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Grand View Alumna Launches Black Lives of DSM

October 28, 2020

Grand View alumna, Janae Gray ’11, is a photographer who hopes to share stories and breakdown barriers through her Facebook page Black Lives of DSM, a portrait project that publishes first-person accounts of the Black individuals leading Black Lives Matter and other civil rights movements in Des Moines and the metro suburbs.

Janae grew up in West Des Moines, went to Dowling Catholic High School, stayed in town, went to DMACC and finished at Grand View University. “I felt like there wasn’t really a space that gave clarity on the actual people of Des Moines and stories about events that are happening. I thought this would be a great space to use visuals with photography, creating portraits and showcasing events,” Gray said.

Janae reflects on how she chooses what to share from her interviews. "Some people are specific and they want to share something. I had one gal who said, 'I specifically want to talk about this spot, can you meet me here?' I met her there and took her portrait, and she told me about it. But other people, it’s just a conversation, it’s asking questions, getting to know why they’re here, what the movement means to them, why they’re proud to be Black, what their blackness means to them." She continues, "If it’s going to be moving to us, it’s going to be moving to someone else as well. We try to bring a little bit of substance and context to their background in what led them to a certain experience or event."

We recently invited Janae back to campus to shares the project’s inspiration and why she believes that archiving these stories matters. Watch the interview