Leon Bibb came by today to talk about the exhibition This Light of Ours: Activist Photographers from the Civil Rights Movement for his WEWS-TV show “My Ohio.” After being interviewed about the exhibition content and why this history and civil rights matter to all of us, Jeffery Allen and I were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to chat with Leon while his cameraman finished filming. (By the way, did you know Leon was the first black primetime news anchor in Ohio?) We discussed what it was like to grow up during the Civil Rights Movement, racism then and now, politics and what we can do today in the face of fear about what the new political era may bring. Among the actions offered up were supporting causes and people in which you believe, standing up to discrimination and consuming information with critical eyes and ears.
Leon is masterful at drawing people out. During his visit he stopped a guest who was studying a photograph of a crowd of people harassing two women on their way to a voter registration event. “What do you feel when you look at this image?” he asked her. She said the blatant anger and hatred made her sad. Then, within moments she was sharing that her grandmother had emigrated from Czechoslovakia and telling him how happy her family was to be in America and how grateful they were for the right to happiness and prosperity here. There were tears as we talked about how so many immigrants today fear for their future in this country. Leon brought us back with some reassuring words and I think we were all comforted by sharing a moment of humanity in a space designed to generate questions and conversation about the concerns weighing on our minds. My hope for 2017 is that people from different backgrounds, faiths and races have discussions like this every day at the Maltz Museum. It’s so important for us all to understand that we’re in this together. .