Tuesday, August 7, 2012

NextGenCD: Imagery as Identity

 In honor of the upcoming NeighborWorks America Young Professionals symposium, we have collected several blog posts from those under 35 asking their feelings on the meaning of community development. Share your comments on Twitter using #NextGenCD.

ReneƩ Bibby,
marketing coordinator,
Primavera Foundation
About six years ago I had a strange experience: I was watching a reality TV show, when I discovered that one of the contestants, a young woman of mixed heritage, resembled me. My ethnic heritage is an uncommon mix, and my racial ambiguity has forced me to engage in dialogues surrounding race on a rather regular basis. But, while I’d studied issues of race in college, my emotional connection to the issue had been rather micro; I thought mainly of race in relation to my day-to-day interactions with other people. Discovering a person on TV who had skin color like me, who had the same texture of hair as me, created powerful exhilaration and pride. Seeing myself reflected—even for the briefest moment—in the media prompted a personal and professional revolution, which directly affects my work with Primavera Foundation’s community development services.

As the marketing coordinator, I complete all the photography and design work for our organization, which means I also work with the communities that partner with Primavera Foundation to build healthy, thriving neighborhoods. I am in a unique position to serve as conduit for the families, the individuals, and the community as a whole to become bright beacons in a dark media landscape.I make it my personal mission to meet with our participants, to hear their stories, photograph them, and provide a forum to share that with a wider audience.
First time Hispanic single female homebuyer helped by Primavera
photo courtesy of Primavera Foundation
Tohono O'odham homeowner in south Tuscon
photo courtesy of Primavera Foundation
It means something for people to see their imprint in the world. I’ve experienced that personally, so I understand what it means when we create those opportunities into our community development work.  I choose to use photographs, stories, design, and language that reflect who they are, and who they want to be—allowing the communities to have creative ways of saying, “We are here. We exist.” So that, hopefully, in the years to come, a young woman of color can look at into the wider world and say, “I see myself here.” And that won’t be a rare moment for her.