Thanks to Karen Liebman, who arranged for the portraits to be at the Arts Center at Ambler, we were also able to be a presence at a dynamic panel discussion about gun violence as a public health epidemic this past weekend. The newly elected state representative and ardent gun violence awareness advocate, Movita Johnson-Harrell, Shira Goodman, executive director of Ceasefire, PA, and Dr. Amy J. Goldberg, MD, FACS from the Temple University Hospital Trauma department, were the panelists. The Souls Shot portrait project was represented by a poster and a few prints of the portraits and catalogs from both the first and second edition were available for sale. The crowd learned about the invitational nature of the project and was urged to experience the portraits in person. It was explained that this exhibition really guides the viewers to a place of empathy. Remembering the lives lived by the victims is a bittersweet experience.
The three panelists then took the mic to deliver the truly horrific statistics and graphic descriptions of this epidemic of gun violence. The Souls Shot portrait project has been compared, as we have mentioned before, to the AIDS quilt. The similarities become increasingly apparent . In the case of gun violence not only are the victims often blamed but this is a clear case of a whole sector of our communities being marginalized and the disturbing belief of those not in those communities that it doesn’t affect them, it’s not their problem.
The speakers quite eloquently and poignantly belied that perception. We are all affected. We all suffer from the loss of these souls to gun violence.
We hope that through this art project we can move people to explore this issue more and support the policy makers and law makers and health workers who have the power to stop this epidemic.