“As a society, we train children subconsciously to look at being black or a person of color as highly undesirable or ugly. As a child, I lost sight in the pride of my roots and denied part of who I was for those very reasons. For example, in high school, I would perm and bleach my hair blonde, and even wore blue contacts, not realizing that I was crying tears under my very own skin.

For a while, I denied my own ancestry, thinking I should “pass” by only focusing on my mixed heritage and light skin. To me, being able to do so meant I was powerful, loved, and good. But eventually I was able to see the beauty in my own history and the color of my skin, which changed my life.

Campaigns like #WeSmileToo shows the power behind men of color embracing themselves. It sends the message that we can be happy, loved, and an aspire to greatness through self acceptance.

My message to everyone who views these images:  look at these photos through the heart, not with eyes of judgment. Understand that life is a beautiful, artistic movement that we all must share, and that each human soul is beautiful and important, even those of color.

It’s time we spread peace and love, not ignorance and hate. #WeSmileToo allows men of color to say, ‘Hey! I’m not just the same, tired, stern, angry character you portray me to be. I smile, too!'”

Photo of Prince, Jemille, and Brian

Photography: Gioncarlo Valentine