After two days of collecting portraits and helping the UTC community express stories and share messages, Dear World and UTC celebrated diversity, intersectionality and the unique representation of individuals on campus with a storytelling event in the Roland Hayes Concert Hall. At the event, participants shared their portrait and the story behind their message.
Read more about the Dear World event here.
Meet a few of those students below and check out more of the portraits with this Flickr album: Dear World at Chattanooga
Senior, social work major
Lexie Johnson has a memory from the seventh grade ingrained in her head. “I went to a leadership camp. I had a white girl, the same age as me, and she said to me, ‘you’re great; you’re not like those other n-words over there. You’re a good one.’ And I was taken back by it,” Johnson said.
She wrote “it was supposed to be a compliment” on her arm, “because, in that moment, she was expressing to me how much she liked me. She thought it was a good thing to say. But in reality, it’s a story that has followed me since then because it kicked me. It hurt. And she thought it was a good thing,” Johnson said.
Johnson explained how on a daily basis, she feels like she always has to have her defense up, defending her race and her gender.
“I try to think back to when it started, and that was the first time that I feel like I had to make the decision of–am I going to defend myself, or am I going to let it go?–and it took me a second, but I decided to defend myself. It was the first of many,” added Johnson.
Junior, political science major
A defining moment for Drew Keil was the first time he ever opened up about his sexuality to a large group of people.
The message that he chose to share for the Dear World event was purposely left broad “because part of the story that I shared was that you never know who needs to hear about your experience in order to feel comfortable with sharing their own,” Keil explained.
Graduate student, mental health counseling
Tish Lyne’s dad made a comment that echoes in her life daily.
“He said that I broke the white trash mold,” she shared.
Her father, who is suffering from ALS, lives 750 miles away. “And that’s a struggle,” Lyne added.
“I come from a very small farming community with maybe 2500 people in it,” Lyne said. After pursuing an undergraduate degree in Wisconsin, she landed at UTC. “I’m a first generation college student,” she explained.
A behind the scenes look at the portrait process.