Inspiration for “Dr. MLK Blvd’

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I unknowingly started this project in 1993, taking portraits while my wife Sharon assisted me at a derelict park located at Dr. Martin Luther King Way and US 301 in Sarasota, Florida. While we were photographing the willing subjects under an old oak tree, a few undercover detectives doing surveillance work discouraged us. “We advise you to leave. We’ll circle around one more time, but after that, we aren’t responsible for what might happen.” I didn’t need any further persuasion and immediately abandoned the project until ten years later.

With newfound faith, and support from the City, Sarasota County, and the Newtown Redevelopment Office, I began a Portrait of Newtown, finding photographic opportunities around every corner, while developing personal relationships that continue to exist today long after the last exposure. But as I continued to document Newtown, I was given insight into our community as a whole that stretches beyond county and state lines, across our land, and beyond.

Despite the Voting and Civil Rights Act, an underlying caste system of oppression still exists, where the establishment continues to issue bad checks to all minorities, denying them of their “unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Having the opportunity to spend a brief moment on a street corner at Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd., Anywhere, USA, gave me the opportunity to re-evaluate my world citizenry and to think about what had occurred while Dr. King was our country’s moral and ethical barometer; race riots in Watts, civil unrest in Chicago, not to mention the deep South. What would our life be like if he weren’t struck down by an assassin’s bullet at the age of 39, four years after he received the Nobel Piece Prize?

These images are a portal to the past as well as a doorway to the future of American democracy. Are we truly color-blind, free at last, or should we just cross over to the other side of the street?