America. We endure because the land of the free and home of the brave was an idea of its time, imperfect in its exclusions, but a beacon for the modern world to embrace—a notion that all people are endowed with inalienable rights. Inspiring as this concept may be, there has always been a heavy burden of detractors who never believed in the ideal and only cherished their own privilege in this new land of opportunity.
Divided like this only once before, we are now walking a delicate path.
This is the America we seek to describe in this issue of ZEKE.
While the term Black Lives Matter was coined just nine years ago, there was always a deep sentiment of support for what it means. Yet the fact remained that Black lives did not matter to the vast majority of people who just went on in their (our) ways.
There has always been a darker and visible underside to this nation as evidenced in the KKK, the American Nazi Party, anti-immigrant groups of all kinds, as well as a softer manifestation of racism and exclusion in local city councils, state legislatures, in our places of worship, and in the Supreme Court of the land.
A nation founded in the idea of human potential was able to deliver and we see that in our industry and farms and schools and popular culture and the fine arts we have created. These achievements must be embraced while this nation also faces poverty, addiction, ignorance, and violence on a scale unknown in most of the developed world.
As a nation, we are trying to find our center and regroup, rebuild, redefine our way finally into a new century that was born on 9/11—an event that set us back a century, not because of what happened to us but because of how we responded with hubris and arrogance.
The photographs on the next 46 pages give us a glimpse of who and what we are today, what we must overcome, what we can achieve. Our current president is fond of saying that America can achieve anything it wants if it puts its mind to it. More important though in reaching our potential is if we can agree on some basic principles and right now this nation is having a hard time doing just that.
It is in this light that we are so proud to present this body of work by 18 photographers on the theme of America.
Photos on this page by:
Cheryl L. Guerrero