KALAMAZOO, Mich. — The stories of Black, Indigenous and women of color as well as international students are being shared in an exhibit aimed at making voices that aren't normally heard, heard.
"It is especially hard as woman, a woman of color and especially with the racial tension that is going on in America; oftentimes my story is overlooked or I’m not heard," said Western Michigan University Master of Public Health student Ajena Dent.
A Western Michigan University research project called "Dimensions of Bloom: Photovoice Project" is capturing the experiences of last year through women.
"The purpose was for them to be able to document their experiences of stress and health over that past year of 2021, both within COVID, and then also within the all of the social stressors of racism and social activism," said Western Michigan University Associate Professor of Interdisciplinary Health Programs Dr. Shannon McMorrow.
The stories are being told through photovoice, a photo and written excerpt of what the photo means. It's a method used in "community-based participatory research to document and reflect reality."
#NEW: Western Michigan University unveiled a new exhibit that’s aimed at sharing the voices and stories of black, indigenous, and women of color and international students.— Lauren Kummer (@LaurenKummerTV) September 10, 2021
It portrays stressors the women experienced in the last year through photovoice. @FOX17 pic.twitter.com/uxmNjdsObj
Fourteen women with ties to WMU took part in the research.
"The students are undergrad students, Masters and PhD students. We had nine women from different countries, international students, so Malaysia, Indonesia, Peru, and then we had also domestic students who are women of color, a whole range, and they are all different majors," said Dr. McMorrow.
Ajena Dent is one of the students who shared her story. She said she found this last year to be particularly stressful. She shared a photo she took from the window of an airplane on a flight to Atlanta.
Dent said the photo represents her fight-or-flight personality when stressed.
"Mental health was a very highlighted theme throughout the study. I felt like that was something that all relate to and connect on, so I felt like that was definitely something we should strive to work on," said Dent.
Others also shared their experiences that went into details regarding families, jobs and even transportation.
"I feel like this finally gave me a voice. It gave me a chance to share what I experience with others, and not just me but so many other women students that are women of color. I just find that I’m finally happy to have my voice be heard," said Dent.
The exhibit will be on display for the entire month of September in Western Michigan University's College of Health and Human Services building. It is located on the second floor.