I step foot into a familiar place, with ragged cushions and a dark stained carpet. Scattered children's toys. This landscape is comfortable, but the sounds coming from within are alien. A clash of familiar faces. A poison cocktail of screams. High-pitch crying mixed with deeper bass roar. A young woman holds a kitchen knife, threatening her baby’s father. Family pries them apart. Knife falls, then her fists fly in repetition. He never strikes back. She picks up an empty beer bottle, swings at his head. It’s deflected. I’m a breath’s distance away, heart pounding, witnessing.
During three years documenting Chester, I learned it is a place where socio-economic issues, compounded by a history of government corruption, have revealed the community to be a microcosm of the festering wounds of racism. Chester is a place where pollution hinders cognitive development, violence is common place, poverty is oppressive and jobs virtually non-existent. The most grime statistic is the 300 unsolved murder cases since the mid-nineties.
During my years working in Chester, I forged attachments to people that keep drawing me back. With the completion of this work, I want to demonstrate the kinship I have for these families who treated me so kindly.
Creating more images to fill the pages of a book or hang on a wall is not enough. I am done sitting comfortably in my safety net of journalistic passivity, documenting the struggle of life in Chester. I cannot allow tragedy to unfold in front of my eyes without doing more to change it. I want to be involved on the ground to help make a tangible difference.
With so many unsolved murders, there is a need for a campaign against violence: a unified movement of people who want to create real change.
With funding, I will create a list of 50-100 families who have family members on the list of unsolved murders and take their portrait with a large-format camera. Each image will be printed on a poster to be used during a rally against violence, where all will stand together in solidarity.
I have established ties with community groups, who have already taken steps to address this violence. I will work with the Women of Strength United for Change, a local advocacy group, to organize the rally, where activists can teach tangible ways of overcoming violence. Most importantly, reoccurring workshops would be designed after the rally to keep the momentum sustained.
The protest is the first step in a series to create change in the community. Down the road, I plan to continue to be involved in this process of combating violence in Chester, such as having interactive exhibitions in the community, along with holding lectures in many colleges in neighboring more affluent communities.
Your support will help a community that has long been disenfranchised. It will help build a power base to create change.
FINANCIAL GOALS + BUDGET:
$7,000 will help fund the costs associated with photographing and printing posters for the rally, along with paying for promotional materials. It would also provide some pay for speakers and organizers. $12,000 would help bring activists from outside the community who have worked with other cities to help combat violence.
Expenses: 60% to print posters for promoting the event and picket signs, 40% for time and costs of organizers and speakers.