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Photojournalism (click slideshow to enlarge)

Social justice comics

Seventeen teenagers worked with volunteers and guest artists to create 10 comics. They conducted video interviews with local advocates on their chosen social justice topics: gender equality, arts in schools, bullying, LGBTQ community and suicide prevention.

Thank you, Michigan

This mural was made possible by local residents who wanted to create a place for people to communicate with one another. It’s about making public spaces that help us see we are not alone as we work together to lead Michigan into a brighter future.

 

This wall was inspired by artist Candy Chang. She began a global chalkboard art project, “Before I Die,” that invites people to share their personal aspirations in a public space. 

The workshops were a partnership with Michigan State University Director of Dance Sherrie Barr and undergraduate students to teach at-risk youth about art and movement. Students examined body images, space, shape, and texture from varied points of view. 

video (c) Jeana-Dee Allen

Art meets movement

Fifteen students partnered with local glass artist Craig Mitchell Smith, Impression 5 Science Center, the Joint Institute for Nuclear Astrophysics, and Delphi Glass to successfully handcraft eight planets and a sun. The artwork has been permanently installed at Impression 5. 

Art of the solar system

video (c) Dan Hartley

video (c) Dan Hartley

15-year-old Brandon Ellison took over running his family’s dairy farm after his grandfather passed away. For almost three years he has kept a strict schedule and put the farm before his social life. But, he said he would rather be working on the farm than anywhere else.

Brandon Ellison, 15, of Concord works seven days a week to keep his family’s dairy farm producing milk. Brandon gets some help from family, friends and his girlfriend, but he does most of the work himself.

Clothing is divided between 'farm clothes' and items that can be worn anywhere else. Brandon's girlfriend Brittnee Riske, 15, of Hanover has specific shoes she wears on the farm because of the mud and the smell, she said.

Brandon Ellison, 15, of Concord meets with friends during lunch period at Concord High School. Brandon usually meets with his girlfriend Brittnee Riske, 15, of Hanover and a few others in the band room. They play music and eat lunch before going back to class.

Brandon’s mother Robin Ellison, right, helps Brandon and his girlfriend Brittnee Riske, 15, of Hanover with English homework. Brandon said he typically doesn’t do homework at home because he’s so busy on the farm. But, sometimes he does study with Brittnee.

Along with milking, Brandon's chores include feeding the animals, maintaining equipment, cutting hay, fixing fences, cleaning the barn, caring for calves and making sure milk gets to the distributor.

Brandon isn't old enough to drive a car yet, but he said he's been driving a tractor since he was very young.

At the end of the day, Brandon is tired. He often falls asleep watching movies with his girlfriend Brittnee. Running the farm doesn't allow for Brandon to sleep in. It is a daily and year-round operation.

From left Rita Wolf, 20, and her sisters Faustyna, 18, Mary, 23, and Veronica, 24, pray during evening services in the chapel at the Franciscan Friars of Mary Immaculate. The women cover their hair with lace scarfs in modesty and respect for God during all services. "The friars are more traditional, so we wear them," Rita said.

The Wolf sisters say living with the monks is like living with family. They study, pray, work and eat all of their meals together. The four women grew up in poverty in rural Wisconsin and later moved with their parents to Michigan. The friars met the family through attending religious services. Later, when the sisters became adults the friars offered the monastery as a sanctuary and a safe place to live for as long as they would need it.

"If I could go back and live as a little kid again, with a good family, I would. I never felt like I wanted to grow up and be on my own until I got here," says Rita Wolf (center right), 20, about living with her sister Mary (center left), 23, at the campus of the Franciscan Friars of Mary Immaculate. The four Wolf sisters moved into a trailer on the property to tend the grounds and learn to be independent.

Veronica along with two of her sisters have never been enrolled in school. The friars have encouraged all the women to be educated. Veronica, Mary and Rita are studying to get their GEDs. Faustyna, although already 18 years old, has been enrolled in high school.

In April Veronica (right), went camping with her sister Rita for the first time in her life. "It was nice and peaceful," Veronica said. The women spend their entire week doing chores, in prayer or studying. They like to be busy and active.

Veronica Wolf, 24, digs to plant a row of carrots in the garden. The garden feeds residents at the friary for the entire summer and leaves plenty of goods to be canned, stored and eaten throughout the year.

"For a long time I couldn't really do anything. My life is just starting. It doesn't feel like I'm getting older because I'm doing stuff that I never could before," says Veronica Wolf as she pulls several chickens out of their cage. The sisters raise chickens and rabbits outside their mobile home next to the friary to sell for spending money.

Veronica Wolf says after she gets her GED, driver's license, a job and some life experience, she is interested in becoming a nun. She prays about it often. The friars say future for the Wolf sisters is unknown, but they feel they have come a long way since they moved in less than three years ago.

The four girls share two bedrooms. Deanna (bottom left), 14, sleeps in a bunk bed below Kyleen (top left), 13, while Aletha (top) and Rachael, 16, share twin beds. Although the girls are always in close proximity, they have very little interaction. Even on the twins' birthday, they preferred to send messages and drawings to each other thorough a handheld game instead of talking.

“Being grumpy is my middle name,” Aletha Johnson (middle), says as her father Jim (right) tries to moderate a fight between Aletha and her twin Rachael. “Anytime you’re trying to help them understand or do the right thing it’s always very difficult,” Jim said. During the arguments each daughter wants to give her opinion. “We run into it almost daily, where we have to say, ‘This is not about you, it’s about Aletha and mom and dad need to address this,’” Kathy, mother of the girls, said.

“I’m starting to see the young woman she’s becoming and it makes me feel warm inside seeing that,” says Jim Johnson about watching his daughter Rachael (left) turn 16 years old. The four Johnson girls are giggly and affectionate like average teenagers, but their autism makes life very structured. Jim and his wife Kathy have charts for each daughter hang in their kitchen. They contain stacks of papers contain all information relating to school and everyday life.

“Aletha has a great, great, great sense of humor,” says Jim Johnson about his daughter. Aletha Johnson, 16, comes home every day and goes straight to her homework. Jim and his wife Kathy often help out. “I am so proud of her. It makes you feel like she could have a chance to be independent, do well for herself, and to have a good life,” he said.

Jim and Kathy use TV as a good behavior reward for their daughter Deanna, 14. TV is a privilege that can be taken away if she misbehaves at school. During classes she carries around a laminated picture of a smiley face. If she has a good day, teachers let her keep the picture and she gets to watch TV at night.

“I want to be with dad,” says Deanna Johnson, 14, about rushing to the bus after a day at Goodrich Middle School. “It makes me a little sad,” said Jim Johnson. “They want to come home and be with me, but they need to ride the bus. It’s good for them to be with other kids as much as possible.”

Aletha Johnson, 16, struggles to figure out math homework with her mother, Kathy. Three out of four of the Johnson girls are mainstreamed in Goodrich schools. “They really did the transition very well and handled it with flying colors,” Kathy said.

“Hey! Hey! Hey! I like your shirt,” screams Deanna Johnson, 14, out the side of a school bus. She quickly follows the comment with, “Just kidding. That’s sarcasm.” Jim Johnson, father of Deanna, said when his daughters were younger they didn’t understand how to use wordplay like sarcasm or idioms. “They don’t have a social filter so you’re constantly hearing the last word. So they don’t realize they say whatever they’re thinking when they’re thinking it.”

Kathy Johnson (right) says an outgoing personality is what makes her daughter Deanna, 14, special. Kathy jokes with and tickles Deanna after she playfully accuses her of having a crush on a comic book character Deanna is reading about.

“She’s enjoying her outside and her rainbow,” says Kathy Johnson about her daughter Kyleen, 13. “She embraces that joyous feeling of being out there.” Kyleen will play outside for hours, including sniffing the air while standing on her great-grandmother’s memorial rock, running through a small row of trees she calls “the forest” and chasing after rainbows. “She just jumps into life with both feet,” Kathy said.

"I remember my first job (working on an organ). She came to life. I was so excited about it. It was alive - it had a brain and it breathed air," Rob Robinson said about his first day of work six years ago at Fowler Organ Company. Owner Brian Fowler of Delta Township has been interested in organ music since he was a child, but began the company 31 years ago. "I decided, well, I can starve to death working for myself just as well as working for someone else."

MSU junior Chris Roberts looks to his glove as he misses a catch during the ninth inning of the game Sunday afternoon against the University of Michigan. The Spartans lost 9-2.

Sara Vecellio, 5, takes her 15-year-old dog, Marmaduke for a walk around her backyard. The dog outweighed her by about 100 pounds, so sometimes Marmaduke took her for a run with the rope tied around her waist. After the walk, the pair celebrated her day off school by sharing a few Oreo cookies and rolling around in the grass.

“Free Kittens” read two neon-colored posters on Eva King’s Astro van. So, Alicia Weidman (center) of Flint and her mother Rosemarie Meganck stopped to get a free pet. King said she didn’t know what to do when a rescued stray gave birth to six kittens. “I took a chance. I came over here and have tried to give them away,” King said. She gave each new pet owner some cat food and a small blanket.

Army Spc. Jeremiah Hosler greets childhood friend Tera Andre at her Swartz Creek apartment, after surprising her with a phone call Sunday afternoon after returning from Iraq. "Open up your door and come into the hall," he said. She greeted him saying, "You're finally home. I know you're safe. I know nothing is going to happen to you."

Deontea Gatson, 16, (middle) gives a high-five to Terrell Rawls, 16, both of Flint while they play basketball near Our Savior Lutheran Church. More than a dozen students and Flint residents play basketball in the parking lot every day. Some play on their high school teams, while others just come for the love of the game.

“I like the sunshine,” says Kim Rice, 33, who lives with four other female residents in an adult foster care home. Rice said the home is more of a family environment and calls her caretakers “mom” or “aunt.” Budget cuts could mean that Rice will loose her home.

 
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2025 by Jeana-Dee Allen