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‘Uncornered’ and unafraid — Stories of fortitude in black and white

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
‘Uncornered’ and unafraid — Stories of fortitude in black and white
Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley and other Bostonians share their stories. PHOTO: CELINA COLBY

The heart of Boston’s Seaport district has been overtaken by a series of bold portraits of some of Boston’s best, and least-known, citizens. The “Uncornered Project” presents 30 five-by-eight-foot black and white photographs of former gang members and public figures who all have overcome systemic, traumatic and social challenges to pursue their dreams. On view through Oct. 20, the exhibition is meant to highlight the shared humanity of people across all demographics.

“Boston Uncornered” student Giovanni Morris. PHOTO: CELINA COLBY

“Boston Uncornered” student Giovanni Morris. PHOTO: CELINA COLBY

The exhibition was created by PJA Advertising + Marketing in partnership with Boston Uncornered, Boston Seaport and photographer John Huet. Boston Uncornered is a project of College Bound Dorchester, a nonprofit using education to end systemic generational urban poverty and violence. Its programming, including weekly stipends and peer mentoring, creates pathways and support networks for young people who are struggling to pursue futures due to gang participation and violence and other boundaries.

“Our young people have hopes and dreams that just need access and opportunities to be realized,” says Michelle Caldeira, co-founder of Boston Uncornered and senior vice president of College Bound Dorchester. “I want people to really think about the different experiences that they’ve had and recognize that your zip code shouldn’t define the opportunities for success that you have.”

Each of the 30 portraits includes a story from the subject about how they became “uncornered” from their circumstances. Well-known figures like Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, who discusses her experience with trauma, stand next to students of the Boston Uncornered program like Giovanni Morris, who writes about his family legacy behind bars. In this way, the playing field is leveled, and the exhibition illustrates that people from all walks of life have overcome challenging circumstances to better their lives and their communities.

The exhibition has previously been shown on the Boston Common and at Gillette Stadium, Patriots Place and UMass Boston. This viewing debuts new portraits of New England Patriots Captain Devin McCourty; Charlayne Murrell-Smith, vice president external relations & corporate development, Boston Children’s Museum; and Idalia Grant, parent partner and SBNH HERO, South Boston Neighborhood House.

The current location of this exhibition in the Seaport alludes to the geographic opportunity disparities in the city. “At Boston Uncornered, we talk about the two cities that we experience in Boston,” says Caldeira. “In the space of two miles we see these very different cities and experience and opportunities that are available.”

The substantial opportunity disparity between Back Bay and Roxbury residents is part of what Boston Uncornered is working to bridge. In Seaport, one of Boston’s newest neighborhoods, Caldeira says there’s still time to even the playing field. Bringing diverse issues and voices into that space is crucial. Caldeira says, “We can really begin to build something new and tell the story in a different way.”

The exhibition’s outdoor setting offers socially distanced viewing. People can also view the exhibition and read the participants’ stories online.