Taking a Knee for Change
Our Panelists 2023
Baba was born and raised in a west African country, Mauritania, a perfect geographical and cultural transition location in Africa where African black people live with Arab descendant Berbers. He grew up speaking his native language Pulaar, but also learn to speak French, English.
In Mauritania, Baba worked at the U.S. Embassy in Mauritania as the Economic and Commercial Assistant for four and half years.
He spent the last year of his education in France, where he earned another master’s degree in Management of Quality, Safety and Environment in 2007.
Since immigrating to the U.S., a decade ago Baba has been deeply involved in supporting immigrant communities. He has been involved in community-based organizations and public schools to support immigrants’ cultural, social and economic integration. He taught ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) students at Learning Works, served as cultural broker volunteer at Portland High School to help ESOL students learn math and overcome the language barrier.
Baba is a husband and father of four children with whom he spends time educating and entertaining whenever at home.
Among Baba’s most recent roles, was a Senior Program Director at Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Maine after five years serving refugees and immigrants with Catholic Charities of Maine as the Assistant Director of Refugee and Immigration Services at. Baba is also an artist who spends his spare time painting abstract art and playing guitar.
Pious Ali is a dedicated public servant and community leader with a proven track record of success. He is the founding director of Portland Empowered, a program that creates opportunities for immigrant and other racial minority students and families to engage their schools and work with them to create an equitable learning environment.
Pious has spent the better part of his career focused on community engagement. He has created meaningful and ongoing dialogue across cultural, ethnic, socioeconomic, and faith-based barriers. He has worked as a Youth and Community Engagement Specialist at the University of Southern Maine’s Muskie School of Public Service, with the city of Portland’s refugee services, and as a facilitator for Seeds of Peace, a summer program which builds relationships and leadership skills among youth from regions of conflict. He has also worked as a site coordinator for the Peer Leader Program at what is now the Opportunity Alliance in Portland, Maine, and as an Education and Community Engagement Coordinator at the Portland branch of the NAACP.
Pious is the first African-born Muslim American to be elected to a public office in Maine. He first served on the city of Portland's elected Board of Public Education from 2013 to 2016, and is currently serving as an at-large member of the Portland City Council ( was elected in 2016)' He is also a co-founder of the King Fellows, a Portland-based youth group dedicated to creating meaningful opportunities for youth through leadership and civic engagement based on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Pious is an alumnus of the Institute for Civic Leadership (known as Lift360), and in 2015 he was named Lift360’s Most Distinguished Alumnus. He has received other recognition for his work including the Gerda Haas Award for Excellence in Holocaust and Human Rights Education & Leadership in 2017 by Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine, and The Watering Can award in 2019 from Maine Initiatives. Pious has served and continues to serve on many advisory groups and boards of directors, including Rippleffect, YMCA of Southern Maine, I'm your neighbor books , Greater Portland METRO, Holocaust and Human Right Center of Maine , Seeds of Peace and the Greater Portland Council of Governments among many others.
Mihku Paul, BA MFA, is a Malecite writer/artist and activist from
Old Town, Maine. She grew up on the Penobscot river, and received
both a traditional cultural education from her grandfather and a formal
education in White schools. Her poetry is taught at several campuses
in the UMaine system. Mihku spent more than three decades working
with Portland Public Schools on DEI issues related to Wabanaki culture
and history. She lives and works in Portland.
Andy O’Brien is a freelance writer and communications director for the Maine AFL-CIO, a federation of over 200 unions in Maine. He writes a column titled Radical Mainers in The Bollard newspaper about the history of political movements in Maine and a column about immigrant and African American history for Amjambo Africa. He also co-hosts a podcast called Disinfomaniacs where he discusses far-right extremism in Maine.
Elizabeth is a community builder and owner of a small business, Mindful Employer, where she helps companies to connect with and measure human impact through work. Her experience includes three decades of partnership development, master facilitation, and collaborative leadership training.
She is a graduate of the Institute of Civic Leadership (xi Class) and holds a certificate in Authentic and Conscious Leadership through Babson College. She has served on several city level workgroups in South Portland focused on generational connections and inclusion, and she has over twenty years of youth mentoring experience.
Previous business roles include VP Employee Health and Wellbeing at TD Bank (US Employees), Manager of the Northeast Client Relationships Team at Anthem, and co-founder of 4 small to mid-size businesses serving tech services, real estate development, and employee wellbeing.
Elizabeth integrates work and life through outdoor nature adventures, photography, singing and songwriting, community building, and improv cooking. She also loves the simplicity of joyful play and solitude.
The Kneeling Art Photography
brings together a dozen photographers with diverse styles, and from different races, opinions and backgrounds to engage the communities of Maine (Immigrant, LGBT +, White, Black, Youth, Adults,
Police, Politicians) in this social justice initiative.
Photo Credit: Jerry Edwards
I am a multi-media artist working with photography and cut-paper collage, as well as a writer and editor. My international travels have fueled me with diverse and colorful imagery from unfamiliar cultures. Sometimes my photographs find their way into the collages.
I spend as much time as possible outdoors, and I often use animal and forest images to populate collages, dubbed “Dreamscapes.” While staying at home during the pandemic, I began to explore a new artistic/spiritual idea, the visual history of the plague in human history.
My special interest in spirituality leads me to arcana such as the tarot, myths, crystals and mandala –all sources of inspiration.
I regularly exhibit with the Union of Maine Visual Artists, a Portland organization, and I am an enthusiastic participant and audience for all the arts, musical, visual and literary.
Mark Evan Chimsky is an editorial consultant based in Portland, Maine (markchimskyeditorial.com). He was the Editorial Director of Harper San Francisco and headed top imprints at Little, Brown and Macmillan. Over the years, Mark has edited a number of bestsellers, including Johnny Cash’s autobiography, Cash. He is also an award-winning poet and teaches at Emerson College in Boston.
"John Ochira is a program officer at Maine Community Foundation. John recently worked as a disability benefit specialist at Unum and has served as vice president of the board of Maine Immigrants’ Rights Coalition and president of the South Sudanese Community Association of Maine.
John also served on several nonprofit boards and committees including the Southern Maine Workers Center, City of Portland Community Development Block Grant Allocation Committee.
John is a self-taught photographer with deep passion for community, people, and beautiful spaces. He loves keeping things simple in life and on the job as well. No matter how small or big a project is, John always brings the same passion and dedication to each individual shoot.
John is excited to be part of this project because he cares about social justice. Additionally, he would like to use this opportunity to advance his skills."
"When you consider Ann Tracy's feminist history (she fought to be the first female in a mechanical drawing class in HS in 1968 in Tyngsborough, MA and was the 1st female voice on radio station KTLK doing news in Denver, CO in 1977) it's not surprising that she is involved with The Kneeling Photography Art Project. Tracy has been involved in both feminist and social justice issues since the 1970s.
Ann Tracy (°1951, Waltham MA, United States) is an artist who works in a variety of media including installation, digital art, photography, painting, encaustics, monotypes, video and theatre (actor, director, playwright). She is a native New Englander who grew up in the Maine towns of Fryeburg and Cape Neddick before her family moved south to Massachusetts and then west to Colorado in 1969. After decades of living in Colorado, Wisconsin and California, Tracy is now calling Falmouth, Maine home with her husband, two dogs and cat. She is a member of the Union of Maine Artists, Monotype Guild of New England, Professional Women Photographers, Digital Arts Guild, and Webists International Artists. Tracy's studio is located within Open Concepts Studios and Gallery in Portland Maine.
Her fine art has been exhibited from Japan to Maui to New York City to Spain and Budapest, Hungary. Tracy was chosen as one of the winter 2016 artists in the CSArts Project in Portland. Her art was featured in the July 2013 edition of Artscope Magazine (New England) - Centerfold selection - https://artscopemagazine.com/centerfolds/july-august-2013-centerfold/. She was a 2014, 2015 and 2016 finalist in the Julia Margaret Cameron competition and was invited to exhibit at the 3rd Photographic Biennale in Malaga, Spain, as well as the Berlin Foto Biennial 2016."
John Ripton is a poet, essayist, photographer and historian. His photographs have been exhibited in galleries in New York City, New Jersey and New England. Several of John's photographs have appeared in magazines. In 2010 he had a solo show at the Hunterdon Art Museum in NJ. In 2017 one of his street photographs was selected to represent Duggal Visual Solutions in the New York Art Expo in NYC.
John is co-chairperson of the Union of Maine Visual Artists Portland chapter where he has curated several shows including one featuring the work of Maine immigrants (“Migration Experience – Reflections of Maine Immigrant Artists”) and another highlighting the lives of ordinary Mainers (“The Way Life Is: Maine Working Families and Communities”). More recently, his photographs have been exhibited in several exhibitions in Portland and Augusta. John is now collaborating with other Maine artists on projects and exhibitions planned for 2021.
John has published poetry, essays and articles in newspapers, magazines, and literary and scholarly journals. He holds a PhD in history from Columbia University. John resides in Kennebunkport, Maine. (email@example.com)
Aymar Mpouki is a promising photographer who now lives in Maine. The man who defines himself as a “photographer of life” produces photos imbued with realism, sad poetry and questioning. In 2013, he focused on the history of his country. Turning away from conformism and classic photography He begins to capture life on the streets of Brazzaville (capital of Congo-Brazza) during the ethnopolitical civil war which involved militias representing three political candidates. His risky explorations lead to his first very sensitive work entitled: Brazza Cries. Currently, Aymar Mpouki is focuses on photographing weddings in Maine's African communities.
Dave Wade is a Portland base photographer who previously worked in Asia for
various business and travel magazines. His photos have appeared in the Portland Museum of Arts 2000 Biennial, the Maine Coast Artists Photographing Maine exhibits, the 2016 Maine Photo Project: exhibits at the Barn Gallery and the University of New England Art Gallery, and multiple galleries, His recent solo exhibition of B&W documentary photos, “The Working Waterfront”, showed at the Merrill Memorial Library in Yarmouth in 2018 and was featured in Maine Today Magazine and WCHS TV (<davewadephotos.com>).
Wade is the photographer of two books, The World of Louise May Alcott and The World of the Trapp Family . Dave has served on the board of PACA, the Creative Portland Corporation, and WMPG Community Radio, where he hosts a weekly jazz show on Wednesdays from 1:30- 3PM.
Tim Greenway is a commercial, editorial and fine art photographer living in Maine since 2003. His photography has been featured in a variety of award-winning publications and he is the primary photographer for Mainebiz. During his 24 year career his themes ranged from documentary stories on homelessness and drug addiction to professional sports and architecture photography.
Tim moved from the Midwest to Portland to attend the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies and received his degree in photojournalism from Winona State University in Minnesota.
Amy Bellezza is a photographer and prose and poetry writer. A graduate of the School of Visual Arts where she studied under Ralph Gibson and received her first solo show during her senior year.
Working her way through college she acquired a job at The Image Bank and rose to be the Managing Editor’s Assistant. While there she attended the Maine Photographic Workshops taking a class with Sean Kernan and working at International Center for Photography as a darkroom assistant. She then moved on to work for The Stock Market Photo Agency where she was the senior Distribution clerk.
After her time with the Stock Market she became a VISTA Volunteer and completed her one year tour with a community revitalization company called Banana Kelly in the South Bronx, NY. While there she discovered her true calling for the law and in 1993 was offered a scholarship to pursue a Paralegal Diploma where she missed the rank of Distinction by 2 points.
She went on to intern at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, for 18 months, free-lance for companies such as Pitney Bowes and work for a retired judge. She also spent a year working at the Legal Aid Society providing uncontested divorces for indigent persons. She has written a booklet on Section 8 housing and worked on a newsletter about Section 8 housing, SSDI and other benefits for the Mental Health and low-income communities of White Plains and Westchester County, New York.
All the while maintaining her love of photography and exhibiting throughout Westchester County primarily at places such as The Westchester Arts Council and the Upstream Gallery in Dobbs Ferry, NY. She also became an Arts Ambassador at the Westchester Arts Council helping artists receive grants. She had also been a member of the Photographers of Northern Westchester where her ranking rose up to #3 in a couple of months.
In 2008 she moved to Wilmington, Delaware where for 6 1/2 years she experience catastrophe. Ending up on the other side of the law she was arrested twice for DUI and served time at both Baylor Women's Correctional Institution and the Chester County Prison. She had also become a victim of other crime and harassment and almost had her life taken away from her.
She ended up moving to Maine to escape this persecution and found a home in Portland. In October 2016 she became Organizer of the Maine Photography Group Meetup which started with 157 members and after 5 years was very close to 500 members. This gave her a chance to explore Maine and she has been to many parts both north and south of Portland. She became a member of the UMVA in 2019, the Professional Women Photographers, in New York City, in 2021. Amy has been exhibited both here in Maine and internationally. For UMVA she has curated two shows, been a part of an Intersectionality committee and has now achieved the position of Gallery Manager for them.
Amy resides in Portland, Maine, since 2015 and lives with her 2 cats.
Kelli LK Haines is a lifelong student of photography. At an early age, her father gave her a camera when she began to have problems with her eyesight. She progressed to the camera she uses now, a 4x5 Crown Graflex. Her neighbor, Todd Webb, taught her how to use it and became her mentor. She studied portraiture with Lucy Johnson and Arnold Newman at the Maine Photographic Workshops, worked as an AP photographer, a commercial photographer and museum curatorial and education.
In 2002, Kelli was awarded the Carina residency ( now MARC)on Monhegan Island, Maine, which opened the door to persue fine art photography full time. She was a photography teacher at UMaine Augusta while she continued to exhibit, having a solo exhibition of 50 of her pieces from her 6 week residency on Monhegan.
Recent achievements include being named to Women in Photography International (2015), the Julia Margaret Cameron Annual international competition : 13th annual First place in portraiture and alternative process (2019) and 15th annual in Series Portraiture and Architectural and Interiors (2020). In 2020 she was awarded the first Alumnus residency to the Monhegan Artists Residency (MARC)
"Rose Barboza is a mother, emerging photographer, organizer, and founder of Black Owned Maine. She grew up in Lewiston and was often confused surrounding topics of her own racial identity. Black Owned Maine has allowed her to root herself in this state and make a name for herself. Her work focuses on telling the stories of those who are often overlooked and under represented by mainstream media. Rose is excited to join The Kneeling Art Photography team and help to create community."
“To you I am as perceived to me I am” -Ẹniọlà Adeoye-Lawal
Ẹniọlà Adeoye-Lawal 23’ is an avid undergraduate at Colby College studying Psychology with a concentration in Neuroscience, and Philosophy. Ẹniọlà has an interest in understanding the inner workings and interconnectedness of the human condition and is eager to immerse in new cultivating experiences. As an emerging photographer, Ẹniọlà has a focus on capturing the raw natural expressions of things. Moreover, Ẹniọlà is the founder of Àwárí, a service that provides the opportunity for students to anonymously chat when feeling crappy and know that they are not alone in hopes of alleviating the crappy feeling.
Photography website: TBA
Our Speakers 2021
I currently work at a local government agency in racial and social equity and economic development. A lot of my job consists of engaging and connecting with under-resourced community members, including Black, Indigenous and People of Color. I work hard to amplify the voices of marginalized community groups, and lead our government agency on internal and external racial equity work and trainings.
Also, outside of work I'm a community organizer, and hold a series of outdoor workshops that help people understand the local issues happening in Portland, and how to get involved on a local level. I think my experience with community work and engagement will help with your social justice project, as this is the forefront of my personal and professional life. I believe it's not possible to have unity, justice and equality until we address systemic racism and it's structural barriers that exist in all things.
I am Desiree Nicole Lester. The land we now recognize as Portland, Me is my hometown that I left over 14 years ago. I left with a tightness in my heart because there was no room for my 6ft tall brown body to breathe here. Now that I have had a chance to drink coffee else where I understand that Maine’s roots are Black and I belong here. Letting go and unlearning ain’t easy but I’m working on it. I am Desiree Nicole Lester, Change Maker, Wellness Coach, Artist Advocate and Master Community Builder.
credit photo: Marco Solo
Sarah Gormady most recently has been the Operations Director for NextGen America turning out youth voters. She is a solo aerial and circus arts performer and has danced with the Dark Follies. Sarah has worked on the intersection of body and politic since her undergraduate independent research in Russia with Memorial Society, and has continued her studies and work through today with academic research and performance
Natasha Mayers has been called “the heart and soul of activist art in Maine.” She is widely known for her work supervising more than 600 school and community murals from Maine to Nicaragua. For the past 35 years, she has been creating parade “floats” for the local Whitefield 4th of July parade. She has been a Touring Artist with the Maine Arts Commission Artist-in-Residency Program since 1975. She has taught students from nursery school to college and in diverse populations: immigrants, refugees, prisoners, the homeless, and the “psychiatrically labeled,” with whom she has worked since 1974, and has organized many exhibits of their artwork.
Natasha was awarded the Individual Artist’s Fellowship from the Maine Arts Commission in 1998, the “Artists Projects: New Forms Award” from New England Foundation for the Arts, and the Zorach Scholarship to the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 1976. Natasha was selected to be the “Millennium Artist” for the State of Ohio, in the national residency program Artists and Communities: America Creates for the Millennium (a White House/National Endowment for the Arts project with one artist chosen for each state).
She is a long-time member of the Union of Maine Visual Artists (UMVA), a statewide organization to advocate for artists. She has worked with other members to organize exhibits on such themes as homelessness, “Columbus and the New World Order,” militarization, economic conversion, and mental illness.
Natasha founded ARRT! (the Artists' Rapid Response Team) in 2012, an artists' collective that meets monthly, creating over 400 banners, props and yard signs for most of the progressive organizations in Maine. She co-founded and is editor-in-chief of The Maine Arts Journal: Union of Maine Visual Artists Quarterly.
Exhibiting work since 1976, she often explores themes of peace and social justice. Her work was shown in 2003 at the Portland Museum of Art exhibit Mapping Maine: Four Contemporary Views (Jacquette, Cady, Hopkins, Mayers) and at Aucocisco Gallery in Portland, she exhibited her Endless War maps.
She showed her Bankster series at SPACE Gallery in Portland, and in 2015 had a show at the Maine Jewish Museum of her Men in Suits paintings, reviewed in Hyperallergic, followed by Men in Suits/Men in Trouble exhibit (with Kenny Cole) at Harlow Gallery in 2018. In 2020, her War Chests series was featured in I Am An American, a group show at the Cove Street Gallery in Portland.
For one year, Natasha made a daily artwork that appeared on the progressive news site, Common Dreams.org, which commented on current issues and reached a daily audience of 150,000.
Her portrait was painted by Robert Shetterly as part of his Americans Who Tell the Truth series (www.americanswhotellthetruth.org), featuring her words: “We need artists to help explain what is happening in this country, to tell the truth and reveal the lies, to be willing to say the emperor has no clothes, to create moral indignation, to envision alternatives, to reinvent language. We need artists to help us come together and share our voices and build community around powerful issues concerning our roles in the world and our planet’s survival. Compassion must be translated into action.”