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Cincinnati Project opens ‘What Is and What Can Be’ at UC

Collaborative exhibit highlights challenges and triumphs experienced by local women of color

An exhibit attendee sits and wears headphones to listen to the oral histories gathered for the project.

Exhibit attendees listen to oral histories of local women of color gathered by Roane, adding a multisensory element to the experience. Photo/Munazza Aijaz

By: John(na) Jackson

A new exhibit focused on centering the experiences of women of color in Cincinnati opens Sunday, Sept. 16, in the Tangeman University Center atrium at the University of Cincinnati.

"What Is and What Can Be: Women of Color and the Struggle for Justice in Cincinnati," an initiative of The Cincinnati Project (TCP), will be on display through Wednesday, Sept. 19.  The project highlights the stories and work of local activists, scholars and UC students.

The exhibit aims to draw attention to the myriad ways that women of color lead and support their communities while also being exposed to higher poverty rates and health problems than their white counterparts. Women featured in the project reveal the ramifications of these social inequities by “sharing their visions of, and hopes for the future,” according to the TCP website.

A panel discussion with members of the UC campus community takes place at 3 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 18, in the TUC atrium. Panel participants include:

- Ariel Shaw, women’s, gender, sexuality studies student  

- Brittany Bibb, program coordinator for the African American Cultural and Resource Center

- Anjali Dutt, assistant professor of psychology

 - JT Roane, assistant professor of women’s, gender, sexuality studies

- Stephanie Sadre-Orafai, associate professor and co-director of the critical visions certificate program.

They will elaborate on their roles in the construction of the exhibit and the value of projects that amplify the voices of women of color.

An attendee shares their personal feelings in the exhibit by writing on a group board of sticky notes.

Attendees respond to the question "what is next?" with their own thoughts. Photo/Munazza Aijaz

Jennifer Malat, associate dean for social sciences and director of TCP, believes the exhibit is as inspiring as it is necessary.

“The project was important for TCP because it demonstrates what faculty, students, and community can do when working together on a common goal” says Malat.

“In this case, the goal was to amplify the voices of women of color. Based on conversations with community organizers and organizations, we understood that there would be value in collecting and raising up the multitude of experiences of women of color in Cincinnati,” she said.

The exhibit asks viewers to consider what is home? What is community? What is ours? What is fair? What is action? Viewers are encouraged to contribute by adding their own stories to the exhibit, and oral histories gathered by Roane and Dutt are available to listen to on a Soundcloud page accompanying the exhibit.  

Hosted by TCP and the UC Department of Anthropology, the exhibit originally debuted downtown at Reverb Art + Design Sept. 5-11.

The exhibit is funded in part by grants from The Greater Cincinnati Foundation, The Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr. / U.S. Bank Foundation, The Murray and Agnes Seasongood Good Government Foundation, and UC's McMicken College of Arts and Sciences.