Eight women. Eight cameras. Eight voices, joining a growing chorus of mothers across the United States using photos of their lives to speak for one purpose: To end child hunger. This is the theme of a powerful research and advocacy project developed at the Drexel University School of Public Health that is expanding with the opening of “Witnesses to Hunger - Boston.” The program is part of the school's Center for Hunger Free-Communities, which was newly featured as a champion non-profit by the White House Office of Public Engagement.
Witnesses to Hunger - Boston presents the photographs and frontline testimony of eight Boston mothers who are “witnesses to hunger” and their related experiences with issues of food, housing, health, and education. These mothers have taken over 700 photos and videos, of which 34 photographs will be on display for the Boston debut of the project. The eight Witnesses will be present to provide personal commentary on their photos.
Dr. Mariana Chilton, an associate professor at Drexel’s School of Public Health and director of the Center for Hunger-Free Communities, founded “Witnesses to Hunger” in 2008 with 40 women in Philadelphia. The photographs, along with the women’s life stories, have been exhibited throughout the country, offering living testimony to the need for legislation that eliminates poverty and hunger in the United States. The Boston exhibit will be the first major exhibit to showcase the photos and stories of Witnesses from beyond the greater Philadelphia area and the state of Pennsylvania.
Four Philadelphia Witnesses, Nadja Brickle, Tianna Gaines-Turner, Tiffany Ross, and Angela Sutton, will also join their new peers displaying photographs and testimony in Boston. Gaines-Turner was also recently profiled by Bread for the World Institute in recognition of African American History Month.
“These women are the real experts,” Chilton said. “They each have something to teach the world, and are not ashamed of what they have to say. They are fighting each day to provide for their children, and this was a way that we could give them a microphone to the world.”
The following are some of the testimonies the Witnesses include with their photos:
“Mac and Cheese is only a dollar so I make sure when I make my food shopping, I take like twenty of them just in case I run out of food at the shelter. Because I know when it gets to the end of the month, I have no food. My son sometimes says ‘oh mommy again?’ But he’s good; he can handle it. His hunger wins. His tummy wins so he’ll always eat it.” — Mary O., Boston
“I want to see my kids happy. That’s my goal, just to always see them happy coming in from outside. I think a happy child is less of a ‘crime child.’ I don’t want them to see the bad world we live in today. My son and grandson deserve a better life of happiness.” — Bonita C., Boston
The Boston exhibit will be on display March 12-15, 2012, and open to the public from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Doric Hall at the Massachusetts State House.
Children’s HealthWatch, Project Bread, and Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD) are local sponsors of the event and have worked closely with the Center for Hunger-Free Communities to bring this project to fruition in Boston. Issues highlighted by the photos include food, housing, health, environment, violence, teen motherhood, education, welfare and “breaking the cycle of poverty.”
On Monday, March 12, the exhibit’s opening reception will be held at the Grand Staircase, with remarks from Massachusetts state and federal legislators, Chilton, the eight Boston Witnesses and four Philadelphia Witnesses.
On Tuesday, March 13 at 10 a.m., in Room 222 of the Massachusetts State House, a panel discussion will bring together government leaders, hunger experts and advocates, and Witnesses, to address the topic “How Hunger and Housing Affect Public Health.”
Funding to start the Witnesses to Hunger – Boston project was provided by the Claneil Foundation. Funding for the exhibit has also been provided by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s How Housing Matters initiative.