‘Segregation Story’ Exhibit Captures Daily Life in Jim Crow South

‘Segregation Story’ Exhibit Captures Daily Life in Jim Crow South

By Tanasia Kenney
* Written Feb. 10, 2015

ATLANTA — The High Museum of Art opened its doors to guests Sunday, Feb. 8 for the viewing of Segregation Story, an exhibit showcasing the photography of renowned photojournalist Gordon Parks.

The exhibition featured 40 plus photographs, which chronicled the daily life and struggles of the Thorntons, an African-American family living in segregated Alabama. Parks’ photo essay, originally titled The Restraints: Open and Hidden, was first printed in Life on Sept. 24, 1956.

Parks’ photos gave guests a peek into a very controversial and tense time in American history. Instead of simply capturing moments of the Civil Rights Movement, he followed a multi-generational family through the hardships of living in the unjust Jim Crow era. Parks used these photos to speak out against segregation and discrimination in the South.

“The family highlighted in the exhibit was one of resilience. No matter the hand they were dealt, they still found joy in being who they were,” said Toni Edwards, a student viewing the exhibit for the first time. “The family members seemed resourceful; they weren’t welcome in white barber shops so the men would use their living rooms or front porches as in home barber shops. They found a way to make the little bit they had work.”

Many of the photos displayed in the gallery have never been seen. According to a press release by the High Museum, The Gordon Parks Foundation recovered over 200 of Parks’ photos in 2012, thus completing the series. The museum will keep 12 of the color photographs showcased in the exhibit.

“This exhibit is provocative because it causes the viewers to put themselves in the photos, to think about how a country as rich in culture and capital as the United States could allow (and still does allow) so many of its citizens to be subjected to poverty and discrimination, at the hands of another,” said Anne Randolph Powell, public relations specialist for the High Museum.

A few key pieces featured in museum were Mr. and Mrs. Albert Thornton, Mobile, Alabama (1956), Department Store, Mobile, Alabama (1956) and Airline Terminal, Atlanta, Georgia (1956).

Tanneka Hylton, another patron visiting the museum Sunday, recalled a particular photo from Segregation Story that stood out to her.

“There was one photo that showed a family at a segregated water fountain near a storefront, and the children were not wearing shoes despite wearing pretty dresses,” Hylton said. “A family friend was wearing shoes that didn’t fit. This spoke to the socioeconomic disparities that were so present between blacks and whites in the South during that time.”

Gordon Parks (1912-2006) was an American photojournalist, writer, musician and filmmaker. Parks picked up photography because he saw its potential to be a “weapon for social change.” Parks was the only African-American working for Vogue in the early 1940’s and then became the first African-American staff photographer hired to work for Life in 1948. He went on to co-found Essence in 1970, where he also served as editorial director. Parks is best known for directing the 1971 blockbuster Shaft.

“I would definitely come see more of Parks’ works if the High were to feature him in the future,” Zachary Myles said. “The ethnic and racial disparities in his photos were striking.”

Gordon Parks: Segregation Story runs through June 21, 2015.  For more information on this exhibit, visit www.high.org.

 

Flawless: Challenging Society’s Myths of Beauty

Flawless: Challenging Society’s Myths of Beauty

picjumbo.com_IMG_0744

In her smash hit “***Flawless,” Beyoncé asserts that she indeed woke up like this – flawless. Amid a hard-hitting baseline and tantalizing melody, the Grammy-winning singer boasts of her accomplishments and never-ending desire to succeed. She steps out on stage in her infamous bedazzled leotard, revealing a slender hourglass shape, full flowing honey blonde tresses and sculpted legs wrapped in shimmering pantyhose.

But did she really wake up like this? Probably not; however, she does have an image to maintain. But where do female entertainers and the media draw the line when it comes to promoting unrealistic beauty standards for women? Where did these standards originate in the first place?

High Heel Standards
The societal pressures women face regarding beauty and femininity have been around for quite some time. From the super-skinny models in the magazines to the “Real Housewives” reality TV series, today’s woman is expected to look and act a certain way. There’s a standard to look flawless, yet remain as natural as possible.

A panel discussion titled “I Woke Up Like This,” organized by the Center for Student Leadership at Kennesaw State University, sought to challenge these societal myths of beauty by facilitating discourse among students and staff.

“I think the assumption about college students is that they’re in a bubble, but they’re actually part of the real world,” said Dr. Nyasha Guramatunhucooper, assistant professor of leadership at KSU. “They’re in the society and they do feel those pressures. And they’re gonna go into jobs, into positions where the pressures are magnified. So it’s important to start at the college level to make a space for these pressures and to name them and interrogate them at their root because unfortunately, they don’t go away.”

There’s no doubt these unrealistic beauty standards can take a toll on a woman’s self-esteem, but they also have the potential to negatively impact things like educational environments, relationships and even employability. Both panelists and students used the discussion to share their experiences and offer solutions to overcoming the pressures to be perfect.

What Not To Wear
As much as you would like to forget this period of your life, imagine you’re back in high school. You’ve got your studies to keep up with, extracurricular activities and pile of college applications to fill out. On top of all this, you’ve got to plan your outfit for the next day and make sure it adheres to the dress code.

Professor of education and panelist Dr. Shelbee Nguyen spoke on the fact that many times these standards to look a certain way are implemented in educational settings through school dress codes.

From the “three-fingers width” spaghetti strap rule to the “your skirt must be longer than your fingertips” rule, school dress codes seem to assert more control over what girls wear than what boys  wear. Some schools have even implemented a new “bend over” rule; if you bend over to touch your toes and the backs of your knee caps show, then your skirt is too short. And say goodbye to comfortable active wear, because yoga pants aren’t allowed either.

Nguyen also pointed out that these regulations inadvertedly shame girls by deeming their outward appearance “distracting to the learning environment.”

“We give girls all the responsibility over boy’s actions,” she said. “This is what I call the subjective objectivity of women.”

Offering a remedy to this issue, Nguyen referenced an ad campaign featuring a young girl that read “my shorts are higher than your test scores.”  She suggested teachers and school administrators spend more time focusing on improving academics overall, rather than worrying about what female students wear to school. This will better the learning environment for all students and relieve some of the pressure girls feel to look a certain way.

Blurred Lines
The saying holds true: “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” What one person considers beautiful, another might not. But this can pose a problem when you’re in a relationship and your standards of beauty differ from those of your partner. This was the case for Caroline Ofulah, a grad student at KSU and panelist at the discussion.

She described being in an interracial relationship upon first coming to America; her body image was intact until her boyfriend began making comments about her weight.

“He would say things like ‘you should come to the gym with me’ or ‘look how your thighs spread when you sit down,” she said.

When it came time to meet his parents, Ofulah could see from where these nitpicky comments came.

“Everyone was so tiny,” she said. “I was bigger than him, his mother, his sister. I was even bigger than his uncle! I literally felt like the elephant in the room.”

Ofulah went on to explain that in her native country of Kenya, curvy women are considered beautiful, whereas here in America, it’s the skinny women who turn heads. These conflicting views of beauty are present in other cultures around the world as well.

“Here in the United States, there’s a race toward thinness,” Yen Rodriguez said. “I come from a Caribbean culture where full figured people are much more attractive. I’m a pretty thin guy and every time I go around any family members, the first question out of their mouths is ‘Why are you not eating? Why are you so skinny?’ The same thing will be asked about a woman in this culture.”

You’re Hired, but…
Beauty and personal appearance standards exist in the workplace of course. A tidy, well-groomed image is of the utmost importance. Everything from your makeup, to your nails and clothing play a big part in how employers receive you. So can something as simple as a hairstyle compromise your employability? Sometimes, yes.

KSU student Toni Jenae revealed that she always feels the need to straighten her hair before going in for a job interview.

“I can’t go in there with my natural hair,” she said. “I know they’re looking for that ‘certain look.’”

Let’s say you’ve already got the job and decide to do something different with your hair. Panelist Nakia Richards described the reactions she received when she walked into work donning her natural hair texture. She heard everything from “how did you get your hair to do that” to “do you even wash your hair?”

Because today’s societal standards of beauty are heavily modeled after European standards of beauty, women of other races and ethnicities feel the need to appropriate the look in corporate and formal settings.

“I just don’t care anymore,” Cooper said. “You can always try to be the best version of what somebody else wants you to be, but it gets tiresome.

Flaws and All
Standards of beauty and femininity differ from one person to the next, yet remain the same in the fact that they determine what makes an individual beautiful. You have to be skinny. You’ve got to have long, straight hair. You must dress “like a lady” to keep from drawing unwanted attention to yourself.

“The only person I keep up with is me,” Cooper said. “Because at the end of the day, I need to be comfortable with who I am.”

So the next time you’re in the mirror trying to achieve those famous Kim K. eyebrows or at the gym sweating for J.Lo’s tiny waist, stop and ask yourself, “did I really wake up like this?” The answer is no, because you were already flawless.

Photo by Viktor Hanacek

ARCHIVES: City of Kennesaw celebrates Worldwide Day of Play

ARCHIVES: City of Kennesaw celebrates Worldwide Day of Play

SpringTime

City of Kennesaw celebrates Worldwide Day of Play
By Tanasia Kenney

KENNESAW, Ga. — Residents of Kennesaw traded in the time they would usually spend sitting in front of the TV for an active day of fun in the sun.

The City of Kennesaw, in conjunction with the Department of Parks & Recreation, celebrated the second annual Worldwide Day of Play at Swift-Cantrell Park this Saturday.

This event, which has also been observed by TV network Nickelodeon and first lady Michelle Obama, isn’t only meant to combat childhood obesity. Its purpose is to get families moving by encouraging them to get off the couch and engage in physical activity.

“I wanted to do something outside today,” said RoseAna Isaacs, a mother who attended the event with her husband and young daughter. “It’s my birthday so I just wanted to get out with them and have some fun.”

Activities at the World Wide Day of Play included an inflatable bounce house, a station for hula-hooping, a rock climbing wall, tetherball, relay races, hopscotch, corn hole, four-square and much more. Healthy snacks and refreshments were also provided.

“[I’ve enjoyed] four-square the most by far,” said John Conwell, who’s a student at Kennesaw State University. “It’s very competitive and a lot of the kids know how to play. However, I would have included basketball because it seems like the only thing missing from this park.”

Like Conwell, many other students who attend KSU volunteered at the event and got active with the kids.

“I learned about this event through Volunteer KSU,” NiAmber Fulks said. “I also have a class where you have to do 20 hours [of community service] for a project.” Pledges of fraternities like Delta Sigma Pi were also in attendance.

Sponsors of the event included Wellstar Health Systems and Safe Kids Worldwide. Both provided information to children and adults on how to stay healthy and hydrated while the Department of Parks & Recreation passed out water and granola bars to participants. Jimmy John’s also sponsored the event and provided ready-to-eat sandwiches for families around lunchtime.

Monica Calhoun, a mother who attended the Worldwide Day of Play with her daughter, said she felt the activities were geared toward children of all ages.

“I would bring my family next year,” she said.

According to an article posted on Kennesaw.patch.com, the City of Kennesaw first hosted the Worldwide Day of Play last year “in support of an international pro-health initiative led by Nickelodeon.”

Nickelodeon’s official website also provides tips on staying active throughout the year. These tips include turning off all electronics, exercising with a group of friends, taking a hike, gardening, playing a pick-up game of football, and much more.

The date for next year’s Worldwide Day of Play has not been set yet, but it is expected that even more people will come out to participate in the festivities.

Upcoming events organized by the City of Kennesaw and Department of Parks & Recreation in the coming months include Fall-o-ween, the American Red Cross blood drive, a Veteran’s Day luncheon, and a Day with Santa.