“God Hates Fags” reads one sign. “Help Wanted, No Irish Need Apply” reads another.
These are just two pieces from a traveling exhibition that opens tomorrow, Sunday, January 13, at the Dennos Museum in Traverse City – the kick-off to a community-built celebration called Embrace The Dream that aims to bring people together to view and discuss everything from racial inequality to discrimination to diversity.
The exhibition, “THEM: Images of Separation,” comes to Traverse City from the Jim Crow Museum at Ferris State University and runs through March 3. It showcases pop culture items – from postcards and license plates to games and souvenirs – with images promoting hate and perpetuating stereotypes against groups including Asian Americans, Hispanics, Jews and poor whites, as well as those who are “other” in terms of body type or sexual orientation.
Steve Rawlings, regional manager for DTE Energy in Traverse City, first saw the exhibit a couple of years ago and heard curator Dr. David Pilgrim speak. “I knew instantly that we had to have this exhibit and Dr. Pilgrim come to Traverse City,” Rawlings says. The DTE Energy Foundation is the underwriter for the exhibit’s stay in TC.
“I felt it would be really worthwhile for our region – particularly our business leaders and our educators – to be exposed to this and to learn from it, especially in an area like ours which is very homogenous.”
The exhibit is the opening act to a multi-week Embrace The Dream series of events organized by the Traverse City Human Rights Commission with numerous community partners, including NMC, the State Theatre, the Traverse Area District Library, Great Lakes Children's Museum, and others. It encompasses Black History Month and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and spreads ideals of tolerance and respect for all via a series of film screenings, live music and stage performances, and book discussions.
Nearly all events are free – including admission to the Dennos on Saturdays and Sundays – but advance ticket reservations are recommended and can be made by visiting embracethedream.org.
A couple of key events for your calendar:
Thurs., Jan. 17, 5:30 p.m.: “THEM” exhibit curator David Pilgrim speaks at a community reception at the Dennos Museum.
Mon., Jan. 21, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: Free full day of programming at the State Theatre, culminating in a live performance by theDetroit-based Brazeal Dennard Chorale, one of the oldest African-American choral organizations in the U.S. (Free admission to the Dennos this day, too.)
Thurs., Feb. 28, 7 p.m.: “The Spirit of Harriet Tubman” live stage performance by Leslie McCurdy at the Dennos Museum. The show has been called “an inspiring, must-see performance for the whole family.” Tickets are $10.
To catch a glimpse of a few of these highlights, click on the image at top.