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Here’s Robin Hickman-Winfield, curator and great-niece of Gordon Parks, to introduce “A Choice of Weapons.” This exhibition features two towering photographers, Gordon Parks and Jamel Shabazz, who have both documented expressions of dignity, honor, hope, and love in the African American community and lift up Black voices. Robin will take you through the rest of the exhibition. Enjoy!

Get a closer look at Robin Hickman-Winfield’s relationship with her great-uncle, his impact on her life, and his legacy at work today.

“Father and Sons, Harlem, NY” and “Black Muslim Schoolchildren in Chicago”

Click here for short biographies of the artists and for a list of interviews, books, articles, and other resources!

Click here to download A Choice of Weapons  gallery guide.

Scholars from Gordon Parks High School were responsible for writing the didactics in this exhibit. Some of their descriptions of and reflections on Gordon Parks’s and Jamel Shabazz’s photographs will be interspersed throughout.

I don’t see many images like this. It makes me feel warm. He served his country, returned to love his family, and the baby will be the next generation of honor and dignity.

– Gao See Lor, Gordon Parks Scholar

Jamel Shabazz, “A Soldier’s Story, New York City,” 2010, archival pigment print, courtesy of the artist


Interview someone in your household, or call up a friend or loved one and ask them these questions, too. Draw how you see love in your life

  • What brings you joy?

  • How do you express your love for your family, friends, and community?

reflections on LOVE

“You respect people, you have love for people, and it does something to you. It gives you a confidence […]. I was the youngest of fifteen of my father’s children, and after my mother died my brothers and sisters carried that teaching and love on for me. I was overwhelmed with love. I think that’s what made the difference in my life.”

Gordon Parks in Harlem, Gordon Parks: The Artist’s Annotations in a City Revisited in Two Classic Photographic Essays, 1997.

“My discovery came by way of viewing the countless family photo albums we had prominently displayed in our home. I was in my single digits at the time, but I saw beautiful black and white photographs of my immediate family in pages of well-organized albums, many going back into the early 1900s. There were images of love, struggle, and dignity and it was within the pages of these albums that my love for my people was born.”

Jamel Shabazz in “Vision & Justice Online: Jamel Shabazz in Conversation with Michaela Angela Davis,”, Summer 2016.

He is thinking about the honor and dignity he had and his future. He will find his way.
Dominique H., Gordon Parks Scholar

Gordon Parks, “Street Scene, Harlem, New York,” 1948, gelatin silver print, private collection, Minneapolis


The word resilience means toughness and strength. Can you think of three examples of resilience? Draw how you see resilience in your life.

  • How do you respect yourself and others?

  • How have you been resilient in your life?

reflections on RESILIENCE

“I wanted to show what [poverty] was like, the real, vivid horror of it—and the dignity of the people who manage somehow to live with it.”

Gordon Parks in Harlem, Gordon Parks: the Artist’s Annotations in a City Revisited in Two Classic Photographic Essays, 1997.

“Guns and drugs were gaining a strong presence and a number of young men were being led astray. I started talking to the youth at every opportunity. One of my main statements was ‘I see your greatness, young brother. I’m a photographer, and would you mind me capturing your legacy?’ That was a practice that broke down many barriers and created a way in. Once they agreed, I would train my lens on them while composing the frame; I would speak to them about the need to love one another, and to be mindful of the pitfalls and obstacles that they could face, and I often used my own life as an example…

It was always about recognizing the greatness, the warrior spirits, and the beauty within. I realized that I had a voice, not only to capture the image, but more importantly to plant the seed of positivity in their minds. What I wanted to do was allow these brothers and sisters to know that I see you for who you are.”

Jamel Shabazz in “Vision & Justice Online: Jamel Shabazz in Conversation with Michaela Angela Davis,”, Summer 2016.

This picture makes me feel stone cold. The vibes make me feel so old. To be on your own, you gotta be so bold, to go against what you’re told, and to take the long road.

Isaac Barrera, Gordon Parks Scholar

Gordon Parks, “Off On My Own, Harlem, New York,” 1948, gelatin silver print, private collection, Minneapolis


Think of someone who brings you hope. Send them a note or a text telling them so! Draw a picture of how you see hope in your life.

  • How do you keep hope alive?

  • What types of challenges have you faced and how have you become stronger?

reflections on HOPE

“What I want
What I am
What you force me to be
is what you are.

For I am you, staring back from a mirror of poverty and despair, of revolt and freedom. Look at me and know that to destroy me is to destroy yourself. You are weary of the long hot summers. I am tired of the long hungry winters. We are not so far apart as it might seem. There is something about both of us that goes deeper than blood or black and white. It is our common search for a better life, a better world… My children’s needs are the same as your children’s. I too am America. America is me. It gave me the only life I know—so I must share in its survival. Look at me. Listen to me. Try to understand my struggle against your racism.

There is yet a chance for us to live in peace beneath these restless skies.

Gordon Parks in “A Harlem Family,” Life magazine, March 8, 1968.

“The camera enabled me to tell a person how special and valuable they were and I hoped that I could encourage people to look toward their own futures and believe in themselves.”

Jamel Shabazz in Back in the Days, 2001.

The woman stands tall with dignity, honoring the light. She holds her hand high to the sky, honoring the light. She’s at peace, feeling the warmth of the nature she honors, the sunlight she honors, on the skin she honors. I see a mother figure, a protector of the light.
Miranda O., Gordon Parks Scholar

Jamel Shabazz, “The Giver of Life, Long Island, New York,” 2000, gelatin silver print, courtesy of the artist


Close your eyes and take three deep breaths. Draw how you see faith in your life.

  • What do you believe in?

  • What does having faith mean to you?

reflections on FAITH

“And there were the churches, big ones, little and middle-sized ones scattered among the taverns, butcher shops and mortuaries. On Sunday mornings I turned my camera on those ardently religious folks as they went, in their Sunday best, to the store-front Bethels, God in Christs, African Methodists and Pilgrim Baptists that they kept going with pennies, nickels and dimes. ‘Religion is all we got left,’ an old missionary woman told me one day. I had asked her to pose for me, and she stood, a little white bonnet perched on top of her head, a Bible under her arm, looking into my camera.”

Gordon Parks in A Choice of Weapons, 1966.

“Early on, I was taught by my wise elders to walk with confidence and faith. Danger was always lurking around; for it was a concrete jungle full of predators and those they preyed on. In addition, I was grounded in my love for the people and my strong and sincere desire to inspire change in the various communities I would venture into.

In time, many I would encounter would know me to be a righteous or good brother—a title that garnered a degree of respect, thus enabling me to make most people feel comfortable enough for me to document their existence.”

Jamel Shabazz in “Interview with Street Photographer Jamel Shabazz” by Curtis Caesar John,, August 1, 2013.