A local group of St. Petersburg guys are hoping to change the image and perception of young black men in the community. 

  • Rebranding project designed to help black youth
  • Photoshoot held in downtown St. Petersburg highlighted campaign
  • Leaders hope new images will change old perceptions

‘Smart is the New Gangsta’ is a rebranding of what I.M.A.G.E. President and CEO Bro. John Muhammad said most considered to be a negative image of black youth.

 “What we’re hoping that this will do is provide a different picture of what a black man in America looks like,” Muhammad. “Especially when we think about ‘gangsters.’”

The recent deadly violence in South St. Pete has many looking for ways to reach out to at-risk youth, in hopes of setting them in a new and productive direction.

Muhammad assembled several men who’ve had checkered pasts but have managed to turn their lives around to become successful businessmen in the community.

During a photo shoot in downtown St. Pete, he captured images of men like Jabaar Edmund, who’s exchanged his baggy clothes for fitted shirts and ties now as a filmmaker.

“If a basketball player has on a football uniform and gets on the court, everybody looks at him crazy," explained Edmund. "So if I walk into a board room with some saggy jeans on and a baseball cap to the back, I’m demanding respect.”

Muhammad hopes to new images will help change old perceptions.

“A lot of the OGs we went to school with, they have businesses now," said Muhammad. "They’ve left that lifestyle alone. They’re in business. They’re in school. They’re doing positive things and so we want to do is show them. But we also want to show the other communities that are non-African American, that all black men are not the same and that we do have positive images to look forward to.”