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I Am. Amen.

A Response from Renee Mahaffey Harris

Video Transcript

Renee Mahaffey Harris is a committed advocate for the underserved and marginalized populations in Greater Cincinnati and the region. She started her journey in eliminating health disparities with The Health Gap in 2008 and is now the President and Chief Executive Officer. Harris leads The Health Gap in its mission to lead the efforts to eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities through advocacy, education, and community outreach.  During her tenure at The Health Gap, Harris has co-led the creation of the Food Desert Task Force, jointly implemented the City of Cincinnati Health In All Policy, and launched several groundbreaking community-based health initiatives including the DoRight! Campaign and the Black Womens Health Movement. 

Harris serves as a member of the Ohio Governor Mike DewinesCOVID-19 Minority Strike Force, National Council of Black Health Ohio Statewide Health Disparities Collaborative, theGreater Cincinnati Oral Health Coalition, The Taft Lecture Series and has served on numerous boards including the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs Council, Cincinnati Parks Foundation the Greater Cincinnati Urban League, Home Opportunities Made Equal and the YWCA. She was also once named one of Ebony Magazines 50 Leaders of The Future. 

Before joining The Health Gap, Harris held executive leadership roles in the private sector including her tenures as Vice President of Community Development with PNC Bank and Director of the Greater Cincinnati Local Initiative Support Corporation.  In the public sector Harris worked in leadership roles with former Ohio Secretary of State Sherrod Brown and former Congressman Charles Luken. 

Label Text, Cincinnati Art Museum

I Am. Amen.

Liquitex paint on canvas
Collection of Ulrich Museum of Art, Wichita State University

A photograph from the civil rights movement inspired Thomas to make this artwork. Taken by Ernest C. Withers, the image depicts Memphis sanitation workers—all Black men—marching against dangerous and discriminatory working conditions in 1968. Many of the men hold signs declaring I AM A MAN. Thomas, who was born in 1976, recalls: "I was amazed that just eight years before I was born it was necessary for people to hold up signs affirming their humanity. The phrase I grew up with was 'I am the man,' which is also influenced by African American culture but takes a very different starting point. What I was interested in was, how many other ways could I read that phrase?"

Some of the panels in I Am. Amen. reflect historical diminishments of personhood, such as the Three-Fifths Compromise enshrined in the US Constitution in 1787. Yet, read from beginning to end the work offers a powerful affirmation of existence. For Thomas, "the greatest revelation should be that we are."

Note: Label texts originated at the Portland Art Museum and were modified by venue project teams at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and Cincinnati Art Museum.