With 2019 nearly half over, the U.S. has experienced 156 mass shootings, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit online data archive.
As Gun Violence Awareness month comes to a close, an upcoming weekend exhibit at the Canvas event space on Semmes Avenue, “I Am Here,” is featuring two decades' worth of powerful imagery from award-winning Style Weekly photographer Scott Elmquist, as well as a sound installation by Allan-Charles Chipman, a faith-rooted organizer with Initiatives of Change USA, the nonprofit hosting the event.
Headquartered in Richmond, the nonprofit is kicking off an international event in Switzerland in July organized around global strains of violent extremism, and the Richmond art show is a lead-up addressing the United States’ problem with gun violence.
“This is becoming the norm. Many people in Richmond are being affected by this,” says Sionne Neely, director of marketing and communications for Initiatives of Change USA. “We want this to be a space of healing and expression for community members.”
Chipman created the sound installation, “Current Events,” at Studio Two Three in January. It’s a mix of video interviews and sound recordings of activists across the last 60 years, speaking about perpetual cycles of historical violence.
Neely describes the weekend as a “portal of expression” that includes an open podcast studio, an open mic and drum healing circle, and an intergenerational panel conversation featuring Elmquist as well as Sgt. Carol Adams, the Rev. Robert Winfree from New Life Deliverance Tabernacle, Kristy Burrus from Krissia Ansara Foundation, the Richmond chapter of Parents of Murdered Children and Mark Whitfield, the father of recently killed 9-year-old Markiya Dickson. Neely is hoping for a diverse and inclusive group of attendees who can find pathways toward healing by talking to one another.
“It’s called ‘I Am Here’ because we’re saying those people [killed] are not lost,” Neely explains. “They’re very much alive in us, and in speaking their names, we’re really advocating for the amplification of human dignity, of value for all people.”
The nonprofit is asking people affected to bring memorial objects in order to participate in a live mutual exhibition.
"I Am Here: An Expressive Exhibition on Gun Violence" is held Friday, June 28 through Sunday, June 30 at Canvas, 3108 Semmes Ave. Friday's opening starts at 6 p.m. us.iofc.org.
Here's video from CBS6 about the exhibit: