A Reflection on the new Typical American Families Photo Exhibit: Highlighting Intersectionality and Need for Change in Georgia

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A Reflection on the new Typical American Families Photo Exhibit: Highlighting Intersectionality and Need for Change in Georgia

As an intern for Carlton Mackey, Ethics & the Arts Director at the Emory Center for Ethics and co-creator of Typical American Families, I am incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity be part of the process in which he creates inspiring exhibits that bring social justice to light. However, last month, I was able to accompany Mackey to the showing of the new Typical American Families exhibit at the Georgia State Capitol.  This experience opened my eyes to the reality and immensity of the work I am part of.

For this new exhibit, the Typical American Families project co-creators Carlton Mackey and Ross Oscar Knight collaborated with Feminist Women’s Health Center and Strong Families to help shift the understanding of who the families in Georgia are today and to help pass legislation these families require to thrive. As Mackey says, "through powerful visuals and storytelling, our newest photo exhibit features the ethnic, generational, and geographic diversity of both blood and chosen families from throughout Georgia to depict their lived realities."

Walking into the State Capitol, I felt the weight of the pivotal decisions being made in the chambers. As we set up the display, school groups walked through asking what the exhibit was about, and within an hour, the room had grown to include employees and interns from our collaborating organizations, people visiting the capitol building, legislators, and the families featured in the exhibit. It wasn’t until speakers from the collaborating organizations, Representative Nikki Randall, and family members came up to the podium to share what the exhibit meant to them, however, did I realize how truly momentous of a movement this was.

This Typical American Families exhibit was not just a project that displayed the diversity of Georgia’s families, but a message for legislators that there is no typical American family and policies must reflect the state’s diversity.  By forming a partnership with Feminist Women’s Health Center, Racial Justice Action Center and SPARK Reproductive Justice, this exhibit has become a campaign that urges legislators to sign on to the Strong Families Resolution (HR 746), which highlights urgent issues affecting all families and commits legislators to doing something about them.

In her speech, Representative Nikki Randall affirmed that our voices matter, and that the House Resolution 746 is a reflection of this—forcing legislators to acknowledge that typical families are the thing of the past and building healthy families produces a productive state.

Further, I continued to be moved as members of the families in the photographs came to the podium to share what the exhibit, and the opportunity to be part of it, meant to them. To each of these diverse families the exhibit meant something a little bit different. However, all were united in the fact that family was one of the most important aspects of their life and that the photo shoot gave them an opportunity to document their story.  Speaking about their photo in the exhibit brought the Winn family to tears as they talked about how the photo shoot had reconnected Marilyn Winn with her daughter Pamela after several years.

Mackey said in his speech, “Art can lead to awareness, and that’s what it happening today. Awareness can lead to advocacy, and that’s what we are here to do. Advocacy can lead to action, and that’s what we hope the lawmakers do. Action can lead to a revolution, and I want to be part of a revolution.” I took this to heart --seeing how art, within one project, had brought about changes in my personal perspective, family dynamics, and in political climate. Being at the State Capitol, listening to these speeches, surrounded by the exhibit, and immersed in a climate of advocacy, I saw that the Typical American Families project was truly urging a society on the brink of a revolution. This transformative day was something I will hold onto forever and will continue to motivate me to voice my opinions and find channels to advocate for what I believe in.

-Ashwini Krishnamurthy

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New Typical American Families Exhibit Demands Action from Lawmakers

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New Typical American Families Exhibit Demands Action from Lawmakers

What: A New “Typical American Families” photography exhibit highlighting the diversity of Georgia’s families to garner support for the Strong Families Resolution.

When: One day only: Friday, February 19 from 1-5 p.m.

Press event: 1 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Where: The Rotunda, Georgia State Capitol Building, 206 Washington St SW, Atlanta, GA 30334

Why: Through powerful visuals and storytelling, the photo exhibit features the ethnic, generational and geographic diversity of both blood and chosen families from throughout Georgia to depict their lived realities. The message for legislators is that there is no typical American family and policies must reflect the state’s diversity.

Feminist Women’s Health Center, Racial Justice Action Center and SPARK Reproductive Justice Now are asking legislators to sign on to the Strong Families Resolution (HR 746) which highlights urgent issues affecting all families and commits legislators to doing something about them. The Strong Families Resolution addresses four key areas that affect Georgia families: improving maternal and infant health by increasing access to affordable and comprehensive health care, addressing racial disparities in health outcomes, protecting all Georgia families, and helping families be productive at work and home.

“Our goal is to introduce legislators to the realities of Georgia’s “typical” families, who are more diverse and unique than our policies recognize,” affirms MK Anderson, Public Policy Associate at the Feminist Women’s Health Center. “The exhibit is an opportunity to introduce these families to our legislators through art so they will remember these stories when they are voting on issues like healthcare and the economy.”

Who:
Press event speakers:
MK Anderson – Feminist Women’s Health Center
Kalpana Krishnamurthy – Forward Together
Carlton Mackey – Typical American Families
Tishana J Trainor – SPARK RJ Now Board Member
Marilynn Winn – Racial Justice Action Center/Women on the Rise 

Notable attendees: Exhibit photographer and artist Carlton Mackey, families participating in the photo exhibit, and legislators.

About the Exhibit: Typical American Families was created in 2015 by artists Ross Oscar Knight and Carlton Mackey to capture stories and to explore what the definition of a family is. When they learned about the Feminist Women’s Health Center’s work and the Strong Families Resolution, they wanted to collaborate. “I believe that the concept of "family" is ever evolving in the U.S. as well as around the world,” said Knight. “I wanted to help elevate these stories in ways that can have meaningful impact on policies and these families’ daily lives.”

MEDIA CONTACTS:

Jaime Chandra, Feminist Women’s Health Center - marketing@feministcenter.org, 404-248-5445

Janna Zinzi, Forward Together/Strong Families - janna@forwardtogether.org, 917-715-8484

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Happy Fathers Day? GPB Radio Show Explores Trans Parenting

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Happy Fathers Day? GPB Radio Show Explores Trans Parenting

"Father’s Day and Mother’s Day can be complicated when your parent is transgender. Not to mention when you’re the parent of a gender fluid kid." (intro as seen on to today's On Second Thought website)

Driving to work this morning it was good to hear about Typical American Families in the news today.  Celeste Headlee talks about navigating family relationships when genders change on today's show.


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TYPICAL AMERICAN FAMILIES: Two Years After the Cheerios Commercial

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TYPICAL AMERICAN FAMILIES: Two Years After the Cheerios Commercial

It was two years ago to date that General Mills released the Cheerios commercial that sparked a national conversation about many of the commonly held assumptions about race and the make up of the "typical American family".  It was this very conversation that catapulted TYPICAL AMERICAN FAMILIES creator Carlton Mackey to create a platform to:

"celebrate the beautiful spectrum of the American family as well as remove both the 'exoticism' and stereotypes that are associated with being a (quote/unquote) 'non-traditional' American family."


As parents of a bi-racial son, he and his wife were asked by AJC writer Ernie Suggs to offer their response to the commercial and what seemed to be a backlash as a result of it. Convinced that the negative response wasn't simply a lack of awareness of the presence of interracial couples in society but much more acutely connected to the lack of representation of the spectrum of manifestations of family in the media.  Broadening this conversation to include various mis/underrepresented families was important to Mackey.  Seeking to not define family but to discover the myriad ways in which people work to create family was one of the core objectives.

2013 AJC feature story

2013 AJC feature story

Two years later, we are proud that Typical American Families continues to carry out these objectives and works collaboratively with people all across the country to "CELEBRATE THE BEAUTIFUL SPECTRUM OF THE AMERICAN FAMILY AND EXPLORE NEW POSSIBILITIES OF WHAT 'FAMILY' MIGHT BE."

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DIVERSE ATLANTA FAMILIES GATHER FOR PHOTO EXHIBIT & SHARED TRANSFORMATIVE EXPERIENCE

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DIVERSE ATLANTA FAMILIES GATHER FOR PHOTO EXHIBIT & SHARED TRANSFORMATIVE EXPERIENCE

Photo by: Loyall Hart for Ross Oscar Knight Photography

A crowd of nearly 100 gathered at the Emory University Center for Ethics to view the unveiling of the photo exhibit, TYPICAL AMERICAN FAMILIES–ATLANTA.  As winner of the 2014 IDEAS Challenge grant from One Region Atlanta, Carlton Mackey utilized the funds to partner with long time collaborator and BEAUTIFUL IN EVERY SHADE Co-Director, Ross Oscar Knight.   Their idea was to build upon the mission of their existing platform at www.typicalamericanfamilies.com which celebrates the diversity of family and challenges the limited, normative understandings about what “family” can be.

In December 2014, the AJC featured a story by Shelia Poole about the duo’s winning idea which also included a call for submissions.  The community response was overwhelming.  Over 200 Atlanta-area families submitted personal stories and photos in support of the mission of the project and for consideration to be chosen for a photo shoot with Ross Oscar Knight.

Knight captures the beauty of the Allen Family along the Atlanta Beltline. Photo by Carlton Mackey.

Ultimately, twelve families were chosen and, over the course of several months, were photographed by Knight in areas reflective of the family’s personality and personal narrative.   These environments included public settings such as restaurants and parks, while others were photographed in various parts of their home. 

Mackey also documented the journey and produced a video documentary chronicling the families as they engaged at each of the photo shoots with each other and Knight.  “I had never met Ross before the shoot,” explained Antoinette Ellison in the documentary “but the photo shoot seemed so natural.  Before [Ross] left it was as if he were part of the family.” 

Prior to the May 7th unveiling event, none of the families saw their photos nor the video documentary.  Even upon entering the photo exhibit space, each image was covered.  The families were invited to come up one by one to uncover their photo.

Unveiling photos proved to reveal more than meets the eye.

The Ellison family, photographed in their home, prepared Sunday breakfast as part of their photo shoot.  In an emotional moment during the community conversation facilitated by Center for Ethics Director Paul Root Wolpe, Gregory C. Ellison III, who just a week prior to the photo shoot mourned the loss of his grandmother, stated that the angle Knight captured their family portrait made him feel as if his “grandmother was looking down on his family [from heaven].”

The exhibit will be on display at the Emory University Center for Ethics until June 30.  Mackey and Knight are also seeking support to aid with traveling the exhibit throughout the city and ultimately hosting Typical American Family photo shoots and community dialogues across the country. 

Photos by Loyall Hart for Ross Oscar Knight Photography

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EMORY News Center Feature: Typical American Families photo exhibit to be unveiled at Emory

By Kimber Williams | Emory Report | May 4, 2015

Conceived by Carlton Mackey, director of Emory's Ethics and the Arts Program, the exhibit offers a photographic glimpse into the lives of 15 Atlanta-area families, celebrating "the vast landscape of manifestations of family" across spectrums of culture, faith and ability, Mackey says.

The event includes a public reception and formal unveiling of the exhibit. Guests will also have a chance to meet families that participated in the community project, which showcases the diversity of the American family through the lens of international photographer/photoculturalist Ross Oscar Knight, Mackey's creative partner.

Read Complete Story

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The Unveiling of TYPICAL AMERICAN FAMILIES -ATLANTA Exhibit at Emory University

Dear Supporters of Typical American Families,

We are thrilled to announce the reception and unveiling of our exhibit, Typical American Families –Atlanta,

winner of the 2014 One Region Atlanta IDEAS Challenge.

Please join Carlton Mackey and Ross Oscar Knight, as we celebrate you! 

Meet the families that participated in our photoshoots who represent the diversity of the American family.

You will hear stories and view how these Atlanta residents bridge faith and culture in our city. 

At this event, you'll gain insight into Mackey and Knight's inspiration for the project and get a behind the scenes glimpse of the making of this exhibit.  You’ll also be able to hear from the families themselves as they offer commentary on the experience of being part of this project and what they celebrate about their own families.

 

The reception will begin at 6:30 pm on May 7th

at Emory University’s Center for Ethics

1531 Dickey Drive

Atlanta GA 30322

 Light hors d'oeuvres will be provided.

 

Please register to attend:

https://eventbrite.com/event/16676751613/

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Contact Mika Pettigrew with questions.

mdpetti@emory.edu

404-727-2698

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Typical American Families (ATLANTA) - New Featured Family every Monday and Thursday

We finally finished one of the hardest decision making processes in the life of Typical American Families to date. 15 Atlanta families from over 200 submissions have been chosen to receive a FREE PHOTO SESSION with celebrated international photographer Ross Oscar Knight.

These photo sessions will occur over the next two months and will culminate in a photography exhibit and a facilitated dialogue where each of the families will see their photos and meet the other chosen families for the first time. This event and the unveiling of the exhibit will take place at the Emory University Center for Ethics in the Spring.

Typical American Families (ATLANTA) was a winner of the 2014 One Region Atlanta Ideas Challenge Grant. The project is a component of the Ethics & the Arts Program and is a signature project of BEAUTIFUL IN EVERY SHADE, a grassroots movement created by Ethics & the Arts Program Director Carlton Mackey that seeks to celebrate the beauty found in every human being.

Leading up to the exhibit, Typical American Families will share some of the stories and photos of the Atlanta area families who submitted. These heartfelt, emotional, funny, and inspiring stories represent a beautiful spectrum of the diverse ways of 'being a family'. Crossing barriers of race, religion, ability, class, sexuality, and age this project seeks to celebrate the many manifestations family and to challenge some of the limited ways we've thought about it.

Join us every Monday and Thursday on our website and social media platforms where a new amazing family from those who submitted will be featured.

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15 Chosen From Among Beautiful Spectrum of "Typical Atlanta Families"

We've finally finished arguably one of the hardest decision making processes in the life of Typical American Families to date. We have our final 15 Atlanta families selected to photograph for the One Region Atlanta Ideas Challenge Grant. This was a tough one!! Our photo sessions with these families will occur over the next two months with a final exhibit to unveil to the public this Spring at the Emory University Center for Ethics

In the meantime, starting today, we're so excited to share with you some of the stories of the families who submitted. These heartfelt, emotional, funny, and inspiring reflections of America's culturally diverse families, is the very reason we started this movement. We want to celebrate the forever changing view of what constitutes an American Family and challenge some of the limited ways we've thought about it. 

Stay tuned every Monday and Thursday where a new amazing family from those who submitted will be featured on our website and social media platforms.

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Thank You Atlanta for Sharing Precious Family Moments

THANK YOU ATLANTA! Over a period of just two weeks, 200+ Atlantans shared stories and photographs of their Typical American Families. 12 families will be chosen to receive a Free Photo Session with celebrated photographer Ross Oscar Knight, but YOU ARE ALL WINNERS. Beginning January 15, we will begin sharing the beautiful photos and stories from all of the other families representing Atlanta's amazing spectrum of family, faith, and culture! Stay Tuned! 

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EMORY Report: Photo Project Seeks 'Typical American Families'

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EMORY Report: Photo Project Seeks 'Typical American Families'

A community photography project created by Carlton Mackey, director of Emory's Ethics and the Arts Program, to celebrate the spectrum of differences within modern American families has been awarded a 2014-2015 "Ideas Challenge Grant" by One Region Atlanta.

"Typical American Families" is an online platform exploring a wider view of American families through photographic images.

This month, Mackey's project was among four applicants selected to receive an Ideas Challenge grant award from One Region Atlanta, an initiative of the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta.

In their application, Mackey and his creative partner, international photographer/photoculturalist Ross Oscar Knight, proposed utilizing their "Typical American Family" platform to help bridge faith and culture in Atlanta by creating a traveling photo exhibit.

The $2,500 grant will be used to offer free family portrait sessions with Knight to about 15 Atlanta families. Copies of those photographs will be given to each family and will also be displayed through a traveling exhibit, which will be unveiled in spring 2015 in a ceremony and public gathering at Emory's Center for Ethics.

READ COMPLETE Emory Report Story Here

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The Center for Ethics is Looking for Typical Atlanta Families

December 1, 2014

Emory University Center for Ethics

For Immediate Release
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Co-Directors of Beautiful in Every Shade, Carlton Mackey and Ross Oscar Knight, are the winners of One Region Atlanta’s Ideas Challenge grant for 2014-2015.

Out of nearly 200 Ideas Challenge submissions, the two were awarded for their idea to utilize the platform www.typicalamericanfamilies.com to bridge faith and culture in the city of Atlanta.

This created a joint partnership between Beautiful in Every Shade, the campaign under which Typical American Families is housed and Emory University’s Ethics & the Arts program.

Up to 15 Atlanta families will be chosen for a free family portrait session with celebrated photographer Ross Oscar Knight.  Families will receive a free copy of their photo and images will be displayed in a Traveling Photo Exhibit.  Participating families will be brought together at an unveiling ceremony and exhibit at the Center for Ethics where they will share a multi-cultural meal and engage in community dialogue.

If you would like the opportunity to have your “typical” American family photographed and your story featured, please share your story and apply at http://typicalamericanfamilies.com/ . Deadline for submissions is December 12, 2014.

To view Ethics and the Arts current programming, please visit  http://ethics.emory.edu

For more information about One Region Atlanta, please visit: http://www.oneregionatlanta.org/about-the-ideas-challenge

To learn more about Beautiful in Every Shade, please visit: http://www.beautifulineveryshade.com

1531 Dickey Drive, Atlanta Georgia 30322    |     404.712.8307     |     www.ethics.emory.edu

Tanya Anderson Woodward

Marketing and Communications Manager

Emory University Center for Ethics

1531 Dickey Drive

Atlanta, Georgia 30322

404.727.1179

www.ethics.emory.edu

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