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Voices: Black X Project

Voices: Black X Project


The Black X Project aims to show the world that there are black people out there who are productive members of society.

It seems to us that society should know this already, though it is great that a project like this exists, dispelling stereotypes.

Ilona Bates, one of the most incredible photographers in Colorado, decided that there were enough negative stereotypes in this world and set about to shoot some of Denver’s leading black men in a formal setting. The imagery sends the message loud and clear, it is time to change the narrative.

Black X Project; Photography by Ilona Bates, Denver CO


Jamon Hemphill (Jay)
Grad/trade school
Co business owner
“It’s less about racism and more about the structure-the for-profit motive in justice. I loved doing Project X because we are Black Men in Suits.”

Formerly Incarcerated, Survivor, Model
Colorado Springs, CO
“The thing I want people to know about me the most when looking at this picture is it’s never too late to change. I did the picture because I wanted to show that there is change possible, that there is dignity, that black men don’t have to live the life the stereotype, and even if trapped, you can get out. I’m not political or involved in advocacy, I just want to lead by example.”

Writer, filmmaker, director, producer, activist, musician
“I want to portray that Black Men are more than what you see on television that we are doctors, lawyers and have lives-more than what is portrayed on television. Publishing it in Boulder County shows me that eyes are opening up around the country to police brutality and that it can happen to anyone. You don’t have to be black to have it happen, it can happen to anyone. The police have better means of working with the public and the people than using force. Everything doesn’t come down to force. That is why you have pepper spray and other less deadly means. Police brutality is the start of the conversation, we need to do a lot of reform in general. Corruption is happening, and we need reform. It’s not just Ferguson, it’s everywhere. We have to band together as a human race to stop it.”

In sales
Cherry Creek
“I am not political, nor am I the guy to lead us politically. But I did the picture because I wanted to show black men do much more in their lives than what people think. I want to represent what you can do for yourself, have a full life, and make your own life better. I think we should put ourselves in a good enough standing so that what you have to say matters.”

Goes to Thunder Ridge High School
“Knowledge is half the battle. Just because you are educated doesn’t mean you are truly making a difference tho. How you can make a difference is showing that you care. I enjoy helping in my community, being involved with Shop Talk Live and trying to bring more focus to educate the student body more. It’s not their fault that they don’t understand. It’s just something we have to change.”

Anthony Grimes
“I did the photo because Im tired of black people being misrepresented in mainstream media, where we mainly see ourselves presented as athletes or drug dealers or entertainers. I did it to show that black culture is not monolithic or defined by one set of values and that our identity is varied and black men have different sides to us that are rich and diverse. I hope that it is proactive and sparks conversation around dinner tables about race, politics, and about the representation of black men versus the reality of who we are. I am an activist, social entrepreneur, theologian, son of my mother, and father of two children. I believe very deeply we as people, and specifically, black people can create new possibilities and am deep down very hopeful and that every day we can create a world that is more just and free and equal.”

Black X Project; Photography by Ilona Bates, Denver CO

Black X Project, Photography by Ilona Bates

Black X Project; Photography by Ilona Bates, Denver CO

See more of Ilona Bates photography: https://www.instagram.com/imagesbyilona

Ilona Bates, Denver-based Photographer

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