What Is and What Can Be: Women of Color and the Struggle for Justice in Cincinnati


In January we responded to conversations with community organizers and activists by bringing together a group of UC scholars to ask how we could amplify the voices of women of color in Cincinnati. How could we do more to support the efforts of organizations working to make Cincinnati a more equitable city? The product of those conversations debuted at Reverb Art + Design with the opening of “What Is and What Can Be: Women of Color and the Struggle for Justice in Cincinnati.”

The exhibit features voices that reflect the diversity of women of color’s experiences in Cincinnati. Those who attend the exhibit can read the words and use headphones to hear the voices of well-known activists as well as anonymous women who have faced violence and other challenges. The exhibit shares the stories of black women and Latinx women, Cincinnati-born women and women who moved to Cincinnati, cisgender as well as trans women. Visitors can take home small books that have more information about women’s experiences and suggestions about how to get involved.

Many of the women whose voices are shared in the exhibit joined us on the opening night. During the panel discussion, we were lucky to hear directly from Heyra Avila and Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi, whose activism is featured in the exhibit. Both women emphasized the importance of everyone acting in the face of injustice. Ms. Avila urged people to show up for immigrants and vote with immigrant rights in mind. Dr. Mazloomi shared a quilt made by refugees that illustrated that women’s fight for justice is global and highlighted the power of quilt-making to help tell women’s stories.

Children listen to activists’ voices at the opening.
The exhibit asks visitors “What is next?”

The panel also included professors Anjali Dutt and JT Roane, who lead the archiving activism project that collected these women’s stories. Their comments reflected their commitment to bringing together justice and scholarship.

We hope that the exhibit speaks to people who want to see a more equitable Cincinnati by inspiring them to act, as the women featured in the exhibit have taken action to create the Cincinnati they want to see.

You can learn more about the exhibit and those who created it, see the small books, and hear activists voices on our website. We are thankful for support for this project from The Greater Cincinnati FoundationThe Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr. / U.S. Bank FoundationThe Murray and Agnes Seasongood Good Government Foundation, and the College of Arts and Sciences, University of Cincinnati.

What Is and What Can Be: Women of Color and the Struggle for Justice in Cincinnati
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