'Many Faces One Humanity': A Photographic Celebration of Milwaukee's Diversity

Jan 24, 2017

An election season often brings to the fore the issues that divide the country, but a Milwaukee organization - while not taking on politics directly - is looking for the things that connect us.

Many Faces One Humanity has been active for several years, but recently re-launched a billboard campaign to help "create visual awareness of Milwaukee's diversity to transform attitudes and culture."  Two of the people featured in the campaign are Janaan Najeeb, president of the Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition, and Saskia Nassalang, a local reggae musician who also performs under the name Saskia Mt. Zion.  

Raejean Kanter, a board member of the organization, explains that the campaign was shot by local photographer, Sherry Lemke. Kanter says that Lemke "looked around Milwaukee and the world and saw that there were many people who looked different [from each other] who could be friends, who could be great for each other and learn from each other."

In the beginning, Lemke paired different people together and photographed them. As the project grew, she created a board of directors. "Now it's a full fledged nonprofit that works to talk about diversity and inclusion in the Milwaukee area," Kanter explains.

The organization is planning community dialogues as well as provide cameras to elementary school students to take photos for the project. Those photos will then be part of a new production at the Milwaukee Rep and will be shown on more billboards and busses, Kanter adds.

As to the photo shoot, Najeeb says, "It was a lot of fun...we're all citizens of this community, citizens of the world, citizens of this country, and we have so much more that is in common than that which is different. At the same time, those differences are something to value and bring beauty to our relationship."

Nassalang agrees. "I love getting to know strangers and people from different cultures, so it was nice to connect in that way."

Kanter hopes the photos cause people "to reach out to somebody that you don't really know, so you can meet and learn from each other."