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Tucson Black Voices

Kathleen Dreier | Arizona, United States

Organization: Kathleen Dreier Photography

When I go by Alex Smith I am immediately categorized as an African-American or a Latin American of African descent because of my last name which hails from Jamaica where my grandfather was born. My family in the Caribbean had slavery in our history, and everybody has been successful from that blood line. We have chosen to not use the oppression of our ancestors to make for a better future for our families.

When I’m in Mississippi, Texas, or Atlanta they all see me as a Jamaican or African American. But when they find out I speak Spanish or that my family is interracial, I’m profiled or basically blackballed by picking the wrong side. I can’t help my heritage; I am embrace them all.

I am seen as not black enough, not Dominican enough, not Mexican enough, or not Native enough to pick a side. The truth is I don’t pick a side but black lives do matter and I will stand by that until the day I die. It is hard to be a minority in this country; it’s even harder to be the minority to the minority in this country and that is where I fit in.

A photographer, a middle-aged White woman, after recognizing it is long overdue for us to listen to our Black community, takes their portraits and uses her social media platforms to amplify their diverse opinions and perspectives. The viewer is called upon to genuinely reflect on the subject’s individual experiences. In turn, the viewer is further challenged to find their own way of becoming a proactive ally in the Black Lives Matter movement.


“Ally is a verb.”

These words were written on a person’s shirt at a Tucson vigil organized by young adult Black leaders on 06/01/2020, one week after George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police. The peaceful event, diversely attended, was filled with powerful, moving speeches. At the end of the evening, another  group of people not associated with the event, rushed the stage, shouting to the departing crowd that (paraphrasing) trying to work within a system designed to oppress Black people was not useful, that more aggressive action, such as defunding the police, was essential. As a White, middle-aged woman, this was an epiphany moment: that there are vastly differing perspectives within the Black community itself as to what the issues are and how to address them. It took this cacophony of voices during the vigil to raise my awareness. Those impressions remained with me, knowing I had to figure out a way to be the “action” of ally. This portrait series stems from my wish to be proactive in addressing racial injustice in my own city by amplifying the diverse perspective of our Black community. Since 06/04/2020 over 50 people have participated in this ongoing series.

Read each person's full statement on Facebook: @TucsonBlackVoices

Instagram: @TucsonBlackVoices

Cell:  520-245-6711

Email: kathleendreier93@gmail.com

Method: Adhering strictly to social distancing protocols due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all of the portraits are done outside. I am masked, photographing 10 feet away from the person, typically outside of their home for their convenience. From the outset, I was committed to not formally interviewing the participant because I didn’t want to direct or shape the person’s statement. Instead I give each person a simple writing prompt, “Share with us whatever it is you want about your experience of being a Black person in Tucson.” After the person emails me their statement, I share their portrait and words to various social media pages including my dedicated Facebook and Instagram pages. I do not censor any statement, instead invite the person to express themselves freely.

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