“Otherness” is never one thing.
This collection of portraits and autobiographical statements tells a story of our community where we all share the human experience of being an ‘other’. Individual experiences lead us to a certain set of assumptions and pre-judgements. Yet, the experience of otherness often comes in unexpected places. Some otherness is external; some is internal.
For many, we do not know of their otherness until she or he is willing to share this vulnerable place of the soul. By seeking to understand the individual through her and his story, experiences, struggles, and accomplishments, we find parts of ourselves in each of them.
Through this project, we create a platform for conversation about the things that connect us, rather than keep us apart. We aim to open the awareness and understanding of prejudice and otherness in our community.
Take a moment to get to know these individuals through their stories and pictures.
From a distance I am your average 30-something Midwestern white woman. I was born and raised in small town South Dakota, a straight-A student, active in extracurriculars at school, have bachelor’s and master’s degrees to my name, have a full-time job with a good salary and benefits, try to stay healthy, own a house and a dog, have hobbies, and enjoy spending my time with family and friends.
My family is your average family – two parents with educations and successful careers who have been married for 32 years and 3 sisters who have average families of their own. I have been given every opportunity to succeed and have taken advantage of those opportunities to get where I am today. I am fully aware of my privilege and am grateful for the circumstances to which I was born. Other than the fact that I dislike country music and instead listen to an inordinate amount of rap, from a distance I am your average 30-something Midwestern white woman.
But on the inside, I carry a feeling of “otherness.” Not only am I your average 30-something Midwestern white woman, but I’m also a gay 30-something Midwestern white woman. I am gay — no big deal in this day and age, right? For me, it hasn’t felt like “no big deal.”
I grew up always knowing that I felt different on some level, but not entirely understanding what that feeling was. Growing up in a red state, in a small town, with little diversity, I never got the chance to really explore or express that feeling. Reflecting back now, I realize the depression and anger and rage I had felt since I was a teenager was in part due to suppressing my “otherness”.
It took 31 years, but I finally came out recently. Although it has given me a greater sense of freedom to be myself, I still can’t help feeling that people now see me in a different light. Every single person I have come out to in my life has been wonderfully accepting. I have yet to have a bad experience with any kind of homophobia. However, I can’t help wondering what people are really thinking. How are they judging me? I still feel like the “other” and I don’t know if it will ever go away, but what I do know is that my sexual orientation does not define me. Yes, I am gay, but I am also your average 30-something Midwestern white woman and so much more.
I was born on November 15, 1984 with a Grade 3 brain hemorrhage. The doctors did not expect me to live and told my mother to pick out the clothes I should be buried in.
I did beat the odds and survived, but once again, the doctors told my mom that I would be “a vegetable”. With the help of Occupational and Physical Therapy, and Special Education in school, I was able to overcome many obstacles.
Today, my adulthood involves my marriage, job, assistance with transportation, and I struggle to understand and master the simplest of skills, such as cutting nails, opening cans, or putting on certain articles of clothing.
Life is surrounded by lots of friends, time with God, changing what can be changed while accepting what God intends to keep the same.
The injury is what I make of it. I can look at its weakness or look at my strengths. Someday the injury will be gone, but until that day, it will be used in whatever way God sees fit to inspire whoever I can.
Certain things that God intends to use the injury for I’ll never know, and all my questions won’t be answered. The injury will be used to inspire until the day I go home to heaven.
Ashley is actively involved in the Northern Hills Training Center Community.
I am heading into my fourth year at Black Hills State University.
I believe as individuals we are all different but still bound by the human race which is what makes us incredibly similar as well.
A little more background on myself and what makes me stand out is that I am the only boy out of 5 children.
Born to parents who immigrated from Ghana, a country in West Africa, to Italy, and then here in the States. I was born in Italy then moved to Colorado when I was 4; sadly, I have forgotten how to speak Italian.
I consider myself half-bilingual as I can understand my parents’ native language, Twi, but struggle speaking it.
I am very passionate about sports and am a Mass Communications major with an emphasis in Sports Media. I dream of becoming a journalist one day. Lastly, I play defensive back for the football team at Black Hills State.
What makes me an “Other”, at first glance one would assume my hair or maybe even my skin but that is just a combination of God-given elements that define me.
My name is Dimitri Butts, I’ve never met another with the same name so kudos to myself… and my Mother.
I was born on the Island of Trinidad and Tobago, located in the West Indies approximately 6 miles off of the coast of Venezuela. I’ve lived there until I was three years young and moved to Pompano Beach, Florida where I spent majority of childhood and teenage years.
Becoming an American Citizen was quite a hassle; up until the age of 10, I can remember vividly. Growing and forming in the diverse state of cultural versatility into my personal traits and actions.
My parents were in and out of my life due to unforeseen causes, this catapulted me to take on my own identity and not one in the shadows of being nurtured. Since the age of 13, I became a nomad, and at the age of 18, I set across America to venture and really experience everything I’ve seen on a map.
Visiting 39 states and 13 countries on my own, filling in all the missing voids that I couldn’t share with family. Meeting strangers and feeling that social bond, leaving an everlasting mark upon my conscious of, no matter where you’re from or where you reside, I always found a connection due to venturing out and realizing the common good in people. If anyone asks where I’m from, I’ll respond “Pompano Beach, Florida” proudly, but it’s the journeys and voices of America that has a piece of me… and I just hope to be remembered for it all, even if it is as…. “an immigrant.”
A time in my life when I have been an “other” … that’s a great question, one in which I’m not sure where to begin. There have been many times in my life where I’ve been an “other”, but the one that stands out the most has also been one of the best decisions of my life.
My most impactful experience of being an “other” was going off to college. I grew up in Newark, New Jersey, a multicultural urban city. I am a first- generation college student, from a city where not many people my age were choosing to go to college. I attended Ramapo College of New Jersey, a predominately White liberal arts college, and for the first time in my life, I didn’t see very many people that looked like me, who came from where I came from, and who experienced the world the way I experienced the world.
During this time, I faced prejudice, racism, false accusations, and much more all because I was a Black face in a White space. In spite of this experience, Ramapo changed my life for the better. I found my voice, learned how to stand up for what is right, and I made friendships that will last a lifetime.
I turned opposition into opportunity. I found other people on campus that shared my interest, passions, beliefs, and together we made a lasting impact at Ramapo College of New Jersey for the many Black students to come after us.
By the end of my time at Ramapo, I had become a prominent student leader on campus. I was the first person in my family to graduate from college, and I graduated Summa Cum Laude. I won Outstanding Student Leader in my senior year and left Ramapo a more accepting and inclusive place than when I found it. I didn’t do this alone, I had many other student leaders, staff, faculty, and administrators that supported and mentored me throughout this journey.
It is because of this experience that I am now a Student Affairs professional, and a Doctoral candidate. My passion is to develop students to be change agents in this world. In a world filled with prejudice, I believe it is my responsibility to fill the world with positivity, justice, and opportunity for all.
Gandhi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world”, and that’s exactly what I strive to be daily.
Hi, my name is Lynn and I am the youngest of 8 children. When I was little, my daddy was a cop. He committed suicide when I was 5 years old and left my mom with nothing.
My older sisters married before they were legal, and my oldest brother went off to fight in Vietnam.
My daddy’s death allowed my mom to move to town and buy a house where rich people lived. I was a funny, fat kid with blonde hair and a pretty face.
I smiled my best through all my school years, but I never really belonged.
When I turned 19, I saved up $500 and drove a 1977 LTD. I loved Country Western and Wrangler jeans and so I moved 650 miles from home to Rapid City, SD. I never felt so FREE in my life!
I found friends who believed in me and a husband who loved me. I rode horses until my butt was sore and the grin never left my face. I finished college and became a Physician Assistant.
We adopted two beautiful children from China that I couldn’t be prouder of. However, a terrible injury has sidelined my life and I struggle once again with feeling as if I don’t belong. I don’t want this brace to define my life.
“Otherness:” most often understood as a “deviation” from an expected, accepted norm. If so, my “otherness” derives from two factors.
First, I’ve been fortunate to have travelled very widely – over 125 countries and islands on six continents, and 46 American states – and therefore have a different perspective of life than those who haven’t benefitted from such exposure.
Second, I’m a serious, committed, long-time meditator who understands and experiences existence on multiple levels, not just from a third dimensional viewpoint. Especially on these levels, one truly sees the interconnectedness of everything and everyone.
A published writer, I thought I’d share two observations from one of my poetry chapbooks pertaining to “otherness:”
Lift self above / what’s considered norm / to see truth of norm. Shift self outside norm / in order to understand / the creation of norm. Realize that norm / is a construct / and therefore not norm.
we are all one / a common thread / a common bond / a common pulse / beats through all / from the smallest / to the greatest / from the least / to the most / creating of each thing / each person / microcosm to macrocosm / the parts of a whole / all working together / all tied together / all as One.
I’m a middle school English teacher. It’s fun to tell people that and watch their reaction. It’s usually obvious by their face that they’ve already judged me incorrectly as it’s often followed up by, “I wish my English teacher would have been like you.” How do they know, they’ve never been in my English class?
I grew up in the rust belt of America, born in Akron, Ohio to a strong professional woman that married a long haired, guitar playing, high school dropout turned US Army vet turned mechanical engineer.
Conventional is not a word you could use to describe my parents, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Before I became a teacher, I owned a tree service. It was quite the career change, but I always knew I wanted to help mold lives.
Plus, teaching is the only way you can live forever. You see, if I influence some of my students to become teachers and they influence others, then my influence lives on forever.
My professional experience goes from teaching in a tough as nails city school, to Standing Rock Reservation, to advanced students in an upper-class college town, to here in Spearfish.
As much as I love my career, I don’t know if that’s what defines me. There is more to me than that.
I love football, and not just the physicality of it, but the mental aspect of the game. I coached back in Ohio for 7 years. I also play guitar and sing, mostly old songs that I grew up listening to with my parents.
I’ve taken camping trips all across the country with my motorcycle, Blue. I go to the gym, mull over the meaning of art, write short stories, and the list goes on.
In essence, it’s difficult to say I’m different, because we all are.
Joyful Thankful Praise-filled
Child of a living God
In this garden
Met Muhammed Ali when I was a kid!
Babysat Chicago White Sox players, went to many games with such vigor they had to hire more sitters.
Then I sat in the wives’ section.
I had a college radio show 28 years!
Was a nurse 40 years; hospice, psychiatric, adolescent, rehab, R.N.
Leonard Bernstein, Frank Sinatra, Keith Jarrett,
Paul Butterfield Blues Band, and Rene Magritte;
changed my life.
Always on Safari.
The Holy waters at Lourdes.
The waters of March also Holy. Keeping Ithaka in mind.
I cheered and cried at the ticker tape parade
for the first astronauts to walk on the moon.
Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins.
I miss smelling my grandpa Henry’s fresh cut grass
and sleeping on their porch.
My son Russell lives in London where I also earned
my registration to practice nursing.
He is a graphic designer and owns compoundeyedesign.
My daughter and 3 grandchildren live in Spearfish.
all above in no particular order.
I’ve got the sun in the morning and the moon at night
the roaring traffic’s boom
and I’m blessed.
Like many Malagasy people, I am not yellow enough to be qualified as Asian; nor with enough dark complexion to be called black. Friends from the African continent told me that I cannot be African, even if Madagascar, where I am from, is part of this continent because I am not black enough.
I am neither tall enough to be considered as Pacific Islander. And it is obvious that I am not white. Nonetheless, I learned to understand all those different cultures with their respective people. Now, I can consider myself as a citizen of the world serving as a link between people and cultures.
But what makes each person unique is not only the physical trait, I would describe it rather as a combination of several things assembled within one individual: ethnicity, culture, background, environment, character, to name a few. In other words, we are not born unique, we become unique throughout our entire life.
If there is something that impacted my perspective is the notion of risk. I have always been passionate about risk management. In high school, I already wanted to become an actuary. Then after college, I used to work for an insurance company in charge of actuarial studies.
But, what this experience really taught me is the way I perceive risk in general. I become less and less risk averse. If our today’s society sees risk everywhere and try to avoid them; I am rather neutral to risk and try to mitigate them. I see rather the potential benefit instead of the risk itself.
The bigger is the risk, the bigger is the reward. This is how I conceive life: relationship, business, future, society, so forth.
I have a very very positive attitude.
Living and growing up in a small town it was difficult trying to fit in with the others. I was a wall flower and tried to stay out of the lime light for fear of what the other kids might say or do.
I was very quiet and shy as a kid because only a few kids tried to be my friend. Most of them didn’t want to be friends with the poor, dirty looking, fat kid; but those who did become my friend changed my perspective. I started to open up little by little and I gained a few friends.
In high school I struggled with my weight and depression along with the fact that most of my peers didn’t acknowledge me and if they did it was with jokes at my expense.
My depression and suicidal thoughts worsened, and I soon started to drift away from the few friends I had thinking they would make fun of me as well. They were there for me no matter how much I tried to push them away. They accepted me for me and it was nice I just had to learn how to open up and they taught me not only how to open up but how to accept myself and my own flaws.
Over the years my friends have taught me that it’s okay to be reserved in life just not too reserved because if you are you will miss out on some wonderful people and amazing moments.
Without the people that I have in my life, I don’t think I would have ever made it this far. They’ve been there to support me when others have tried to tear me down. They make me laugh and smile when others made me cry.
My friends let me know that I’m not alone in this world.
Special thanks to:
Each of the individuals pictured above for contributing their human experience to this project.
Alison Murphy, a senior photography student at Black Hills State University, for taking and printing each of the portraits in this exhibit.
Dimitri Butts, Mass Communications major at Black Hills State University, was instrumental in building community through developing this project.
Northern Black Hills Rotary Club for co-sponsoring the Film Festival.
The Bush Foundation for funding ArtCentral through a Community Innovation Grant to The Matthews.