As the world crumbles around us and the problems that plague us seem too overwhelming to even begin to address, fear and despair too often overpower us. Too many feel isolated in their desire for change. This feeling is only compounded by the divisions between different races, genders, cultures, nations and ideologies, which have very long and complicated histories that are often played upon by those in power, through media and discriminative practices, in order to maintain the divide and prevent uprisings of solidarity among the majority that find themselves oppressed by these systems of dominance, inequality and deprivation.

For as long as I can remember, I knew we needed drastic change. Sometimes the obstructions and causes were obvious. Other times, it was just a general feeling of dissatisfaction and a yearning for authenticity, empathy and genuine community. It wasn’t until 2011, when I became involved with my first social movement, that I was able to really understand and articulate my grievances and to see a path forward. Through listening to and participating in conversations with compassionate and dedicated social justice-oriented communities, my potential was unleashed, and my idea of what was possible for the world expanded. It was a life-altering experience, one that continues to influence me to this day.

This website is a compilation of the voices, faces, hearts and actions that have helped shape my understanding of the amazing possibilities that lie ahead if we seek to understand each other’s grievances, engage in difficult conversations to determine appropriate solutions and work together to build a more fulfilling, compassionate, equitable and environmentally affectionate world.

The first movement I documented was Occupy Wall Street in New York City. From the beginning of my involvement, I decided my contribution would be to use my camera as a way of revealing truth and encouraging change. I was shocked by the inaccurate portrayal of the movement in the media and recognized the immediate need to help shift that narrative in any way I could. I decided to interview individuals about the reason for their involvement and what they hoped the outcome would be in order to create an accurate portrayal of the movement.

As that movement lost momentum and the energy that had been so powerful began to die off, it was quite disheartening. In the decade since Occupy, I’ve realized that the energy doesn’t die. It transforms, and it travels. I now recognize that people all over the world are participating in waves of resistance that ebb in one area of the world, while flowing in another. In recent years, I’ve been able to follow that energy. I first traveled and documented the Standing Rock Dakota Access Pipeline protests and encampment in 2016, and in 2019 & 2020, I traveled to Lebanon and Chile in order to document their uprisings. I hope to continue this work and add more movements and voices to this website over time. The website contains the photographs and interviews from these uprisings as well as my documentation of the Free Palestine, Free Gaza movement in NYC in 2014, the NYC Black Lives Matter movement in 2014, and the 2020 Black Lives Matter autonomous zones in Seattle and NYC.

From everything that I’ve witnessed and experienced, I’ve come to believe that all of our grievances are connected and that there is much commonality around what kind of world we all desire to see. You can see that as you read through the voices from the different movements and as you view the messages they carry and display in the photographs. I believe at the core of all of our grievances is fear—fear of losing freedom, fear of not having enough, fear of being alone, fear of being overpowered, fear of change, fear of the unknown. Historically, I believe that fear manifested into a desire for power as a form of protection. No matter how many times we come together and oppose such authoritarian forces, they seem to reinvent themselves in new and creative ways, and it takes time for us to realize collectively that we are again faced with the same oppressive systems that we celebrated our victory from.

Part of why I believe this continues to happen is that we do not understand our connection and responsibility to each other and the natural world that we depend on for survival. I came to recognize the importance of drawing connections between the different movements and grievances. I believe it will help us to understand the importance of those connections for our collective wellbeing and survival and inspire us to build toward systems that are shaped around those connections, while accounting for both individual and collective needs, so that we can address the core of our grievances rather than continuing to fight the symptoms of it. I hope that people who experience these voices are able to see to the heart of these diverse and dedicated strangers and find inspiration in the beauty they perceive is possible. Their voices have certainly changed how I see and engage with the world.

Stacy Lanyon

photographer, activist, writer, poet, teacher and lifetime learner