Showing up real takes courage.
I'll go first.
As a child, I wielded more power than a grown Black woman.
Margaret was beautiful and beloved, yet tough as nails. Keeper of the switch. Master of the kitchen.
But despite her necessity to my grandmother's well-being during summer months, her room was downstairs.
It was never discussed but always understood, Margaret was different. We were 'above' her.
What else wasn't said?
That our status and wealth was built on the foundation of their labor - generations of Black men and women - for I am a child of antebellum ancestors with a name inherited from a United States president.
Camera in hand, I stepped out of my southern cocoon to stretch, climb, question. To breathe. To go where a name couldn't unlock doors.
I wanted to be humbled by my unimportant place in the world.
And so, I traveled in search of answers to questions I couldn't define.
The farther away from home, the more alive I felt.
Every assignment as a photojournalist challenged me to sink into the environment, quickly figure out dynamics at play, and understand all that was not being said.
I saw famine and the ripple effect of war.
I documented breakdowns in basic services after natural disasters.
I spoke with people cemented in polar opposite beliefs.
No matter the location, language or culture, I could connect, earn trust, and tell a story.
What have I learned?
We are all human and therefore equal. Yet, power structures at play don't allow us to see each other as equals.
That's why we need knowledge grounded in fact to increase our collective understanding and empathy.
We must realize the stories we've told ourselves aren't necessarily true - the truth is a lot more nuanced because humans are messy.
And we need keepers of this knowledge and lived experience to step up and be heard - and hold up a mirror.
We need their complex ideas translated into simple language while acknowledging the dignity and worth of everyone.
When knowledge is shared, we will no longer be blind to the ripple effect of our decisions.
We will own our privilege and have words to express it.
And when we do, we will influence everyone around us.
Ultimately, collective conscience and empathy will rise. We will create a world that sings, not shouts.
And it all starts with you.
You, who sees the world for what it could be.
You, who is determined to make a difference.
You who is ready to dig deeper to reach higher heights.
Ready to get to work?
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