The In This Moment chapbook project pairs 10 teams of Black writers and photographers with 10 Black leaders from across the city of Rochester resulting in the publication of a series of 10 chapbooks. The project offers vital learning opportunities and reflection for all students and community members. The project teams and chapbook images are curated by local Black curator, Amanda Chestnut.
“I had no idea what would happen when we started In This Moment. The project quickly grew legs of its own, with people across the country contributing to support Black artists and leaders in Rochester. So many opportunities and connections have come from the first series and people are eagerly awaiting ITM2” Amanda Chestnut, ITM curator
History of the project
VSW published the first set of ITM chapbooks in 2020/2021 during the pandemic when many students were learning virtually, and libraries solely offered curbside pick-up of books. Despite these challenges, VSW staff was able to distribute 1,000 copies of each chapbook through 12 Monroe County libraries that were open for curbside pick-up.Read More
The librarians enthusiastically promoted the chapbooks and invited many of our 1st cohort of Black leaders and artists to give virtual presentations. Public artist Shawn Dunwoody teamed with photographer and essayist Quajay Donnell to offer presentations on The Role of Public Art. Dr. Celia McIntosh teamed with Debora McDell-Hernandez and spoke about Black Women’s Health and anthropologist Kathryn Mariner discussed Placemaking and Racism. SUNY Geneseo and the college at St John Fisher invited many of the ITM contributors to speak to their students including presentations about Blackness and Intersectionality with Luticha Doucette and Taurus Savant, and Human Trafficking with Dr. CeliaMcIntosh. RPO trumpeter Herb Smith spoke on Classical Music and Racism. To this date, Mr. Smith is the first and only Black musician hired by the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra.
As the pandemic lessened, a growing number of public schools began to invite ITM contributors into their classrooms and auditoriums to speak about their stories and art. For example, Quajay Donnell gave a presentation on the Role of Public Art to all the 4th and 5th graders at Park Road Elementary School this spring. The students were engaged, curious and proud when they were able to identify one of the images of public art from their own neighborhood. A quote from a 4th grade student referring to the public art images captures the spirit of Donnell’s presentation: It’s like another human being. When I look at art, I see someone feeling the same as me. Even though I thought I was all alone.
ITM2 teams are confirmed! Throughout the next 16 months photographers and essayists will meet, interview and photograph selected community leaders. VSW will host public events to launch each completed chapbook. By December 2023 VSW will have distributed 10,000 copies of the chapbooks to schools and libraries for free. In RCSD alone, 25,000 students and their educators will have access to sets of chapbooks in their libraries and Culturally Responsive Resource kits.
VSW’s In This Moment 2 chapbook project is innovative and intentional in elevating the images, voices and experiences that are often underrepresented in our classrooms and community.
ITM2 Teams (in publication order)
Timothy James Johnson PhD, Volunteer Minister Asbury First United Methodist Church & Professor Emeritus Roberts Wesleyan College, essay by Miriam Zinter, photographs by Rashaad Parker
Reenah Golden, Founder, Executive & Artistic Director the Avenue Blackbox Theatre, essay by Luticha Doucette, photographs by Granville Carroll
Joshua Rashaad McFadden, visual artist and Assistant Professor of Photography at RIT, essay by Franny Padilla, photographs by Arturo Hoyte
Anita Cameron, Disability Justice Activist, essay by Brianna Milon, photographs by Seandell Boose
Matthew Singleton, Owner Skate Luvers Roller Palace, essay by Tianna Mañón, photographs by Natalia Lauer
Reverend Myra Brown, Pastor Spiritus Christi Church, essay by Chris Thompson photographs by Jackie McGriff
Linda Clark, MD, Chief Medical Officer, essay by Lisa Maria Rickman, photographs Cocoa Rae
David A. Paul, MD, MS, Chief Resident, Department of Neurosurgery, UR/Strong Memorial Hospital, Founder, Bold and Gritty Coffee, essay by Christopher Coles, photographs by Alison MacDonald
Dr. Shaun Nelms, EdD, RCSD William and Sheila Konar Director for the Center for Urban Education Success, essay by Reenah Golden, photographs by Marké AndersonIan J. Wilson, MD, Founder, Co-curator of WALL\THERAPY, essay by Erica Bryant, photographs by Quajay Donnell
“The Pittsford Community Library was honored to display, promote, and share the chapbooks from the [first] In This Moment series last year, and it was clear the stories resonated with our patrons who were quick to collect each new offering. Additionally, the series creators and featured artists generously worked with us to bring programs and events to our community, helping foster new and vital experiences and connections. ” Jim Byrne Adult Services Librarian, Pittsford Library