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Foot Soldiers for Justice

Stephanie Solomon | Selma, Alabama and Washington DC, United States

Foot Soldier T-Shirt - The aggressive suppression of the vote is cause for great alarm. Tactics used in voter suppression include: ID laws; purging rolls of qualified voters; eliminating early voting, same-day registration, and out-of-precinct voting; reducing polling places; and dividing minority districts, to name just a few.

While this project shares the story of the ongoing struggle for the vote, it also celebrates the Foot Soldiers who make up the movements for change. A man in Selma, standing by an old sedan with T-shirts spread across the hood, inspired this focus. Hoping to sell the shirts, he held one up. It read, “Foot Soldiers Never Die. The 50th Anniversary. They marched for me and they didn’t even know my name.” Seeing this, I thought about all the ordinary people who, generation after generation, have struggled to make the US better – the Foot Soldiers. They helped abolish slavery, marched for women’s suffrage, demanded labor unions, or got arrested over the vote. Also the millions who recently challenged the US with Occupy, #Blacklivesmatter, and the Dreamers. And, yes, Foot Soldiers do march for us, as the T-shirt said, even though they don’t know our names.

In the US, there has been a dramatic rollback of voter rights since the Supreme Court gutted the 1965 Voting Rights Act with Shelby County v Holder in 2013. Under this cloud of voter suppression, thousands gathered in 2015 in Selma, Alabama to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday and the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Later in the year, activists marched from Selma to Washington DC on America's Journey for Justice, to protect the vote, oppose racial violence and inequality, and lobby Congress with bills to combat injustices. The photo essay, Foot Soldiers for Justice, portrays these events.

Foot Soldiers captures intimate street portraits of the everyday people, the Foot Soldiers, who gathered to honor the struggles of the past, and to build the movements of today. The project also depicts renowned movement leaders.

According to the Brennan Center, a non-partisan  institute, “The national struggle over voting rights is the greatest in decades.” Foot Soldiers speaks to this issue and is the recipient of the Puffin Foundation Award for Photography 2016.

Thank you to the Puffin Foundation for their support of this project.

Thank you to Global Exchange for the trip to Selma, Alabama. 

Thank you to Ana Osling of Juxtaweb.com for the Foot Soldiers for Justice web design and website,

My interest in photo documentary is not as an outside witness, but as a mutual participant in struggles for social justice. I try to be conscious of myself as a Caucasian and of the history of the white gaze in the photography of difference and struggle. I see my work in photo documentary, and in other artistic areas, as arts activism.

https://www.brennancenter.org/issues/voting-rights-elections

Brennan Center for Justice, Voting Rights and Elections

Stephanie Glass Solomon

www.facebook.com/footsoldiersforjustice

Website: Footsoldiersforjustice.com

Stephanie Glass Solomon is Professor Emerita, from Antioch University Los Angeles, and a California Artist Activist. She received the Puffin Foundation Grant for Photography 2016 for Foot Soldiers Never Die. In 2012, she received the Mario Fratti and Fred Newman Award for Political Playwriting for the play Being Moved. In 2010, Stephanie received the Creative and Performing Artists and Writers Fellowship from the American Antiquarian Society for American Voices: Spirit of Revolution. In 2008, she co-wrote and produced American Voices for the Eli and Edythe Broad Stage. It was directed and narrated by Dustin Hoffman, and the chamber orchestra for this oratorio was conducted by Maestro Kent Nagano, who was also the Artistic Director. The cast included Annette Bening, James Cromwell, Rosario Dawson and Nate Parker. In 2005, Stephanie produced Kent Nagano’s Manzanar: An American Story by Philip Kan Gotanda and three prestigious classical composers. That cast included Martin Sheen, Kristi Yamaguchi and John Cho. The work toured and was performed at UCLA’s Royce Hall, Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall, and in Santa Cruz for the Pacific Rim Festival. Both Manzanar and American Voices were broadcast on Public Radio. She received a Nathan Cummings Foundation grant for Manzanar in 2003. Stephanie has also been a jazz/multimedia performer (using the name Stephanie Glass). She toured the U.S. and Canada singing jazz and, in Los Angeles, wrote, produced, and performed the one-woman shows The Liberated Chanteuse and Intimate Illusions. Her multimedia piece, Jazz, Gender and Justice, received a grant from the Cultural Affairs Department, City of Los Angeles, and was presented at the California State University Northridge Performance Arts Center, 2001. Stephanie also performed music from that work at Santa Monica College in 2002. From 2000 to 2003, she received grants, produced, and performed at the Museum of Cultural Diversity in Carson, Ca. as a support to that community enterprise. Her earlier works, Blue Heaven, for the stage, and the radio play, Moving On, were produced in New York in the 80’s. On the faculty at Antioch University for over 28 years, she served as Chair of the Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies Program, taught liberal studies classes, designed programs to bring the arts to Los Angeles communities, and produced works for the Antioch campus including Squeeze Box and Marx in Soho. Among her articles are the recent An Open Letter to Hillary Clinton 2015 on RSN and, Learning and the Good Life: Reconceiving Adult Education for Development, with C. Armon, in the book Creativity, Spirituality and Transcendence, Ablex Publishing Co., 2000. She is a recipient of Antioch University’s Distinguished Service Award and is also a member of the Dramatists Guild. Stephanie graduated California Berkeley with a B.A., and later earned an M.S. at the University of Southern California while a Norman Topping Fellow. She also completed an M.A. from the New School for Social Research. She is Phi Beta Kappa.

 

Antioch University Newsletter

http://www.antioch.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/AU-CommonThreadNewsletter-2016-0531.pdf

Antioch Los Angeles website

http://www.antiochla.edu/2016/05/31/stephanie-glass-solomons-foot-soldiers-for-justice/

Global Exchange blog

http://www.globalexchange.org/blogs/peopletopeople/2016/06/08/selma-50th-anniversary-mobilization-video-and-photo-journal/

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