The “Take It Down! Organizing Against Racism” traveling exhibit has returned to its home at Rochester Museum & Science Center.
This exhibit, about the Dentzel Menagerie Carousel panel, discusses racism in the past and today, and inspires new dialogues about actions that can be taken in Rochester to work toward social justice for all, RMSC officials said. The exhibit, which is appropriate for all ages, is a continuation of an ongoing educational process in the Rochester community to create meaningful and sustained dialogue on individual, institutional and structural racism, with the goal of making concrete, measurable impacts on racism.
“It’s important to bring the ‘Take It Down! Organizing Against Racism’ exhibit into the community annual as a tribute to Minister Franklin D. Florence Sr. and others who worked hard to make its development possible,” said representatives from the Take It Down planning committee. “In addition to serving as a reminder of the fact that racism is still alive and well, it’s proof-positive of the fact that it can be impacted by way of community organizing.”
In 2016, a panel featuring racist artwork was removed from the Dentzel Carousel at Ontario Beach Park in Rochester, after being on display for 111 years. The issue generated controversy in the community. The Take It Down planning committee created the exhibit to show that pickaninny art perpetuates ongoing individual, institutional and structural racism by denying the humanity of black children
The exhibit has traveled across Rochester, making stops at the Central Church of Christ and F.I.G.H.T. Village. It now is on display alongside the museum’s “Objectively Racist: How Objects and Images Perpetuate Racism … And What We Can Do to Change It” exhibit on the second floor.
The returning exhibit includes images, product packaging, knick-knacks and other objects that perpetuate individual, institutional and structural racism, and dissects the significance of them, officials noted. Community member Doug Belton Sr. loaned the objects to the museum for display with the intention of donating them to the RMSC collection.
“(This imagery) has existed a long time and a lot of it was made here in New York State. Not only was it degrading, it was a way to make money for a lot of companies, especially food and tobacco companies,” Belton said. “A lot of people think that racism and racist objects only exist down south, but it happened all over.”
By repurposing harmful, racist images as tools used for anti-racism education, Belton, the Take It Down planning committee and RMSC hope to empower visitors to recognize, question and confront racism and racist imagery they see out in the world, from grocery stores to playgrounds.
“The ultimate value of the exhibit is its immeasurable worth as an effective teaching-tool, relative to understanding the historical and ongoing existence, nature and manifestations of individual, institutional, and structural racism,” planning committee members said.
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