Diversity – Start Where You Live

Mattapoisett Museum, in collaboration with the Tri-Town Against Racism organization, has a special treat for the Tri-Town area – 32 family portraits featuring diverse families.

            The goal of the exhibit as stated by TTAR organizer Rhonda Baptiste is to give diverse families a level of recognition sometimes not easily found and to give their children a chance to see families just like their own. An opening reception for the exhibit was held on Tuesday night.

            The process for participating as a diverse family was a simple one. Fill out a registration form on the museum’s website expressing the desire to be included and then select a day and time to meet at the museum and have the pictures taken at no cost.

            Families loved it.

            Photographer Maggie Howland guided them through the process of setting up their poses and those families with very small children just letting the silly shine through. The joy of being together as a family was evident in the portraits. From babies to senior citizens, from LGBTQ families to multicultural families or families facing a variety of challenges, all are now represented through this unique exhibit.

            Baptiste said that it is the hope of the TTAR that the exhibit be shown at an outdoor venue during the summer season and that it could travel to area schools, sharing through visual expression that diversity is all its forms is a vibrant part of society.

            And yet the trauma some of these people have faced can’t be denied. Several in attendance shared that their hope is that the exhibit would open eyes and open hearts absent prejudices that at times are subtle but very much intended. Baptiste said, “People who don’t come from diverse families don’t know the struggles.”

            Bev Baccelli recalled an incident some 35 years ago when her son was racially profiled by a police officer who didn’t believe the young man when he said, “My mother lives here.” Decades later, the anger she feels remains locked in just below the surface, and while she is glad she and her wife Liz DiCarlo moved to Mattapoisett, she admits the town still lacks diversity.

            Jayson Newell (my son) said that because he grew up in Wareham, which has a highly diverse population, he never was made to feel different, but once outside that insular community he would be asked, “What are you?” or “I’d have to explain what a Cape Verdean was.” He said that his daughter has grown up during a time when acknowledging the beauty of all people has been brought to the forefront of thinking and acceptance, but that his family believes there is still work to be done.

            DiCarlo emphasized that point, saying, “The exhibit examines what family means, that diversity adds to the beauty and culture of the community. If we try, we can find there are more similarities than differences.”

            TTAR has a slogan, “Start where you live.” To that end, you can view The Diverse Family Project now through May 31 during regular museum hours. Visit mattapoisettmuseum.org.

By Marilou Newell

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