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‘Trust Black Women’ photo shoot pays tribute to local community leaders

SALISBURY — For black women, the 2018 election was a record-breaking year. More than 20 were elected or re-elected to serve in Congress for the first time in U.S. history.

Local photographer Ash Love credits this windfall, as well as recent local political shifts, as the inspiration for her upcoming photo exhibition titled “Trust Black Women,” debuting March 9 at Mission House.

“I don’t think that anyone can deny the endurance that black women have encountered in a sort of white-supremacist world, in a world where most consider white males as a savior,” Love said. “I’m suggesting in this exhibition that black women can be the best tools to change our systems.”

These systems, she said, revolve around policy and institutional reform. They’re the systems responsible for equity, “systems so that we can fight injustices a little differently, so that we can continue advocating for people,” she said.

“Trust Black Women” serves to highlight this potential in African-American community leaders.

“So many people right now are doing great work,” Love said. “I want to illuminate that we have black people in Rowan-Salisbury creating programs for kids, farming and owning businesses. They’re doing it amazingly, and they’re doing it unapologetically to serve their community.”

Love put out a call to local African-American female community leaders through social media to serve as models for the photography exhibit.

She was encouraged by the number of responses, each expressing a tremendous amount of trust in her work.

Love, who has a master’s degree in macro social work and bachelor’s in education with an emphasis in art, said she realized early that she wanted to “impact communities through art and poetry, through words.”

“Art is radical, right?” she said. “So a part of exploring my work in the community is making sure I find a way to add creativity to some of the strategies that we develop as activists.”

She said her “day job” is activism, which she does through faith-based organizing in Salisbury and across the state to create interventions for communities, neighborhoods and systems.

But she’ll never stop being an artist, she said.

The “Trust Black Women” photo shoot features stark, black-and-white images that Love said are meant to emphasize the eyes and soul of her subjects.

Each image will be accompanied with the model’s response to the question, “What does it mean to trust black women?”

The conversations and photo sessions were a moving experience for Love, she said.

“There were tears. There was laughter. There was black joy,” she said. “You just couldn’t deny the love that was in that room.”

Love said that through the exhibition, she’d like to see continued strides in Rowan-Salisbury social systems.  She’d like to see these systems “reflect the very faces in our communities,” she said.

She’d also like to see more people of color empowered enough to run for local office.

“I would like to see more of us being radical in the ways in which we advocate for everyone, for people in our community in our neighborhoods,” she said. “I’d like to see transformation of the mind, body and spirit so that we can go back into our pockets of our communities and transform lives inside and out. I think that art like this is a catalyst for work like that.”

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