Veteran photographer Michael Christopher has made it his mission to help children in poor countries focus on school, and educate people on Black history in the process (Photo Courtesy of Christopher)
For Michael Christopher, educating the world on Black life and history has become a life’s work. A skilled cameraman, Christopher has served as personal photographer for celebrities like Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson. World-renowned as a vocation cinematographer, he’s worked for National Geographic shooting pictures and video all over the globe.
More than a lustrous career and stamps on his passport, the most valuable thing Christopher has gained from all his travels, is perspective.
“I just got fed up with the Hollywood life, it was so phony and fake…After seeing so many poor children I decided to just really devote my whole life, all my energy, everything, to help those kids,” he explained.
Now Christopher uses his talent to produce books, documentaries, and photo essays that tell the stories of Blacks all over the world.
“My first book was the story of Blacks in Oaxaca, Mexico,” explains Christopher of the glossy paged coffee table book entitled “Black Roots in Mexico.” The book is full of striking photos of a Black Mexican population that many, if not most, are unaware of says the photographer.
“It was really important to me to capture their story and bring it back to the states because many Mexicans try to act like the first time they’ve seen a Black person is when they came to the U.S. but that’s not true, Black is part of their native culture,” explains Christopher who says he shot the book to bring Blacks and Hispanics together. “We are not enemies they’ve made us enemies but really we are brothers.”
While in Oaxaca, Christopher donated school and art supplies to over 300 children.
Now he organizes trips for Americans to travel with him to various countries around the world to educate them on Black life and culture abroad. On his trips he and his team always bring school supplies to donate (in addition to clothes and often money) because Michael believes the opportunity for education is invaluable.
“School supplies are something I see these kids in impoverished areas can really use to keep them focused on education.”
Christopher’s first philanthropic endeavor was a case of happenstance in Sierra Leon back in 1999.
“I was in this village and there was a war taking place. They had this small facility where they kept kids whose parents were killed in the war, it was about 500 kids… The pastor came to me and said they were trying to purchase 101 acres of land to expand the grounds. He said it cost $1000 and it wasn’t a lot of money,” so Christopher donated the money and realized the impact just one person can make.
Now with 87 countries under his belt, 12 guided tours, one book and four documentaries, Christopher is off to Haiti this summer with a group for a historical tour. The group is scheduled to leave in July, Christopher will begin work on yet another documentary and the group, as always, will be delivering school supplies to children.
“Just knowing that America is not helping Haiti, and that the earthquake left so many children as orphans,” is reason enough, says Christopher, to help the country that holds a special place in his heart. In the 1970s Christopher was made aware that Hait is where his paternal lineage originates. Henry Christophe, the nineteenth century President and King of Haiti, is actually Christopher’s great-great-great-great grandfather.
Now on his second trip exploring his grandfather’s land Christopher intends to give his tour group an education on the history of Haiti through figures like, Toussant Lourveiture, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Dutty Boukman, and of course his own ancestor Henry Christophe.
“It’s going to be a historian’s trip,” says Christophe of the return to Haiti after almost two full decades.
“People always tell me ‘Michael, it was your Grandfather telling you to come back to tell the true story on Haiti. It was like a spirit came over me one night, it just told me to pack my bags and head back to Haiti. So it just happened, God sent me there to do the documentary.”
To learn more about Christopher’s mission to educate, to donate, or to take part in one of the trips email firstname.lastname@example.org