I met Lincoln Mondy close to two years ago and needless to say, it was such a blessing.
His energy was magnetic. His humor, quick and effortless. His style, immaculate. His heart, as warm as any. What compelled me to get to know the Dallas native was his passion for social innovation and activism. When Mondy has an opinion, especially when it comes to his community, he is already on ten with every intention to take action. In this current sociopolitical climate, he's one to keep your eye on.
That same fire is what served as the catalyst for his film, Black Lives / Black Lungs. The powerful documentary takes aim at tobacco companies’ blatant and harmful targeting of the African-American population. The film came into fruition while Mondy was a senior at George Washington University in Washington DC. Almost a year later, Mondy, now a Progressive Communications Strategist at BerlinRosen, is ready to unleash the final project to educate and activate the masses.
Mondy was a minor when he first took notice of the discrepancies associated with tobacco advertising. “Growing up, my white mother and family who used tobacco products either smoked non-menthol or used chewing tobacco,” he reflects. “But, my black father and black family seemed to exclusively smoke menthol cigarettes. I thought this was all a coincidence and joined in on all of the ‘black people just love menthol’ jokes. This was up until my Truth Initiative internship when I began reading research papers, internal documents, and scientific evidence that made me realize it wasn’t just a coincidence – but a successful and strategic 50-year plan to infiltrate my community and culture.”
Instead of letting his “anger” manifest, Mondy realized his newfound responsibility. “Black Lives / Black Lungs is my attempt at turning my anger into action.”
So, the legwork started. He rounded up a crew and went into the metaphorical trenches, gathering as many receipts as he could to take the tobacco industry to task. And the results were shocking.
Citing “coolness” along with a plethora of stereotypical comments about what menthol does to “Negroes”, Mondy found concrete evidence to support his claims.
As with any unmasking of industry, the responses have been mixed. Mondy received an ample amount of backlash online. While it was to be expected, Mondy still was in a bit of disbelief. “I think it was just another reminder of the fact that when we [black people] center ourselves – there’s a hell of a lot of people out there that instantly feel their sense of privilege and power threatened.” What gets him through, however, is the love he's received for his advocacy. “Since launching, a majority of the feedback I’ve received mirrors my own personal journey with this issue.”
With his signature smile and effervescent spirit, Mondy has pushed through to create something so enlightening and empowering. Mondy’s call to action on a platform like this shouldn't go unnoticed. Bridging the gap between traditional research and digital media, Mondy has been able to touch generations on a professional and personal level with his work. “I knew my generation had already seen the scare tactics like displaying diseased lungs, graphic images, and warning labels. I knew I had to create a compelling body of work to cut through the clutter. That’s why my film looks at tobacco control through a social justice lens. It’s a type of framing that incorporates history, evidence, lived experiences, and a call to action.”
Support for Mondy continues to reign in with accolades from several digital platforms, acclaimed scholars, and allies in advocacy in this very specific-yet-important issue. It definitely is keeping him going, pushing that same vigorous passion to limits unknown. “Moving forward, I’m really focused on using Black Lives / Black Lungs to ignite the critical conversation about menthol use in the black community. I want to provide the short film to organizations as a way to engage young people, and educate our community.” He plans on hitting the road to promote the project with private screenings in various communities to further the discussions on “activism, public health, and identity.”
Mondy will be hosting a screening in Washington DC Tuesday, August 8th at 7 PM. RSVP here.
For additional information, check out the website here.