2020 has been a year of major racial awakening in the United States. With the notable deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, among others, the Black Lives Matter movement has once again brought the unequal and unfair treatment of Black people to the national forefront.
The response has been profound. Thousands have marched and protested all across the country in the name of justice, and more importantly, people made their voices heard like never before with record voter turnout in the 2020 election.
The list of issues plaguing the Black population in this country is a long one, but much of it stems simply from the misguided perceptions that are held, popularized, and then widely believed about Black people — and Black males, specifically.
The documentary Black Boys examines and exposes these harmful misperceptions and their origins, specifically through the lens of education, sports and criminal justice. In partnership with Old Spice, the film is executive produced in part by Tyler Lockett and New Orleans Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins.
Black Boys explores what life is like for young Black boys who have to learn to navigate these societal barriers and seeks to reimagine the image of success for young Black males in America. NBA star Carmelo Anthony, sports analyst and journalist Jemele Hill, and former Secretary of Education John King are featured in the film as well, among others. Gregg Scruggs, former NFL defensive end and Super Bowl XLVIII champ with the Seahawks, anchors the story as he returns to his hometown of Cincinnati to stress the importance of education to young Black males.
The film is part of a 10-year initiative by Old Spice aimed at increasing high school graduation rates of young men by 10 percent in underrepresented and underserved communities. The brand has always aligned itself with the idea of boosting confidence, which is something that experts consider to be a major factor when it comes to achievement in the classroom. In addition to the producers of Black Boys, Old Spice has also partnered with creators of the eLearning platform Frontlines of Justice, which works to improve learning outcomes of students in underrepresented communities throughout the nation with its personal development programs.
Last month, Lockett held virtual visits with students from two local high schools, Garfield and Chief Sealth International. The visits served as a chance for Lockett to engage with students and hear their reactions to the documentary, highlight its important aspects, and also discuss the importance of having confidence as a young person.
"Students may be getting some 'virtual' fatigue, which is why we want to create meaningful engagement with their favorite NFL players," Old Spice brand VP Matt Krehbiel said about the partnership in October. "We're excited to formalize partnerships and use our resources to enable success for the next generation."
The Seahawks have long been committed to social justice, and those efforts were only amplified in 2020. At the start of the season, with the racial and social climate still thick with the tension from protests and unrest, the Seahawks doubled down on their focus on social justice, and Pete Carroll gave an impassioned speech about the state of racial injustice in America during an August training camp press conference.
"I think it's just being conscious and aware of what's going on in your world and understand the impact that you have and that you can have in your community, because I think it starts in your community," Bobby Wagner said in September. "So I think everybody's working and trying to figure out ways that they can impact their community and impact the world, so I think it's important for everybody to just really be conscious about things."
As the season wore on, the Seahawks turned their efforts toward getting out the vote. Lumen Field Event Center was turned into a vote center in the days leading up to Nov. 3, players and coaches constantly echoed messages about voting on social media, and Pete Carroll was heavily involved in the Coach the Vote campaign, getting his team registered to vote and challenging other coaches to do the same.
Black Boys was released in September on the streaming service Peacock. Click here to learn more about the film, and you can watch the trailer below.