Wednesday, August 4, 2004

Last exhibit intended to get people talking



By Ari Bloomekatz
Enquirer staff writer

[photo]
Images of faces called "The Struggle Continues Today" stand behind a group from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.
The Enquirer/TONY JONES
The last exhibit at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center calls on visitors to do more than observe and contemplate.

Part of the room is titled "Reflect, Respond, Resolve," but instead of only soaking in the experience, the exhibit is designed to promote discussion and provide information and resources for action about issues of race and social justice.

FREEDOM CENTER
Special section: Tour the Freedom Center
Freedom Center taps emotions
Last exhibit intended to get people talking
IF YOU GO
What: National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
Where: 50 E. Freedom Way, downtown
Hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Closed Mondays, Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
Admission: $12 for adults ages 13-59; $8 for children ages 6-12; $10 for students with I.D. and for seniors age 60 and over.
Information: (513) 333-7500 or www.freedomcenter.org
The exhibit begins with a video about modern challenges to freedom and equality. The next hallway surrounds viewers with images of barbed-wire fencing and burning crosses projected on a wall and also displays larger than life-size faces of civil rights heroes.

"It was dramatic. There's still a lot of struggling going on. It's not just with the blacks. It's with everybody," said Joyya Hunter, 17, who works with a Salvation Army's Shine in the Rhine day camp.

"Seeing the people's faces was really powerful to me," she said.

Cathy McDaniels-Wilson, director of dialogue at the center, said the last exhibit can be overwhelming, but she doesn't want viewers to leave with emotion and unanswered questions.

Instead, she says, a small room in the last section of the exhibit will be used to spark talking sessions for visitors who want to share their personal experiences, thoughts or questions with others.

The room is scheduled to be open from noon to 4 p.m. daily when the center is open. Two workers will lead 30-40 minute discussion sessions there every hour.

McDaniels-Wilson said she hopes the room helps visitors process information and emotion evoked by their visit - instead of leaving them to hold those feelings inside.

"Our goal is that people will learn to listen to each other adequately," McDaniels-Wilson said. "It's about communication. About sharing and understanding one another."

Interactive computers with information about civil rights groups such as the Congress of Racial Equality are also in the exhibits' last room. The computers allow viewers to compare their thoughts and feelings about racial issues with others in Cincinnati and the nation, and other screens simulate occurrences of prejudice and discusses ways to mediate those situations.

E-mail abloomekatz@enquirer.com




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