Friday January 13, 2017

Voices and Faces of Ferguson

The University of Dayton will debut an interactive photo exhibit Tuesday, Jan. 17, that spotlights the voices and faces of people who stood up during the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, following the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in August 2014.

“Ferguson Voices: Disrupting the Frame” features audio excerpts and text from interviews with people who participated in or were affected by the Ferguson protests, recorded by students in May 2016 as part of the Moral Courage Project — an oral history project co-sponsored by the University Human Rights Center and the College of Arts and Sciences’ human rights studies program.

The exhibit also centers around portraits by St. Louis-based photographer Mark Katzman of those subjects.

“Ferguson Voices” highlights the contributions of average people who found the courage to stand up during moments of unrest, said Joel Pruce, assistant professor of human rights studies, who led the two-week trip to Ferguson.

“The photo exhibit itself is a representation of that group, focused on individuals who exemplify transformation, moral courage and who altogether expand the narrative of what we think of when we think of Ferguson,” Pruce said.

The exhibit, co-sponsored by PROOF: Media for Social Justice, runs Jan. 17 to Feb. 10 at the Roesch Library First Floor Gallery on the University campus. An opening reception from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 20, features Jimmie Briggs, a New York City-based activist, author and Moral Courage Project co-coordinator.

Other related events include a Jan. 26 screening and discussion of the documentary film, P.S. I Can’t Breathe. On Jan. 31, an “upstander” workshop, “Responding to Crisis,” will be facilitated by Leora Kahn, PROOF executive director and Moral Courage Project co-coordinator.

The opening and screening are part of the University’s 2017 Martin Luther King Jr. week celebration. The exhibit and events are free and open to the public.

“Ferguson Voices” features a series of interlocking panels with photos and printed quotes from the students’ interviews. Visitors can access 90-second audio recordings via a web browser or the SoundCloud app on their mobile devices.

“We think the richness of the audio is so significant that we didn’t want to lose that,” Pruce said. He hopes the student-produced audio component will help visitors connect with the interview subjects on a more personal level.

Katzman, a commercial photographer who volunteered his services to the Moral Courage Project, shot new portraits of the interview subjects last fall to give the exhibit a uniform, professional style.

Pruce said the project taught students about action, solidarity and what it means to be confronted with an extraordinary crisis and then step in and stand up.

In September, those students presented their work to the campus community and reflected about their experiences during an event in the Sears Recital Hall of the Jesse Philips Humanities Center.

Pruce hopes the photo exhibit spurs critical discussion among students and class groups. He also hopes it makes visitors rethink their immediate response when they hear “Ferguson” — a controversial topic for people whether they supported the protest movement or the Ferguson Police Department.

“While those positions are important and valuable, there are also a million stories between both of those points that broaden our understanding of what happened and allow us to take away a broader range of lessons,” Pruce said. “I hope visitors can rethink their assumptions about what Ferguson is, what happened there and its place in contemporary American political history.”

After it leaves the University, “Ferguson Voices” will be displayed during the month of March at the Dayton Metro Library’s northwest branch at 2410 Philadelphia Drive in Dayton.

Pruce is working to bring the exhibit to other universities, libraries and community centers in Dayton, St. Louis and beyond. “We hope this is something we can share with other communities,” he said.

Gallery hours are 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

For more information about “Ferguson Voices,” visit the Moral Courage Project’s Facebook page.

- Dave Larsen, communication coordinator, College of Arts and Sciences

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