Researching the life of James Weldon Johnson, both through his autobiography and walking the LaVilla streets of his early years, I found myself yearning for the community he described Jacksonville to be: a tolerant, vibrant place where opportunity was abundant and neighbors, black, white, immigrant, and natural born, all lived, worked, and played together. Each photograph represents a characteristic of James Weldon Johnson—educator, activist, artist, diplomat—and features an individual connected through history or vocation to the historic LaVilla building I’ve photographed them in. The photographs are encased in encaustic medium exploring how we preserve (or destroy) our collective history. Our narratives, personal and communal, have the power to shape us into loving citizens or into divisive fearful camps. The dozens of generous individuals who shared their experiences with me give me great hope that Jacksonville will find its footing, and we will write a story of hope and love.
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