"Exhibiting You" - Story

Be the Change

By: Anahi DeCanio
Submitted: 01/01/2009

On an inspired afternoon car trip I took a photo. I know it moved me enough to make my shutter click. I know it was some sign of support for Barack Obama. I should be able to remember exactly what it was, but I cannot. What I can tell you is that I was filled with an enormous sense of hope for the first time in a long time. I knew that this man who suddenly inspired me so intensely surely made others feel that way and I wanted to meet them. I wanted to witness what seemd like history in the making. I wanted to be a part of it.

As an artist, I did it the best way I knew how -grabbed my camera and didn't let go...actually, still haven't. Think about childhood history courses or books you've read. Most detail the dates, the great battles, the bold print names, the boundaries - but how much do we know about the individuals involved?

Captivated by the people that lived and breathed that history in their own lifetimes I knew it was possible to have had an unnamed character change the course of history by some small act that historians never recorded. On my path to capture the actions and faces of those not likely remembered by the books I unwittingly became part of the CHANGE.

Sounds arrogant - I know - but I know this to be true. On my forages into a myriad of neighborhoods built around Martin Luther King Boulevards it became apparent that this was a new experience to all involved. I entered as the rare white face behind the lens and left with my photos, sharing stories and making change one handshake at a time. I walked into a neighborhood barbershop open for 30 years and was the first white person to set foot inside. I was the first white hand to shake the hand of a man selling Obama t-shirts on a corner. It was the first time I ate barbecued pork from a street vendor on a street where white people don't stop.

I know we don't like talking about it. In a previous related story I got very few responses. Even those living in the most "liberal" cities where citizens like to think of themselves as progressive know that there are neighborhoods that are not integrated. I dare you - I beg you - to show me a town or city in this great nation of ours where an unspoken color line is not drawn on some street or corner.

So what does this have to do with the Power of One? The true integration of our nation may start with a black president but it continues with us. During the campaign, on a now familiar barbershop poster, we were urged to be the change. As this new year begins, I urge all of us - from all colors and backgrounds - to give this some serious thought. Shake a hand. Nod your head hello. Make eye contact. Say good morning to a stranger. Become a community organizer. Volunteer. Trivial? Try it first and then decide...

We have witnessed the presence of individual and collective greatness intersect in a way we have not seen before. One action at a time, a one was formed overcoming hurdles, barriers and challenges that made history. I have a dream, that someday...driving down Martin Luther King Boulevard will be just like driving down Main Street - and I know we will reach that destination - one turn at a time.

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