The South – Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi – Faces & Places
By Leon Sun. Posted August 12, 2022.
In the Spring of 1988, I was sent by Unity Newspaper along with reporter Jamala Rogers to cover the Jesse Jackson campaign as it made its way through the South before reaching the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta, GA. We interviewed people in churches, schools, in the streets and in people’s homes – to get a sense of mainly black people’s support for Jackson. We saw historic landmarks of the Civil Rights Movement, such as the 16th Street Baptist Church where four black girls were killed in the firebombing by the Ku Klux Klan in 1963. We joined in the commemoration of Bloody Sunday on a march across the infamous Edmund Pettus Bridge where police set dogs on peaceful Voting Rights marchers in 1965.
As much as I’ve heard about the South and its place in the American story, it was eye-opening to see it first-hand. For the first time, I met African American farmers and saw black people’s connection to the land. I felt a strong presence of the church in the community. Gospel music was everywhere! I saw the people’s resiliency and their powerful spirit even as many lived in dire economic poverty. While I could sense the legacy of slavery through conversations and physical reminders in the landscape, I also experienced the very real spirit of survival and strength to move history forward. While, for many, I was the first Asian-American they have met, they lost no time in showing me their famous Southern hospitality. I felt as if they had known me all their lives. I felt humbled and inspired by the spirit of the people. I wanted to transmit these feelings through my photographs, to show the individual faces that made up a genuine people’s movement.
Author’s Bio: Leon Sun is a printmaker, photographer, painter and graphic designer. He worked on Unity, East Wind Magazine and other publications of Getting Together Publications from around 1982 to1992. Currently, silkscreen printing is his main medium. He lives in San Francisco, CA.