Facing History and Ourselves


International educational nonprofit Facing History and Ourselves announced today that its nationally acclaimed multimedia exhibition, Choosing to Participate, will be mounted in Chicago for a nearly three-month stay at the Harold Washington Public Library, 400 South State Street, August 27-November 11, 2012. The exhibit examines the impact and history of bigotry and injustice, and inspires conversation about the choices we can make every day to foster civic engagement, tolerance, and mutual understanding in our communities. In addition to five installations telling first-person accounts about people and communities whose stories illustrate courage, initiative, and compassion, there will be two local components: Upstanders: Portraits of Courage , featuring photographs and narratives celebrating 12 unsung heroes making a difference in Chicago; and pARTicipation: Young Artists Speak Up , a display of original artwork from Chicagoland students in grades 7-12 that illustrates the importance of choices we make in our daily lives and the value of choosing to participate.

"Choosing to Participate is a catalyst for conversation about civic participation in our community, our nation, and across the globe," said Margot Stern Strom, Facing History's founder and executive director. "The exhibit reflects our mission to help students think deeply about what democracy means and what it asks each of us. Our young people are among the best moral philosophers, and by engaging in Choosing to Participate , they learn how to confront the moral decisions they face each day and develop the skills to build and be part of an inclusive community."

The Honorary Chair for Choosing to Participate in Chicago is Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Co-chairs for the initiative are Greg Case, CEO of Aon, and Jim Reynolds, CEO of Loop Capital. The national Honorary Advisory Committee for the exhibit includes filmmaker Steven Spielberg, Congressman John Lewis, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor , and other internationally recognized leaders who have made significant contributions to building and strengthening civic life. For a full list of the honorary advisory committee, please visit choosingtoparticipate.org . The Walmart Foundation is the national sponsor of Choosing to Participate 's current multicity tour. Aon is the lead local sponsor of Choosing to Participate in Chicago.

"The exhibit and related events showcase courageous choices made by communities and individuals to foster compassion and inclusion. Stories are shared in a way that encourage youth to think critically about the choices in their own lives and to make their voices heard at a time when understanding and tolerance are increasingly critical," said Bonnie Oberman, the Chicago director of Facing History. "The exhibit will be a featured part of the new city-wide Now Is The Time initiative, and through this partnership with the Chicago Public Library and Steppenwolf Theatre Company, more students, educators, and community members will have the opportunity to hear that that message."

Since the Chicago office of Facing History opened in 1990, more than 3,000 local educators have participated in Facing History's professional development programs. These teachers annually reach over 300,000 middle and high school students in over 725 public, religious, and independent schools in the Chicago metropolitan area. Training provided by Facing History enables students to deepen their knowledge of history, their understanding of the origins of hatred and violence, and their ability to relate history to their own lives. A strong alliance with Chicago Public Schools and growing partnerships with suburban, religious, and charter schools enable a critical and significant impact to be made.

The exhibit's visit to Chicago is expected to attract more than 30,000 students, teachers, and community members. Choosing to Participate opened in Boston in 1998 and has since traveled to New York, Memphis, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Cleveland, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. To date, more than 500,000 people have attended the exhibit and related events.

Exhibition Highlights

Central to the exhibit are five installations telling stories in the first-person about people and communities that have experienced racism and injustice, and how courage, initiative, and compassion are necessary to protect democracy. The stories invite people of all ages and backgrounds to connect these stories to the choices they face in their own lives, to think critically about issues of race and prejudice, and to understand that their decisions and actions matter to themselves, to their community, and to the world.

  • Crisis in Little Rock demonstrates the drama and tension surrounding the "Little Rock Nine" who integrated Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957. A personal narrative by Elizabeth Eckford, one of the nine students, describes how people in the community responded to the integration.
  • Not in Our Town introduces a community effort to combat hate crimes in Billings, Montana, in 1993. The community took an active stance against violence and vowed "not in our town." Video documentation, written accounts, and photographs examine what can happen when an entire community bands together to combat hate.
  • Little Things are Big uncovers how race issues in the 1950s influenced the way Americans saw one another and themselves. Writer Jesus Colón, a Puerto Rican and African-American man, recounts his story of deciding whether to aid a white woman, struggling with her three children and a large suitcase, late at night on a New York City subway.
  • Everyone Has a Story depicts the challenges faced by a young Cambodian refugee as he struggled to enter his first school and build a new life in the U.S. in the 1980s.
  • Give Bigotry No Sanction examines George Washington's landmark letter to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island of 1790 to raise issues of religious freedom and intolerance.

Visit choosingtoparticipate.org to learn about local sponsors, view a full event calendar, and preview resources that include a resource book available in English and Spanish.

FACING HISTORY AND OURSELVES is an international educational and professional development organization whose mission is to engage students of diverse backgrounds in an examination of racism, prejudice, and antisemitism in order to promote the development of a more humane and informed citizenry. By studying the historical development of the Holocaust and other examples of genocide and mass violence, students make the essential connection between history and the moral choices they confront in their own lives. Facing History has provided in-depth seminars for more than 29,000 educators, and its active teacher network reaches nearly two million students annually. For more information, visit facinghistory.org and watch a video at facinghistory.org/video/face-it .

THE WALMART FOUNDATION Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE: WMT) and The Walmart Foundation are proud to support the charitable causes that are important to customers and associates in their own neighborhoods. Through its philanthropic programs and partnerships, The Walmart Foundation supports initiatives focused on enhancing opportunities in education, job skills training, sustainability and health. In 2007, Wal-Mart, Sam's Club and The Walmart Foundation gave $296 million to communities across the United States. To learn more, visit walmartfoundation.org.

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