Beginnings

Words by Sarah C. Rutherford
Photos by Hannah Betts

Following nearly two years of planning, this post marks the official launch of Her Voice Carries. For the month of June, I will be working on the installation at Memorial Art Gallery which will serve as a key for the series of murals to be located throughout the city of Rochester, NY.

I have been deeply affected by each and every woman who has offered to share their personal story with me. While I was only able to select five women to feature in mural form this summer, my blog will serve as a platform to share the many other incredible women’s stories I have had the honor of hearing. I sincerely hope I am able to do justice to each of these individual stories.

However, I can say with certainty, that this is just the beginning. At the start of this project, I had a vague idea of the type of woman I was seeking to celebrate, but the realities of the women I spent time with were so much brighter, so much more powerful and complex. This iteration of the project highlights five unique women, each occupying different yet sometimes overlapping spaces within our city. Even though each woman has her own realm of influence and her own unique story, they all work to lift up the voices of those around them. These women occupy public and private space while navigating the transitions in powerful, complicated, and important ways.

Additionally, these voices both collectively and individually inspire me to become a better artist and a stronger woman. The trust they have placed in me to represent them on a large public scale is incredibly challenging, and I do not take this responsibility lightly. I look forward to sharing each of their stories with you, and will use this initial post to introduce you to these inspiring women.

Safi Osman
Southwest Quadrant

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Originally from Somalia, Safi Osman has lived in the United States for 20 years. Known as “Momma Safi”, she teaches sewing skills, serves as an emergency translator, and provides transport to refugees in need through Refugees Helping Refugees, an organization for which she is a founding member. Safi is one of the first people refugees call upon for help, day or night.

KaeLyn Rich
Southeast Quadrant

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KaeLyn Rich is a queer feminist, a direct action organizer, a nonprofit lifer, a writer, and a sexuality educator. She is currently the Assistant Advocacy Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. KaeLyn is also staff writer for Autostraddle and the co-founder/editor of  Queer Family Matters, a blog that discusses parenting and family-making at the place where family issues meet not only sexual orientation, but also race, class, gender, and more.

Imani Olear
Center City

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Called “Joy” by her mother, Imani Olear radiates love and empathy to everyone she encounters through both her work as Pastor of Reformation Lutheran Church and her yoga teachings. Founder of Yoga 4 a Good Hood, Imani strives to bring yoga and meditation to those for whom it may otherwise not be accessible.

Rachel McKibbens
Northwest Quadrant

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Rachel McKibbens is a poet, activist, and mother of five. Rachel also teaches poetry and creative writing while giving lectures across the country as an advocate for mental health awareness, gender equality, and victims of domestic abuse and violence. She is a member of Latinas Unidas and co-curates Poetry and Pie Night, a monthly reading series, right here in Rochester. In 2012, she founded The Pink Door Writing Retreat, an annual retreat open exclusively to women of color.

Trelawney McCoy
Northeast Quadrant

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Trelawney McCoy is the adoptive, foster and biological mother to 9 children. She works fulltime as a project counselor at the University of Rochester, supporting young mothers as they navigate towards independence. She also volunteers her time as President of the Rochester Rams Football Club and Executive Vice President of Western NY Pop Warner. She is committed to the belief that every child deserves love and has dedicated her life to this mission, both within her own home and her work.

I also cannot separate my own story from this journey.  In many ways, I have spent the last year searching for inspiration and empowerment. During this search, I have been led to more questions surrounding my role as public artist – in this moment, in this place, and in my own life. I have lived in Rochester for almost ten years, a longer duration than any other space I have occupied. So much of this project was born out of a desire to understand my city on a deeper level. Instead of retracing my footsteps, I have been seeking new connections and paths.

Thank you for joining us on this journey as Her Voice Carries officially begins. The art that I create over these next several months does not belong to me; it belongs to us. Please enjoy and follow here on social media (@hervoicecarries) as the project unfolds.

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