Exhibit Exposé: K(NO)W Justice K(NO)W Peace

September 20, 2016.

On this late summer day, just over a year ago, Charlotte managed to make national news – for all the wrong reasons.  This was the day that the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott brought Charlotte to the forefront of our attentions.

The aftermath of the event was explosive.  The riots that ensued were huge, filled with people who were shaken by the events in their city.  They weren’t always nonviolent; extensive law enforcement forces were mobilized, widespread property damage was visible throughout the city, and Justin Carr, a protester, was shot and killed during the second day of riots.

All of this destruction, created by a city that was mourning a member of its community, a city that just wanted to know justice and to know peace.

In the time that followed, the event etched itself a place into a painful, dark part of Charlotte’s history – but history nonetheless.  The city could only turn to healing and remembrance to move forward without forgetting the past.

The Levine Museum of the New South took up this role, with the ambitious development of a new exhibit, K(NO)W Justice, K(NO)W Peace.  Major exhibits at the Levine often took three years of development; K(NO)W Justice, K(NO)W Peace was targeted for opening in just about five months.

As an effort to humanize those involved, the exhibit would showcase images of the community response to Scott’s death.  Featured in the exhibit was the work of photographer Alvin C. Jacobs Jr., documenting five years of national unrest and racial tension, from Standing Rock to Ferguson – and now to Charlotte.  The exhibit features also video and audio from the protests, statements from community members, and work from various local artists.  Each piece of the narrative adds new perspective on the range of emotions that accompanied the tragedy.

It was this narrative that I experienced during my visit to the Levine Museum of the New South just a few weeks ago.  Even on an early Saturday morning, K(NO)W Justice, K(NO)W Peace was full of people, young and old, all painfully witnessing a history that may have been easier to forget.   Upon entry to the exhibit, the long timeline of national events of racial tension made even clearer the fact that this was not an unprecedented occurrence; rather, K(NO)W Justice, K(NO)W Peace acted as an effort to put Charlotte in a sphere of events, marking its significance and connecting it to our past.  As I walked past the heart-wrenching photographs and displays, I felt myself almost moved to tears, realizing that this was my beautiful city of Charlotte, ravaged by sorrow and loss.  As I looked across the room, at similar scenes taken from across the nation, the message was astonishingly clear – without remembrance, history was bound to repeat itself.

It is this history, knowing no justice and knowing no peace, that now desperately demands both.

 

K(NO)W Justice, K(NO)W Peace was opened on February 17, 2017, and will be closing on October 22, 2017.  Additional information about this exhibit can be found at the Levine of the New South website.

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About the Author

Chiamaka Okonkwo is a freshman at UNC Charlotte and a volunteer for Sanskrit Literary Arts Magazine. She is pursuing a major in biology and a minor in public health. She enjoys spending her free time reading, exploring, and playing Tetris.
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