I have embarked on a new project in partnership with the Decatur Education Foundation and the Decatur Arts Alliance entitled I am Decatur. The mission of this project is to showcase the rich diversity of our community by telling the stories of the people who make up our vibrant city. I will be interviewing each participant to record their story and collaborating with each individual to create an environmental portrait. An environmental portrait is a photograph of an individual or group in the context of their lives. It is a powerful way to capture the essence of the subject.
Stay tuned. I am Decatur coming soon.
In today’s Atlanta Journal Constitution, journalist Jeremy Redmon wrote an article which commented on a photograph he had snapped with his iPhone of Congressman John Lewis at the Atlanta airport on Saturday. Congressman Lewis was at the airport with hundreds of citizens, advocates and attorneys who were concerned about the refugees detained at the airport as a result of President Trump’s executive order banning refugees from entering the country. The photograph of Congressman Lewis was not particularly compelling, yet the story was. The image showed the 76-year-old civil rights icon sitting on a metal bench, hands clasped, looking patiently to his right. He had asked the federal immigration official how many refugees were being detained. When the official refused to provide information, Congressman Lewis told the crowd, “Why don’t we just sit down and stay a while.” Eventually, Congressman Lewis was briefed about the situation. The image above is a tribute to Congressman Lewis and all our citizens who had the courage to stand up and protest perceived injustice.
It is impossible to predict how the next four years will shape our country but I am certain about one thing. America will witness a “HUGE” surge in activism. The historic Woman’s March in DC last weekend was an indication that people are moved to unite to defend the civil rights of their family members, neighbors, and all those who call this great country home. I met Gus at the MLK March in Atlanta. He is a psychotherapist as well as an activist. He has been marching since 1968. He was one of many people who I met that were passionate about preserving social justice.
Now, more than ever, I seek inspiration when out photographing. Not only do I look for compelling subjects to photograph but I also yearn to hear their stories. I met Yvette Pegues on MLK Day in Atlanta as we marched with a group from disAbility Link. Yvette radiated beauty and grace, and her enthusiasm was contagious. She has overcome many obstacles in recovering from a traumatic brain injury which left her without the use of her legs. Yvette had to forfeit her dream, a full ride to Harvard’s PHD program, to fight for her own well-being and that of her family’s. Today, Yvette is an advocate for women, children, and all people living with a disability, as well as a professional speaker, life coach, author, and 1st responder. She won the distinction of being the first woman of color and Georgian to win the title of “Ms. Wheelchair USA”. In 2016 Yvette went on to win the International title.
The Pegues family believes that, “the scene of our greatest disappointment was the setting of our greatest miracle!” #YouAreAble
If you are looking for a bit of good cheer or inspiration look no further than Baton Bob. When the 9/11 terrorist attacks occurred in New York City, Bob Jamerson was laid off from his job as a flight attendant. In an attempt to pull himself and others out of the funk that ensued after the tragedy, he decided to do something that brought him joy. He returned to twirling his baton in public. As a young boy, Bob was fascinated with the majorettes he watched at the college football games in his home town of Martinsville, Virginia. He started twirling a broomstick with the ends cut off at the age of 8 and proceeded to become the first male baton twirler in his high school. He is a celebrity as a street performer in Atlanta. One might see him marching and twirling his baton while dressed in one of his outrageous costumes. Baton Bob’s goal is to “lift people’s spirits and put a simple smile on people’s faces during their daily routine”.
My husband is an Eagle Scout, so regardless of where we have lived, we typically purchase our Christmas tree from the local Boy Scout Troop. Our current neighborhood of Oakhurst is honored to have the oldest troop in the Atlanta Council. It was established in 1911. As we were loading our tree into our car, I noticed several people assisting the cyclist in the above image attach a large tree to his bike. When I asked the cyclist why he had decided to transport a tree on his bike, rather than in his car, he responded, “Because I want to prove I can.” He had never attempted this feat before but did say that he had been successful in hauling a 200-pound lawnmower on his bike. The cyclist was concerned whether he would arrive home with the tree intact and I wondered whether the tree would even make it home on the bike. As the cyclist pedaled furiously up the hill out of the parking lot, bystanders cheered.
After gathering some greenery we headed back home. As we approached our street I spotted the cyclist in the far distance. Once we caught up with him, I jumped out of the car and captured the cyclist pedaling madly with the tree intact and secure. Perhaps the lesson learned from this tenacious neighbor of mine is to stay hopeful even when confronted with the improbable.
Although this presidential election has divided our country in many ways, there is probably one thing that we are all in agreement about; it will be a relief that the campaign for the next president of the United States is over! It has been a brutal campaign and, like many others, it has taken an emotional toll on me. I recently attended a reception and lecture celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University. At that event, Ambassador Young told us that we, as a city and country, have come a long way. He said he remembered watching the Ku Klux Clan marching on Auburn Avenue in Atlanta many years ago. He reminded us that no matter what the outcome on election day, that we will persevere and overcome because we are a great city and a great nation with people who care and who are good.
“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”
― Daniel Patrick Moynihan