This is who we are
Project info

This project is a series of portraits of minority communities in Columbia, Missouri, from the African-American and the LBGTQ to the immigrant and refugee community. All of these communities share a history of oppression and under-representation in our society, and and with the rise in intolerance, bigotry and racism after the election, each of these communities needs to be seen, accepted and celebrated in its own rights.

The portraits are taken in a neutral studio setting as a formal way of underlining our common humanity. I am also asking each subject to submit a written statement (whose format can range from a poem to a song to a personal narrative) about who they are, framed within the sense of their belonging to one, or more, of these marginalized communities.

To date there are no established, organized and comprehensive records of the history of the African-American community in Columbia (photographs of old Black churches, photographs of community members, original documents and deeds, business records, artifacts, etc.) Only recently has the Blind Boone House been open to the public, and the erasure of the historic African-American neighborhood of Sharp End in the 60s remains largely ignored. Through the tireless efforts of Bill Thompson and others, work is finally under way to address that injustice. The African-American community is finally starting to be recognized as integral to Columbia’s identity and equal in rights, and this project aims to facilitate that movement by giving it a public visual record.

The LGBTQ community in Columbia, like LBGTQ communities across the nation, has largely been invisible until now. Yet in Columbia its members cure diseases, run dance schools, teach, and run homeless shelters, among other achievements. They are also who we are, our sisters, our brothers, our neighbors. Like the African-American community, they are part of the tapestry of who we are.

There is no documentation of the immigrant community in Columbia, and with President Trump’s aggressive policies of targeting undocumented immigrants and Muslim minorities, many have gone deeper into hiding, and essentially been silenced. Like the African-American community and the LGBTQ community, their faces need to be seen and celebrated, their humanity recognized and respected.

This portrait series aims to make these communities seen and accepted but also celebrated. They enrich our humanity not just here in Columbia but everywhere.

They are who we are.