By Kayla J. Marsh
MIDDLETOWN – A new exhibit opening at Brookdale Community College is tackling the issue of racism head on.
The Center for Holocaust, Human Rights and Genocide Education (Chhange) at Brookdale will serve as the host to an opening reception for its new “Facing Racism” art exhibit on April 10 from noon to 2:30 p.m. inside the college’s Bankier Library Building at 765 Newman Springs Road in Lincroft.
The event is free and open to the public.
“We have seen events in the last couple years highlighting the escalation of conflict between police and people of color. And it is a topic that is constantly being brought up and it is really important to address it directly and strongly and we are bringing racism to the forefront of a lot of our programming this year,” said Dale Daniels, executive director of Chhange.
The “Facing Racism” exhibit is comprised of more than 200 interpretive “faces” created by students from more than a dozen area special needs, elementary, middle and high schools over the last two months.
According to Daniels, this is not the first exhibit Chhange has done to engage the youth community and get students talking and thinking about difficult topics.
A previous exhibit commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.
“We wanted a way to connect with kids, and one way to reach out to the youth is through this project … and this whole process is really about opening up a difficult dialogue with children of the community,” she said.
Daniels said the initiative began in January when Chhange held a workshop for area teachers and provided them with guidance and materials to begin a dialogue with their students about the roots of racism and its impact on today’s society.
“We held a workshop with local teachers and provided them with materials for lessons plans to do the project,” she said.
“It is a means for kids to have a discussion with themselves, with classmates, with family and express their feelings about racism and the work really engaged them in the topic and reflects the pain [racism] causes other people and [students] looked at how they would address it and what it means to them.”
According to Daniels, students were given oval-shaped foam discs and asked to express their own feelings and experiences through art.
The finished pieces, utilizing paint, sculpture, glass, yarn, plastic and other materials, will be on display in the Chhange gallery until December.
“One of the most difficult things was how we wanted to define racism and we decided that we were going to go with it based on somebody being victimized, based on a physical characteristic they cannot change,” Daniels said.
“The students are so expressive and it is not just the art that we have but also an accompanying book that features artist statements from each student contributor, and the words they used to convey how they feel are truly amazing.
“Our youngest artists are very much aware of people being discriminated against and it is a very powerful exhibit to experience because you get the full spectrum of how different [ages] perceive the problem, what it means to them, what they want to see down and how they can help ring about change.”
For more information or for gallery hours call Chhange at 732-224-1889 or visit www.chhange.org.