Inequity

Inequity and inequality are … racism and something else

Racism

Symbols of racism and oppression persist. I photographed the removal of Confederate monuments in Memphis for the New York Times and efforts to remove the Confederate flag from the official flag of Mississippi for the Washington Post.

White supremacist rallies have been on the rise since the election of President Trump. I cover the rallies for the Southern Poverty Law Center, examining which leaders of this movement are organizing.

Facing the legacy of racist violence is just as important as confronting the face of today’s racism. Mother Jones asked me to photograph efforts to erect a historical marker memorializing lynching victim Ell Persons in Memphis.

Workers’ Rights

In October the New York Times reported that an XPO employee died after having cardiac arrest on the warehouse floor and that six women had miscarriages after being denied breaks from physically intense work including heavy lifting in a building without air conditioning where temperatures can rise above 100 degrees. Recently XPO announced they would close the facility causing more than 400 employees to lose their jobs.

From Natalie Kitroeff's story: "The Teamsters union, which has been trying to organize workers at the warehouse, said the closing was retaliation against employees who publicized incidents of sexual harassment and pregnancy discrimination...Lakeisha Nelson, an employee at the XPO facility, has been vocal about conditions there. 'The warehouse is closing because management chose to run this place like it’s their personal plantation, rather than running it like it’s a company,' she said."

I photographed employees, including Lakeisha Nelson, on site at the warehouse after they received termination notices. Former employee Tasha Murrell was joined at the scene with union members. While pregnant in 2014 Murrell told a supervisor she was in pain and asked to leave early; the manager said no. Ms. Murrell miscarried the next day. I also photographed Annetta Smith, a plaintiff in a a separate lawsuit against XPO.

The photos ran with separate stories in HuffPo and the New York Times as well as a local cover story in the Memphis Flyer

Education

Despite official policy, de facto segregation is a common reality for primary schools and public colleges in the South. I photographed the segregated public school system and surrounding community in Cleveland, MS for the New York Times and Mississippi Valley State University for a feature in the Chronicle of Higher Education about broken funding models for HBCUs in Mississippi.

Voting Access

Howard Kirschenbaum and Jim Kates were volunteer voter registration workers in Mississippi during "Freedom Summer" in 1964, enduring arrests and intimidation in the midst of even greater violence, beatings, church bombings and the murder of activists, by racists opposed to Black suffrage. This week they returned to the state for a similar effort on the campus of the University of Mississippi in Oxford, partnering with student organizations for National Voter Registration Day.

After spending time in the campus library meditating, reading, and reminiscing over the U.S. Code they invoked to convince authorities to act to protect their effort, the pair set out to help students and faculty register to vote. With energetic enthusiasm they hurried alongside students late for class, chided those who dismissed the importance of voting, and became emotional at the response of those who registered.

From Audra D. S. Burch's story: "In the quiet of a rainy morning, Mr. Kirschenbaum helped to register students on the campus of the University of Mississippi, and before long, he was in tears. Memories of Freedom Summer 1964, the historic campaign to register African-American voters in Mississippi, came rushing back.

'In that moment, there must have been five or six students, all waiting patiently to fill out the registration form,' said Mr. Kirschenbaum, 73, recalling the summer he spent in Moss Point, Miss., 54 years ago. 'I am witnessing this moment. They want to vote. They are able to vote. The connection between then and now was so palpable. This is what we worked for all those years ago.'"