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Photo Exhibit at African American Museum Will Speak the Truth about Poverty

July 22 2016

A photo of two boys with their heads together sleeping. Taken by Angela S. of the Philadelphia Witnesses to Hunger, she said, "To get a good education, my sons have to take two buses and a train through the 'hood to get to school. They fight all day, but here they were tired, cold, and supporting each other just trying to get home safe.”
Angela S. of the Philadelphia Witnesses to Hunger, took this photo and said of it, "To get a good education, my sons have to take two buses and a train through the 'hood to get to school. They fight all day, but here they were tired, cold, and supporting each other just trying to get home safe.”

During a week when some of the nation’s most powerful decision-makers will be in town, an exhibit featuring photos taken by the foremost experts on poverty — those who live it, daily — will be on display.

From July 25–28, Witnesses to Hunger will host a photography exhibit at Philadelphia’s African American Museum. Witnesses to Hunger is a research and advocacy project of Drexel’s Center for Hunger-Free Communities. Each photo in the exhibit was taken by participants of Witnesses to Hunger. 

These participants all have first-hand experience with poverty. As mothers or care-givers of families, they experience food insecurity, face a lack of safe and affordable housing, and strive for respect and opportunities. With their photos being exhibited during the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, the goal is to draw in the legislators who stand to make real differences.

“Policymakers need to know what programs work and what needs to be improved to end poverty. We need to show that the stereotypes about what poverty looks like are far from the truth,” said Angela Sutton, one of the participants in Witnesses to Hunger. “This exhibit gives them a dose of reality, being as though most policymakers have no clue what it is like to live in poverty. It lets them know that we are more than numbers and holds them accountable.”

Witnesses were encouraged to take photos of whatever they wished in order to document the realities they live.

“This exhibit is important because it’s putting a face on hunger, poverty and addiction, among other issues,” said Sherita Mouzon, another member of Witnesses. “With programs like Witnesses to Hunger, along with resources and job training, change is possible.”

A freezer that is mostly empty except for one container and a frozen chicken. Kim W., a Witness from Washington D.C., took this photo and said, "My short-term goal was to fill up my deep freezer for the winter. In January, my freezer is still empty. I don't understand how I am denied food stamps because I am 'over income' but still can't put food in my freezer."

“People living in poverty are very well-educated, strong and resilient,” Sutton said. “We work two and three jobs to survive and we’re far from lazy. We’re not looking for a hand-out, just the same opportunities and rights that everyone else has so that we can be an asset to society and our family.”

With locations established throughout the country, pieces in the exhibit will come from places like Boston, Baltimore, and Washington D.C. For the first time since 2008, new photos from the original Philadelphia site will be on display.

“What is often missing from narratives about poverty is the humanity — we forget that there are very real people living in these conditions. We often focus on the systemic nature of poverty and crunch numbers, but we overlook the lived experiences,” said Michelle Taylor, program manager of Witnesses to Hunger. “The photos and testimonies in the exhibit allow people to walk in their shoes, if only for a short while, and connect with the reality of their daily lives. That experience is powerful and inspires action.”

Adding to the experience, visitors to the exhibit will be given tours by Witnesses themselves, which include participants in the programs in Boston, Massachusetts; Camden, New Jersey; New Haven, Connecticut; Washington, D.C.; and, of course, Philadelphia. 

Visitors will be able to get an in-depth tour from the Witnesses, who can explain, first-hand, the intricacies involved in raising a family while living in poverty.

“It is an honor to host this compelling exhibit in partnership with Witness to Hunger at Drexel University,” said Patricia Wilson Aden, president and CEO of the African American Museum. “Our shared goal is to encourage change by unveiling the truth and providing education for people of all economic and social backgrounds. We hope our guests leave educated and visually stimulated by the reality of these photographs. 

Those interested in attending the exhibit, running from July 25–28, 10 a.m.–2 p.m., can RSVP here.