AUSTIN, TexasFour years after a horrific racial murder catapulted the rural city of Jasper, Texas, into national headlines, a special traveling documentary photo exhibit will profile the unsung role of the Jasper Ministerial Alliance. The exhibit will debut at 7 p.m., June 7-21, in Gallery Square, 126 E. Lamar St., in Jasper.
The documentary work, “Jasper, Texas The Healing of a Community in Crisis,” stems in part from the honors classes of Dr. Ricardo Ainslie, a professor of educational psychology in The University of Texas at Austin College of Education and former director of the Counseling Psychology Doctoral Program.
“This exhibit tells the story of James Byrd Jr., a disabled African American resident of Jasper, who was murdered four years ago after being dragged by a chain from a pickup truck,” said Ainslie. “It also depicts the unknown story of the town’s ministers, both black and white, who responded to a community-wide crisis by not only keeping the peace but by creating model lessons for all of us, and forging a history of mutual collaboration and respect.”
Members of the ministerial alliance and other Jasper residents will speak at this first exhibit, an event which Ainslie views as part of the community’s ongoing healing process.
The exhibit will then travel to Austin’s George Washington Carver Museum, 1165 Angelina St., in Austin for a 7 p.m. grand opening on Thursday, Sept. 19 until Nov. 30. More information is available by calling (512) 472-4809.
Exhibits in Dallas, Houston and Marshall, Texas, also are being planned.
Ainslie has worked for the past decade to profile small Texas communities riven by racial or ethnic conflict, including Anson (white-Latino); Hempstead (whites and blacks); and now, Jasper.
Reverend Bobby Hudson
He first visited Jasper in November 1999, and is now working on a study of Crown Heights, which endured 1991 riots between Hassidic Jews and African Americans in a Brooklyn, N.Y., neighborhood after a black child was accidentally killed in an auto accident. He also has initiated a documentary film about the Austin life of an immigrant from Mexico.
His studies usually are followed by book-length or film examinations, featuring a blend of psychology and ethnography. In 1995, he published No Dancin’ in Anson: An American Story of Race and Social Change, followed by a 1998 documentary film of Hempstead, Texas: “Crossover: A Story of Desegregation.” He now is working on a book about Byrd’s murder.
The Jasper traveling exhibit is co-sponsored by funds from the Texas Council for the Humanities, the Trull Foundation, the Cartwright Foundation, the College of Education and The Pro-Jex Gallery of Austin.
Photographer Sarah Wilson, a 2000 recipient of a Daniel Rosenberg Traveling Fellowship and graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts Photography and Imaging Department, completed the documentary photos.
Her first solo exhibition, “Jefferson Davis Parish, Louisiana,” at New York University last year, covered the people and places of her native Cajun parish where her mother was born and also includes much of her extended family. Her work also has appeared in Texas Monthly.
Ainslie’s acclaimed honors course at the university, “Life History and Documentary Approaches to Inquiry,” involves both his undergraduate and graduate students. During the 15 weeks of class, he exposes students to video and film documentary techniques, as well as psychological and ethnographic methods.
The Byrd family’s minister, the Rev. Kenneth Lyons of the Greater New Bethel Baptist Church, said “the community was afraid that perhaps we might have a conspiracy in our city,” following the murder.
“There were all kinds of rumors going on,” he said. “When the sheriff announced the capture of the three men and explained the details, and when the FBI backed them up that this was not a broader conspiracy, it relieved a lot of fears.
“We had to look deep within ourselves about our Christian teaching and try to put a buffer between those who were extremely angry and those who were calm,” he added.
Other written commentary serves as captions to the Jasper documentary photo exhibit.
Documentary photos © Sarah Wilson
For further information contact: Dr. Ricardo Ainslie (512) 471-4409.