MONT ALTO, Pa. — The stories of multiracial families will be told through imagery and words on the Penn State Mont Alto campus later this fall.
An exhibit, titled “Of Many Colors: Portraits of Multiracial Families,” from the Family Diversity Projects opens Nov. 1 in the Mont Alto campus library. The monthlong exhibit complements a visit from Shara McCallum, the first woman of color to be named Penn State Laureate.
The display includes photographs and interviews with children, teens and adults who bridged the racial divide through interracial relationships and/or adoption. It is one of eight traveling exhibits from the Family Diversity Projects, a nonprofit organization that strives to eliminate prejudice and harassment of those facing discrimination due to sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, race, national origin, religion and disabilities.
“It really connects with Shara McCallum’s work,” said Kira Hamman, assistant teaching professor in mathematics and honors program coordinator at Penn State Mont Alto, who organized the collaborative elements for the latest incarnation of the Race, Equity, and Action (REA) series.
McCallum, professor of English in the Penn State College of the Liberal Arts, is a poet who has authored six books and had poems and essays published throughout the United States, the Caribbean, Latin America, Europe and Israel. “Of Many Colors” is particularly related to her collection titled “No Ruined Stone,” a verse sequence released in August based on an alternate account of history and Scottish poet Robert Burns’ near-migration to Jamaica to work on a slave plantation.
“It’s a fictionalized story in poem form that asks a lot of questions about how different racial relationships work,” Hamman said. “It makes a good fit for what we’re trying to do here.”
REA is a series of conversations, workshops and professional-development sessions that began in July 2020 as part of the Mont Alto campus’ goal to embrace social responsibility and build a community of diversity, equity and inclusion.
Originally from Jamaica and born to an Afro-Jamaican father and Venezuelan mother, McCallum embodies the multiracial experience. She will present a public talk from 12:20 to 1:10 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 10, at the library, where “Of Many Colors” will be on view. There is no cost to attend her presentation or to explore the photo-text exhibit.
Campus visitors are required to comply with all COVID-19 safety measures in place, including masking in all campus buildings, regardless of vaccination status.
Students in a freshman English composition class, an honors seminar and a history class will study McCallum’s “No Ruined Stone” and engage with her, Hamman said.
Some of the Family Diversity Projects’ other exhibits have been on view at the Mont Alto campus, including those representing LGBTQ parents and children, and how families maneuver through life handling disabilities, mental illness and immigration issues. Hamman said the reaction to the other displays has been very positive, the result of their ability to humanize situations and provide up-close visuals and words.
Combining that with McCallum’s discussion and exploration of her writing reinforces the importance of people constantly reevaluating and expanding their scope of understanding, Hamman said.
“I think it’s really important for students to be aware of experiences that are different than their own,” Hamman said. “It’s very important in terms of personifying diversity issues.”