Global Growers’ Final Project

Global Growers is an independent nonprofit based in Atlanta, GA. They are dedicated to increasing the number of food producers, preparing farmers to be competitive in local marketplaces, and creating access to healthy and sustainably-grown food.

The Global Growers group worked with Ross Oscar Knight (Photographer) and Robin Chanin (Executive Director of Global Growers).

The Team:

Tsion Horra

Sougbin Yim

Gabriel Andrle

Sarah Loftus

Elaine Feng

Claire Richardson

Rebecca Upton

Killian Glenn

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Reframing refugees in a changed political climate

On November 8, 2016, Donald J. Trump was elected as the 45th President of the United States of America. Mr. Trump has expressed mistrust of refugees, particularly those of Syrian descent, saying things like “We cannot let them into this country, period. Our country has tremendous problems. We can’t have another problem.”(1) His election has spurred panic and fear in refugee communities across the United States. One Syrian refugee named Mohammed said in an interview with National Public Radio, “Everyone is terrified, they are scared, they are shocked…You brought them here because they are refugees, they don’t have homes anymore…Send them back where? To hell?”(2)

The Global Growers Network is a largely refugee centric organization. Even before the election the goal of Ross Oscar Knight and this team of Emory students was to create a photography project that challenged existing perceptions of the refugee community. However, after November 8, they said that the importance of their project was amplified.

“This doesn’t change our goal and I don’t believe that all of those who support Trump have such a strong negative perception of refugees. But, I feel more strongly than ever that we must challenge stereotypes of whose land it is, who gets opportunities, and who are refugees. I am not going to change the art I want to produce for Global Growers, but I am more sensitive and passionate about this work that ever before,” said Knight.

In a group conversation with the Emory students working with Global Growers, perspectives on the role that their photography project plays in the broader political climate varied. However, the group did agree on a few overarching points. They all believed that a major driver of social and political mistrust of refugee populations is that there is a singular dominant image of a refugee as someone who originates from the middle east, practices Islam, and could potentially be a terrorist threat. This is not an accurate image of the American refugee community and the group did recognize that the photography series of Global Growers could serve as a counter narrative to challenge current perceptions of refugees.

Sarah Loftus said “Art is a beautiful and important piece of social change. It is a declaration of expression that impacts people’s minds and ways of thinking, and in the least exposes people to issues that are otherwise ignored. Mere exposure can be an important factor in the art of persuasion and activism is no different.” The Global Growers group and Ross Oscar Knight felt that the significance of their work has been heightened and that it can serve to challenge the pervasive, false and damaging image of the American refugee community. Hopefully, inspiring the broader American audience to develop a stronger sense of empathy towards this marginalized community and actively work to improve refugee quality of life in Atlanta, Georgia, and the greater United States.

Author: Aspen Ono

(1):Kopan, Tal. “Donald Trump: Syrian Refugees a ‘Trojan Horse'” CNN. Cable News Network, 16 Nov. 2016. Web. 21 Nov. 2016.

(2)Amos, Deborah. “For Refugees And Advocates, An Anxious Wait For Clarity On Trump’s Policy.” NPR. NPR, 15 Nov. 2016. Web. 21 Nov. 2016.

Global Growers Art in Action: Cultivating new perspectives of the Refugee community

Global Growers is a non-profit Atlanta based organization that started in 2010 whose mission statement is “to create opportunities in sustainable agriculture in Georgia, by growing good food, training farmers, and providing economic opportunity.” They focus on providing agricultural opportunities to refugees and other economically marginalized populations. Global Growers provides agricultural education and almost 20 acres of arable land to their farming families. The produce on these farms is subsequently sold to local restaurants, at local farmer’s markets, or distributed within the Global Growers community to families, who may rely on this produce as a food source. The Global Growers Executive Director, Robin Chanin, explained “We like to say that our farmers are global, but the food is local.”

“I want to create a series of images that captures the heart of the Global Growers Network,” said photographer, Ross Oscar Knight. “Captivating images can make you click and read more about a certain organization. And I think that if we can create striking images and taglines for Global Growers, people are more likely to engage and support the organization.

I want to use my photographs of Global Growers to reframe the popular images of refugees. I want to challenge people’s perceptions of who refugees are, what refugee families are like, where they are from, their impact on the local economy, and what they grow. I want to change the popular perception of a refugee in a positive way and I believe that I and the Emory students working with me, can do this through photography.”

Gabriel Andrle, one of the Emory Students working with Knight, said “What I love about Global Growers is it brings people from across the world together and they share a space to grow not only plants, but also a community. I find beauty in the simplicity of this concept and the incredible stories that lie beneath the surface of every individual. I hope that our images capture the uniqueness of the individuals, cultures, and families.”

Other students expressed similar reflections on the Global Growers network and their goals for the final art installment. They all expressed a desire to highlight the “rich histories and backgrounds” of the refugee farmers, thereby illustrating the humanity that those farmers share with the general American population. One student summarized by saying “Once people get past surface level differences and recognize and relate to the humanity that they share with those different than them, like these refugee farmers, then they can more easily empathize with that community. And empathy can drive action.”

Sarah Loftus put it eloquently saying “American culture at its core a beautiful amalgamation of many cultures from around the world and we need more organizations and people who not only celebrate this, but act as pillars of support for people, who have come here seeking better futures. They are not simply an abstract subject of controversy in which we are separated from by an ocean anymore, they are Americans, living with us in the same working whole. They should be thought of as untapped forces of fresh cultural perspectives and ethnic diversity, and through these photos we hope to show that. Through these photos people will be able to see the faces of the people that Global Growers help, and this will help to spread the cause.”

Author: Aspen Ono

Why Global Growers: A discussion with Ross Oscar Knight

Ross Oscar Knight is a world-renowned photographer, author, and artist; who actively engages with humanitarian organizations to create imagery that inspires positive social change. He became involved with the Global Growers project over a year ago when he was choosing an Atlanta based organization with which he wanted to work. The goal of his chosen project would be to create a series of engaging photographs to promote his chosen organization and help them further their humanitarian endeavors.

Ross reflects:

“There were so many aspects of Global Growers that drew me to work with their organization. One thing that inspired me is that this organization wasn’t widely known. In fact, I had never even heard of Global Growers. And I always feel like I draw inspiration from underdog narratives. When I first visited one of their gardens, I saw that it was hidden behind old church, it was tucked away. I love working on projects that are hidden and need more support.

Also, during my first visit to that garden, I noticed that most gardeners there were women from Burundi. I had recently been to Burundi and I loved it! While there I felt so connected to farmers and I got to tell stories of small Burundian businesses. So, when I learned that there are people from Burundi in Atlanta, practically in my own backyard, and I didn’t know, I instantly felt called to work with Global Growers. In a way, this project connects my international work to my local work.

So, after I made the decision to work with Global Growers, I sat down and looked over their website. I found that it did not lack information, but their videos and photography only engaged with two of the organization’s families. The website did not have many stories that depicted the lives of the gardeners. I wanted to change that by creating a series of engaging and striking images that more accurately illustrated the lives and stories of the refugee families working in Global Growers’ gardens.”

Author: Aspen Ono

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is Art Activism: Perspective of the Student Global Growers group

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines art as “something that is created with imagination and skill and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings,” and activism as “a doctrine or practice that emphasizes direct vigorous action especially in support of or opposition to one side of a controversial issue.” Yet, the conception of art activism, art in action, or art as a mechanism for social change is much more fluid.

What is art activism? And what does this term mean to a diverse group of individuals creating activist art? The eight students working with Ross Knight to produce a series of photographs for the community refugee farming initiative, Global Growers, had many different perspectives on art, activism, and the mobilization of social action through art.

Rebecca Upton said “Art is made to make a statement. Whether that be a statement on social justice or just a statement on what is beautiful is up to both the viewer and the creator. It is fluid.” This understanding of art was shared by most members of the Global Growers Project. They argued that art is a flexible expression of emotion that encourages people to view the world in a new light. After speaking to Knight and the Emory Global Gowers team, I concluded that to them, in many ways, all art is activist art. Art gives people an alternative picture of reality and of the truth; thereby, making people question the world around them.

But, if art is inherently a medium for change, what makes art activism or protest art unique? Knight argued that “Art activism is a means of getting a community engaged and involved through dynamic imagery.” Does that mean that communal action transforms advocacy art into activist art, or is all art activist art?

The answer to this question was contended among various Emory students. While some, like Sarah Loftus argued that “Art activism is art that incites and inspires people to support progression. It doesn’t even have to incite direct action, even a change in the viewers’ mindset is a good step forward in any activism.” Others argued that art activism implies action and the use of art as an instrument to evoke active change.

Regardless of the art activism definition individual students assumed, there was a collective agreement that art is an aspect of human existence that is inseparable from our religious, political, and social lives. It is expressed in a multitude of ways and influences how we see ourselves, our communities, and those different from us. Art actively influences our worldview and exposure to new art can transform our perceptions of the world. In this way, art acts as a mechanism for change by conveying new and alternative understandings of humanity.

Author: Aspen Ono