About We the People

Panoramic image of the We the People exhibition

The exhibit “We the People” is a series of portraits of Northeast Ohio community members who also identify as refugees. The exhibit was first shown on the Kent campus in May of 2019 and officially opened on May 11, 2019 @ 3PM.

With images by photographer Erin Labelle, this project is organized by the GURI (Global Understanding Research Initiative) group at Kent State University to emphasize our common humanity. This public exhibition of large scale photographic portraits and info panels displayed on the Kent State University campus is partly inspired by Italian photographer Luigi Toscano’s “Lest We Forget” traveling exhibition of Holocaust survivor portraits, which started at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool in Washington D.C. in 2018.

Photographer Luigi Toscano, who created the major Holocaust survivors exhibit at the National monument in D.C. and at Boston Commons, stopped at Kent State on April 6 on his way to California during a promotional tour associated with his new work "Lest We Forget". We are pleased to announce that Mr. Toscano has generously agreed to provide images from his work to be displayed as part of the upcoming "We the People" exhibit at Kent State.

“We the People” includes 25 large scale portraits (84 by 60 inches) displayed along the Esplanade which links the Kent State campus to the city of Kent. This public exhibit makes visible the refugee neighbors who have settled in Northeast Ohio; its goal is to give a platform for their stories and journeys, and to invite many people—regardless of age, origin, language, or education—to learn about the experience of people who have come from other parts of the world to live in this community. This project includes people of different ages, ethnicities, and nationalities, who have settled in Ohio near you. Each portrait is accompanied by a panel that outlines each person’s journey and a message they want to share.  

Social media will help connect the audience with the project and distribute it to the larger community, as everyone is invited to take a photo in front of the portraits and upload it to Facebook, Instagram, and/or Twitter with the hashtags #KSUWeThePeople and #myOhiocommunity. As visitors connect with a portrait, story, or statement through their family history, aspirations, or shared interests, and upload their own photo with these hashtags, the GURI group will compile these responsive images on this website, offering another platform for sharing the faces, voices, and stories that make up our community.

A special thanks goes to those portrayed. This exhibit would not have been possible without their generosity and their resilience. Their journeys are awe-inspiring.