Power in Unity: A photo series showcasing the African American presence in the U.P.

Black History Month

Chelsie Dawan modeling for Social Justice For Us: Power in Unity photo series.
Photography by Jeni Ihrke.

MARQUETTE COUNTY, Mich. (WJMN) – Resilient. Strength. Purpose. These are just some of the words chosen by those highlighted in the Power of Unity photo series by Social Justice For Us.

Social Justice For Us (SJFU) is a grassroots non-profit organization that focuses on uplifting the voices of marginalized people in the Upper Peninsula. This includes the Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities.

“Our whole mission is to make sure that we’re not needed ten years down the line. Ideally, we want to live in a world that is inclusive to everyone. So anyone who walks down the street can be recognized, identified and also heard,” said Freddy Sims, the executive director of SJFU.

The Power in Unity photo series is presented online through SJFU’s social media accounts, such as Facebook and Instagram, that showcases and broadcasts the African American presence in Marquette County/the U.P.

Sims, the creative mind behind the series, asked each person to choose one word that empowers them or relates to them in some way.

“A lot of the words, you know, are simple but powerful. And the message behind it and the energy behind the person. It’s phenomenal,” said Sims.

A new set of photos (photography by Jeni Ihrke) will be released each day throughout February in honor of Black History Month.

“I thought it was super important to not only include people that look like me, but also a different representation of the African American community. The youth was super important, having people from the [LGBTQAI+] community was super important to me. I really, really wanted to make sure there was equal representation for everyone. And that’s why the first week I released only women because for so long women have been in the background. So I just thought it was time that they were showcased and shown first,” explained Sims.

One special person comes to mind when Sims thinks of the true importance of this series.

“Mighty. Mighty Madilyn, and she’s four. And you know, I think that she, when I asked her ‘Why ‘mighty’ Madilyn?’ She said ‘Because I lift people up!’ and I don’t think she recognized how strong her words were. I hope that later on when she grows up and she looks at [her photos] it makes her feel even more empowered.”

Sims hopes those who see this series can identify with the people in the photos and see them for who they are.

“I can’t stress enough, we all have this innate ability to connect with people, you know what I mean? So if we put our energy into trying to find common ground, instead of looking at our common differences, I think more of the world would be a better place.”

You can find more photos from the Power in Unity series here.

Below is a web exclusive with Social Justice For Us’s Freddy Sims on the importance of Black History Month:

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