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A Creation of a Real-Time Response Museum Exhibit


As first conceived, K(NO)W Justice K(NO)W Peace was a small, relatively straightforward exhibit. For the past five years, Alvin C. Jacobs, Jr. has documented protests throughout the country that have taken place in the wake of police-involved shootings. Under the direction of history professor Dr. Tiffany Packer, students at Johnson C. Smith University have gathered stories, objects, and photographs to tell the narratives of victims of those shootings. The original exhibit combined these two bodies of work and was scheduled to open in 2018.

After the September 20th shooting of Keith Lamont Scott and as the story became local, we realized an urgency and importance around moving this exhibit up in the schedule. We felt an obligation to explore the history that gives context to the shootings and ensuing protests throughout the nation and in Charlotte. And, we wanted to document Charlotte’s response to events that have affected our community. This project quickly became much, much more difficult.

Police-involved shootings arise within the context of decades of unfair housing and employment practices, school segregation, and criminal justice policies that have consigned too many people of color to life-long poverty. The historical context matters. It helps us understand the complicated reality we’re left with today, and it helps us empathize with the people who clash in these moments of violence and protests. K(NO)W Justice K(NO)W Peace invites visitors to listen to the stories of activists, police, area residents, civic leaders and media who experienced the protests firsthand and to understand their perspectives around these occurrences.

On December 16th, we invited friends and members of Levine Museum to preview this exhibit which was then very much a work-in-progress. They helped us understand where we had failed to make the history clear and to identify the gaps in the stories we were telling. They asked us to make sure that we incorporate the human stories that invite each of us to examine our individual assumptions and biases. They urged us to consider this exhibit as continually evolving because it tells a story that is unfolding in real time. 

We have taken that advice to heart. The exhibit you will see this month is still very much a work-in-progress. We will continue to invite your feedback as we craft ways to make sense of a story that continues to unfold – a story that invites us to think about the actions we each might take to create a Charlotte that guarantees equity and offers opportunity to all of her citizens.