Alumni, faculty document Black Lives Matter demonstrations across nation

Traci Westcott/Rochester Post Bulletin

Kaliah Harden, 11, pleads that no more black lives are lost to police brutality during a rally on June 13 in Rochester, Minn. "When I speak, I speak for all the children around the world. We want to live," Kaliah said. "We're good people." Traci Westcott/Rochester Post Bulletin

As protests against racial injustice occur across the U.S., RIT Photojournalism alumni and faculty are documenting the demonstrations calling for police reform and racial equality. 

Alumni and faculty have photographed protests in Charleston, S.C., Minneapolis, Minn., New York City, Rochester, Minn. and Washington, D.C., among other cities. They have done so on assignment for news organizations such as the Associated Press, the Rochester Post-Bulletin, the Post and Courier, The New York Times, Reuters, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and TV and radio stations.

The events are in response to the killing of George Floyd, who died while under arrest on May 25 in Minneapolis, Minn. Four police officers have been charged in connection with his death. 

George Floyd's brother Terrance breaks down at the site George was killed by police.
George Floyd’s brother, Terrence, surrounded by media from around the world, breaks down at the site where his brother was killed by police. Ben Garvin/KARE 11

Below are scenes from some of the demonstrations, through the lenses of alumni and faculty of RIT’s School of Photographic Arts and Sciences, as well as a personal perspective from Traci Westcott ’18, Digital Content Producer with the Rochester Post-Bulletin who has been in the field covering the events. 

Alumni and faculty covering the protests include: 

Brett Carlsen

A boy wearing a graduating cap raises his left arm in the air, surrounded by a crowd of fellow protestors.
Protesters march through downtown Louisville, Ky. on June 5, some wearing graduation caps. Brett Carlsen/Getty Images
Two police officers stand behind a green-colored gas.
Police in riot gear during a May protest in Louisville, Ky. Brett Carlsen/Getty Images.
A man, surrounded by a white fog, motions to a crowd of fellow protestors.
A man gestures to a crowd of fellow protesters in Louisville, Ky. Brett Carlsen/Getty Images.

Ben Garvin

Two hands -- one white, one black -- join together.
Two hands join during a May 27 protest in Minneapolis, Minn. Ben Garvin/KARE 11
A close-up photo of a woman shedding tears.
A woman sheds tears while near the site where George Floyd was killed in police custody in Minneapolis, Minn. Ben Garvin/KARE 11

Brittainy Newman

A girl and a boy pose, on a knee with their right arms raised.
Danielle and David Dacosta, first-time protesters who immigrated from the Caribbean, post for a portrait in Brooklyn’s McKinley Park. Brittainy Newman/The New York Times
Belinda Stahl sits in a chair at her home in Brooklyn.
Belinda Stahl, from Peru, joined protests in New York City. Here, she sits in her home in Brooklyn. Brittainy Newman/The New York Times
a boy holds a sign that reads Black Lives Matter in red.
James Luckey is a regular protest participant in Brooklyn. Brittainy Newman/The New York Times

Traci Westcott

"As journalists, we are taught to be objective, to 'check our biases at the door.' Well, I refuse to believe that being passionate about human rights is considered biased. I’m sad. I’m sad that in 2020, our country is still fighting for basic human rights. I’m sad that we as photojournalists haven’t fully embraced diversity. We haven’t always listened.

"It’s unfortunate that so many people have waited for this national uprising to really assess racism in every aspect of American culture, but I’m happy this conversation seems to have a fire underneath it. Coming into this industry I was motivated to continue addressing  these issues, whether through the stories I tell, or advocating for more diversity in the newsroom. I’m not perfect, and I never will be, but these past few weeks, I’ve had plenty of thoughtful conversations with co-workers, family and friends. I’ve dug deeper into my own upbringing and privilege, and I’ve questioned myself more than I ever have. And every time I’ve questioned myself, I’ve grown. 

"When I arrived at George Floyd’s memorial service in Minneapolis, I was blown away by the amount of press present. I was on assignment for Forum Communications Company, who owns The Rochester Post Bulletin where I work. There was a news station from Australia to my right, a Colombian station behind me — The Associated Press, The Star Tribune, Reuters, MPR — you name it, they were there. Part of me hated that. Instead of being able to mourn privately, the family was met with hundreds of shutter clicks and journalists lining the streets. I didn’t want to just swoop in, make photos and leave. I never want to be that photojournalist. It was nearly 90 degrees, but my arms were covered in goosebumps. I talked to almost every person I photographed that day. And I listened.

"Three weeks after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, rallies continued in Rochester, Minn. A crowd of hundreds watched as 11-year-old Kaliah Harden took the stage and pleaded for her life. She was the last to speak. When she took the mic, her eyes welling up, she said: 'When I speak, I speak for all the children around the world. We want to live.' 'We want to live.' I wanted everybody to hear those words."

A gold-plated casket holding George Floyd is carried to a hearse at his funeral service.
George Floyd’s casket is carried out to a hearse after a family memorial service on June 4 outside North Central University's Frank J. Lindquist Sanctuary in Minneapolis. Traci Westcott/Rochester Post Bulletin.
A girl plays the saxophone while sitting next to a man.
Innocynce Johnson, 10, plays saxophone alongside Ivan Cunningham on Chicago Avenue on June 4 in Minneapolis, Minn. Innocynce rollerbladed from her home with her instrument and stopped to play music with the group she had never met before. Traci Westcott/Rochester Post Bulletin
A crowd of protesters hold up signs as a police officer looks on.
Protesters chant for justice in front of a police presence in downtown Rochester, Minn. Traci Westcott/Rochester Post Bulletin.

 

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