Madrid, Spain - Surrounded by moving bodies, a woman begs on the sidewalk in front of the Mercado de San Miguel, a popular tourist destination in Madrid's Centro neighborhood. Her sign asks for assistance in finding food for her and her children who live in the street.

Sète, France - I came across these men on the Mediterranean coast last summer. I asked the man throwing, Phillipe, if I could photograph their game and he was happy to let me. He asked if I spoke English. His granddaughter was about to start school in the US and he had been practicing with her. We talked about the weather, how beautiful it was, and he asked why I wanted to photograph them. I don't remember what I told him, probably that the scene was interesting. I would've liked to have told him that that patch of dirt was their place and that was valuable to me. They each had their own homes and families but here was where they came together. This place gave them a sense of comfort and secutiry and camaraderie, and it showed as they lined up for another game, same as always. 

Charlotte, NC - This is one of my favorite photos so far. The first big event I attended as a working photographer and not just a college student with a hobby was the 2018 Charlotte Pride Parade. It was amazing, so far beyond what I was used to coming from Mississippi. We don't have parades like this in Jackson. If you Google "Jackson pride parade" you will learn (like me) that there is a Jackson, Michigan and that they are much more accepting of LGBT pride than my capital city hometown.


My perspective going to this parade was this: I grew up listening to an older generation refer to gay relationships as various degrees of friendships. Two gay men were friends, "friends", or "very good friends." As far as that generation was concerned with LGBT, the L was non-existent and the G existed on the periphery of society. I say "was" in reference to my childhood. Things are very much still this way in those circles. To be clear, my parents were heavily progressive liberals. They laid a unique moral and ethical foundation for me; an awareness of the antiquated conservative mechanisms of the Deep South coupled with a burning desire to make progress. And don't take Mississippi for a lost cause. However deep Mississippians would like to bury the South, the light of social progress touches all. Starkville, MS held the state's first official pride parade last year in lieu of a federal lawsuit. And last year, city officials voted to approve a permit for a 2019 parade, 4-3.


So I've stepped out into the parade. I've been running between floats and following them up and down Tryon for an hour and here is this float, filled with near-naked men of all ethnicities, all wearing sunglasses, dancing to a pounding bass that feels like it's shaking years off of my life. The float stops. It's gotten held up by the rest of the parade. The man at the head of the float, our subject, feels the stop and in a moment of absolute indignation, looks back at the driver and thrusts his flag forward. Here in the American South, with its long and storied history of bigotry and oppression, this parade will stop for no one. 

Madrid, Spain - I saw this group of street vendors in Plaza Mayor earlier this year. A police car would drive through the square and without stopping, an officer would wave his hand out the window in an upward motion to signal them to pack up and move else they be arrested. The group would then pull the strings at the corners of their blanket-sacks and move into a corner of the square, where they would wait for 15 or 20 minutes before doubling back to return to their original spot. 

On September 25th, 1962, on the University of Mississippi's campus, James Meredith approached the building where class registrations were being held - a lone black figure escorted by Federal Marshals through throngs of angry white Southerners. Waiting for him on the steps of that building was a large group of suited white men, first and foremost among them Governor Ross Barnett. Barnett had by this point sworn on state television that Mississippi would not integrate. "There is no case in history where the Caucasian race has survived social integration. We will not drink from the cup of genocide. ... We must either submit to the unlawful dictates of the federal government or stand up like men and tell them never! ... No school will be integrated in Mississippi while I am your Governor," he declared. No black students would be admitted to any white schools. "Now," he said, looking down at this figure and the surrounding crowd, "which one of you is James Meredith?"

Barnett and his party physically blocked Meredith from registering on that day and for 3 days following until, on the 30th, in accordance with a secret agreement reached between Barnett and President Kennedy to allow Barnett to save face, Kennedy federalized the Mississippi National Guard and ordered them to campus to support Meredith moving into his dorm. That night and into the morning, 3,000 white students and protesters rioted on Ole Miss's campus, searching for Meredith, burning cars, injuring a third of the national guardsmen, and executing 2 civilians with single shots to the back and forehead. James Meredith would enroll in and attend his first classes the next day and graduate in a year with a degree in political science.

This story does not end there. A statue was erected on Ole Miss's campus in his honor in 2006 and in the early hours of February 16th, 2014, a noose was placed around that statue's neck accompanied by an outdated Georgia state flag containing the Confederate "stars and bars" draped around that statue's shoulders.

I think one of the greatest yet least acknowledged issues with the current state of American education is that students are taught that we live in a post-racial America, and that without any external forces to challenge that idea they would grow up none the wiser. Talk of civil rights ends promptly with the death of King in 1968, his dream having been realized through the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. If you attended a school in the South, a paragraph might have informed you that total integration was not achieved until 1970. So imagining that is all you know, how much more accessible is it to believe that this generation of black men and women finally having the space to demand their rights be respected is just more evidence of this generation's supposed deep entitlement? How much more believable is it that the n-word is just a word or that the confederate flags and statues are just that? They haven't held power in 50 years. How much easier is it to buy into the idea that people of color are just lazy when you believe that the socio-economic playing field is equal? And in turn that those that have more money have just worked harder for it? And what about Obama? How drastically did his election and re-election combined with this country's already growing social divide influence that mindset? "This.. No, THIS must be the final nail in the coffin that proves America is a post-racial society," feels the white Southerner. "Now I can finally indulge in my culture the way I've wanted to. Now I don't have to filter any of my opinions or ideas because a black person can have the same opinions and ideas about me." And what about the three young men who vandalized Meredith's statue early that Sunday morning? To them their act of terror was just a prank, a joke to inflame the caricatures they had drawn in their minds of liberal, easily offended classmates, when in reality they were reviving in their classmates a dark, long dormant fear that our vandals could never understand.

I have the pleasure of watching Fox News for half an hour three days a week as part of my gym's selection of entertainment. An anchor said these words as part of a segment titled "Op-Ed: Young Black Conservatives on the Rise" - "Black kids today are starting to get it. They know that racism is no longer a problem in America. They can say to themselves 'I am not being oppresed. I am not being supressed,' which is what the media and the Democrats have been pushing."

Every time I hear this sort of rhetoric, I think about James Meredith. His story did not end with his attendance or his graduation. It did not end with the highest legal affirmation, once and for all, that race exists below our highest moral capabilities. It didn't end with the death of his colleague in Memphis, nor did it end in 1970 when my father returned from Christmas Vacation to find half his high school had transferred, stripping the school to the bone and emptying the coffers. It didn't end in 2006 or 2014, or in 2016 when those boys plead guilty to federal civil rights charges.

I think about James Meredith every day.

Meredith is pictured here speaking with Dr. William Ferris, Professor Emeritus of Folklore at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. 

Charlotte, North Carolina - Lit by car and motorcycle headlights, a group of young "Afro-Futurist" men hold a drum circle in the parking lot of a long-since condemned Park Shop convenience store.

Atlanta, Georgia - A couple of years ago, I stopped at a McDonald's outside of Atlanta on my way back from Jackson post-Christmas. It was late and raining that cold, stupid rain that lingers on your clothes for a while after you've gotten out of it. When I saw those golden arches off the interstate, I immidiately became the three wise men. It was a biblical experience. So I got my milk and honey, sat down at a tiny two-person table, and heard these kids laughing. The first couple of times I looked up, I didn't notice this guy in the booth next to them. I wonder if these kids knew he was there. They didn't notice me walk back to my car, grab my camera, and crouch in the middle of the room to capture this moment. I'm not even sure they noticed me buying him dinner.

"Ben" makes his mark on a white-washed parking lot wall in Charlotte, North Carolina's disparaged and historically black West End, a small moment of reclamation in the midst of the city's ongoing and what some call racially biased housing crisis. - Charlotte, NC - August 2018

Montpelier, France - My mother on a train travelling through southern France. 

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