a program that provides coaching, mentoring, industry networking and grants to musicians and bands.

He says going to therapy, meditation and journaling are some of the ways he's been able to improve his mental health. And he even started telling his friends and other people around him how much therapy changed his life. Now, he says he's very comfortable talking about how he feels.

Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes in another scene of the "20 MxN" documentary.
Credit Blvq

Webster X echoed those statements. He's an experimental rapper, artist, and community organizer in Milwaukee.

"I love being vulnerable now. Because to me, you know, the word vulnerable. Like Mag said, kind of feels like a negative thing, right? But it's just really not. And it's so much not to the point where that word doesn't even really exist in my head. I'm just being me ... being me is being vulnerable," says Webster X.

Fells plans to release the full documentary in spring 2020.

Support for Race & Ethnicity reporting is provided by the Dohmen Company.

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