I have focused my lens on activism since 1967 when I first picked up my camera and marched for civil rights. The momentum that compels people to rise up continues to define my work.
I began the photographic archive of “America Speaks” leading up to and after the disputed Presidential election of 2000. People were confused – feeling disenfranchised and they began to congregate. Here was the beginnings of a re-awakening – Americans exercising their right to “peaceably assemble to ‘hold their government accountable’. This project chronicles opposition in the US at the dawn of the 21st century; as events polarized our nation.
I was in search of a visual template that could help me relate the successful marches of my generation to today’s protests. What would this new legacy look like? I have traveled across America taking the pulse. What I have found is the spectrum is full- the student – the soldier - the politician- the artists – the theologians –the policemen - the teachers - the housewives – the union members – the unemployed.
As I participate in each action I share the anger and capture the frustrations of average Americans in solidarity. I have written a personal narrative that accompanies their portraits and commentary that gives background to the aggregate crowd shots. I was drawn to rallies that made headlines as well as those not covered by the mainstream press. I have had the privilege to stand with military veterans and their families. I have been in the heartland covering the assault on the American workers. And I have recorded the emergence of the Occupy Movement from Wall Street to Los Angeles.
Divided into eight segments, the exhibition guides us through: the ‘past as prologue’, war without end”(protesting the war in Iraq and Afghanistan), ‘who are we going to be as a country?’ (the election process) “ Point Counterpoint” (opposing social movements), “ Still We Shall Rise” (immigration, civil liberties, police brutality, women’s rights, student’s rights, worker’s rights) …’miles to go before we sleep…‘ (Wisconsin and the heartland) ‘ We Are The Ones We Have Been Waiting For’( the 99% and Occupy) and concludes with ‘ The Power of One’ - Viviette Applewhite- (the power of just one voice).
The exhibition consists of 120 black and white and color images that span twelve years in this unprecedented era. Americans across the country have contributed brief personal accounts - memorializing their disappointments as well as their conquests. These wall texts enhance their portraits as they exercise their First Amendment Rights.
Legendary activists, historians and politicians introduce the sections/ some have contributed statements written specifically for this project: President Obama, Michelle Obama, Arun Ghandi, Betty Freidan, Gore Vidal, Michael Moore, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Sarah Palin, Michael Steele, Mayor Villarogosa, Arianna Huffington, Alec Baldwin, Angelica Huston, Martin Sheen, Don Cheadle, Gavin Newsome, John Nichols, Jesse Jackson, Harry Belafonte, Ossie Davis, Rep. Barbara Lee, Amy Goodman, Enrique Marones, Greg Palast, Tom Hayden. This archive serves to memorialize how raising our voice is as vital now as it was in the sixties and will always be. This right, guaranteed by the Constitution, defines us as Americans.