In the United States of America, if you want to bring about some drastic change or other, you can't always just sit back and wait for the traditional machinery of government to make it happen for you.
People in the streets is often the purest expression of democracy.
Protest is tightly woven into the fabric of our society. The short but rich history of American democracy is one of constantly remaking and reclaiming itself in the struggle against unjust, backward and brutal governance.
With the goal of preserving that fundamental feature of American government by the people for future generations, the Whose Streets? Our Streets! gallery project at the Bronx Documentary Center is a beautiful – and extremely relevant – tribute to the awesome power of popular movements.
Presenting poignant works from 38 photographers, Whose Streets? Our Streets! focuses on documenting New York City social movements and nonviolent struggle in the last two tumultuous decades of the 20th century.
The years 1980-2000 were marked by the Cold War abroad, culture wars here at home, the tragedy of the AIDS crisis and the subsequent rise of queer activism. They ushered in a newfound consciousness of environmental issues, but also sadly repeated patterns of police brutality and racial mistrust that persist well into the 21st century.
They were tumultuous years. But in periods of tumult and chaos, people often have no choice but to make themselves heard by any means necessary.
Esteemed photographers such as Andrew Lichtenstein, Marilyn Nance, Corky Lee, Carolina Kroon and Linda Rosier are featured in the gallery exhibition. But the artists aren't the stars of the show...
The true heroes are the anonymous subjects of the photos – the civilians with families and children and jobs and so much to lose – who confidently put their bodies on the line to fight for a better world.
We, the people, are their legacy, the true gatekeepers of the American Republic. And as Donald Trump and his cabal of hard-hearted crooks assume office at the end of this week, we should honor the American spirit of nonviolent resistance to authoritarian injustice wherever it may pop up in the coming years.
Check out a few selections from the Whose Streets? Our Streets!' New York City: 1980-2000 exhibit below, and if you're in the New York metro area, be sure to visit the Bronx Documentary Center in the coming weeks. The show runs until March 5th.