UNITY: Injustice Heard Around The World

These days, most of my writing has been dedicated to my book, but by that I don’t mean I’ve been actually writing nonstop or anything overly inspiring like that. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, revising, snacking, and just generally being submerged in the ideas that have become a central theme for this memoir, unfolding even as I write it. I’m fascinated by where they will take me next.

And while it feels like all I do lately is eat and think and cry over the deeply personal themes of my life and hang out with Christian and the teenager and the nephew, a quick glance of my fitness app indicates I’ve been out walking (sung in a very Nico voice).

I’ve walked all over the place, logging something like thirty miles this month already, but I haven’t been on any of these walks alone; instead, these days I walk as an opportunity to catch up with friends in a socially distanced kinda way.

One friend who I hadn’t seen in years had a book of photos coming out which I had been enthusiastically watching for on social media, so when she finally had the published copies in hand and we decided to meet up, I wanted to walk and hear all about how the book came to be.

Allie Jacox is one of those people with whom I can just jump right in no matter how long it’s been, because we have a shared language that comes from growing up in the same community and having similar experiences in our faith.

We both were active in our youth group in a suburban megachurch, and we both attended a boot camp-style ministry training camp (me for one summer, Allie for THREE YEARS) as teenagers in rural Texas that specialized in extremely emotionally-stretching situations such as The Cross Walk, wherein interns were driven blindfolded to the middle of nowhere — alone — and given nothing but a wooden cross to find their way back to camp (thankfully neither of us ever had to do that exercise). We both fell in love with culture found on faraway coasts through our various church missions trips (me to Kenya/South Africa, Allie to half the Southern Hemisphere).

Both Allie and I had babies young, becoming single moms to beautiful daughters when we were in our 20’s. We both love photography, and we both studied film production (me under the wing of my producer dad, Allie in an actual film program).

And we both took our cameras to the streets to photograph the events surrounding George Floyd’s senseless murder, our shutters capturing the ensuing riots that consumed our city. The whole world was watching with captive eyes as America came face to face with a racial reckoning, and all the action was happening here in Minneapolis; we both wanted images to document the historic events happening right out our back doors.

But Allie’s images do something mine could not, not in a million years or with better gear or with more time spent at the protests. The biggest difference?

Allie’s book of photography restored beauty and humanity to circumstances that could easily go down in history as pure devastation caused by tragedy.

She took time out of her life to photograph not just the countless protests or the burning precinct or the tear gassing cops or the looted Target on Lake Street — focal points in my photography of the events that transpired — but she used her camera to capture the heart of the people in protest who are up in arms over injustice, the emotion of the signs written in righteous anger, the mercy of the humans helping each other see during the tear gassings, and the frustration of law enforcement who had to show up and do their jobs anyway, despite the division.

And she turned 300 of those images into a book bound by hope.

Weaving together words and imagery, Allie shows a different perspective than what you’ll see on the news clips about last summer’s events. While it would be easy to focus on the fear of the situation or the destruction, Allie only touches on those features of the story and instead spends much of the book showcasing ways people showed up to help each other, how a community grieving started to heal, and how the city became a mural for blocks on end where mourners expressed their lament with their paintbrushes and cans. Every artwork Allie chose to include gives readers a sense of hope, as do her images of Floyd Square at 38th and Chicago where the murder took place; even an intersection where such horrifying events occured appears hopeful when approached with the thoughtful lens Allie applies to her work.

She included images that honored both the protestors and the police force, and highlighted the collaboration between people of all genders, socioeconomic backgrounds, and colors by showing people participating in acts of UNITY. Together.

Ending her book with an entire section dedicated to the art that sprung up on streetcorners and boarded up businesses in the aftermath of the turmoil, I felt the story of reconciliation continues in the hands of helpers ready to get to work bringing racial reconcilliation and healing, and a call to personally be a part of that work.

What Allie did feels holy.

Upon looking through her impressive collection of imagery and closing the book, Lola asked me about the author, “Is your friend Allie white?” I answered no, and she smiled. “You can tell.”

When pressed to elaborate, Lola said the kind of images Allie takes and the story the whole book tells is one that could only be told by a Black woman.

I couldn’t agree more.

So, before I return to my hermit hole to write, I have to ask you to please buy a copy of UNITY: Injustice Heard Around The World. <—- that sentence is a link that takes you to a form to purchase!

UNITY is what we need. Allie’s photo book is a glimpse into what it already looks like.

I’m so glad social media brought Allie and I back into each other’s lives. And here are some photos from our walk around Rosland Park in Edina where everything is just beginning to thaw, bare branches doing my favorite thing with the sprouting buds, a hopeful sign despite the Christmas ornament still hanging in the tree three months after the holidays (which Allie pointed out because I was too busy looking down for agates to notice it — but I found one!).

Check out some of my fave photos of the park below, and enjoy some music if you want:

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