Little America: Youthprise Artist-In-Residence Photo Series

Published on March 6, 2015 | Written by

Shawn Dunbar of Brooklyn Park, MN; Rapper, model, actor, film producer

Nancy Musinguzi, Youthprise Artist-In-Residence, is chronicling the lives of four Minnesotans from Liberia through photos and writing to highlight the experiences of people living in the Liberian diaspora. This is the first installment of this photo essay series. The full project will be on display in Woodbury from April 15th until April 30th. More details to come soon.

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In August of 2014, African-Americans, or Americans of African-ethnicity, became the target of two different yet indivisible crises that took the world by storm. Between witnessing the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and the skyrocketing death statistics from broadcast television reports to grappling with the realities of injustice from incidents of police violence in Black American neighborhoods in the United States, Liberians were put in a position of grave compromise in terms of what crises they were meant to respond to first. Some families who immigrated to America during the 80s and 90s to flee the Liberian-Sierra Leone diamond war also brought along with them young children who were present during the conflict. Trauma and other lasting behavior disorders are the only evidence of their witness. Others were fortunate enough to leave before the conflict got worse, giving older generations the rare opportunity to raise families outside the proximity of war in West Africa and in suburbs with immigrant communities. However, there are unique experiences for young people born to immigrant families and raised in the United States. These first-generation Black Americans are the individuals who practice what W.E.B. DuBois has coined “double-consciousness,” the act of living two realities – one African, the other American – in order to survive and adapt as Blacks in America.

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This week, I spent casual time with a first-generation Liberian, Shawn Dunbar, photographing his everyday routines in work, home, and family to demonstrate the humanness of the crisis. While Ebola may be one of the only things that the world will associate with Liberia at the moment, the people impacted by this crisis are just that –human. They are living American lives with everyday obstacles, in addition to managing crises in West Africa and Minnesota. Shawn is a rapper, film producer, model and actor based out of the Northside. From visiting his family in St. Michael, to hitting the studio with his roommate and older brother in northeast Minneapolis, to picking up his grandmother from the airport, Shawn leads a complicated, involved, challenging and diverse life that is also affected by the Ebola crisis on the other side of the Atlantic. Here is a photographic overview of my week with Shawn.

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