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Danny Wilcox Frazier workshop spotlights ideological, lifestyle divisions in modern America


Ellyot Gryczewski, right, holds wife Karlie Gryczewski's face before kissing her. The couple has been together for four years. "I met her during archery class. I saw her signing 'the kid with the blue hair is cute' so I walked up and said 'so you think I'm cute?' and we've been together ever since."

In his fifth year of hosting a photojournalism workshop at Central Michigan University, award-winning photojournalist Danny Wilcox Frazier didn't have a topic in his mind, he had a theme — division.

“The work produced (throughout the) week is a response to the political and social division that has overtaken a nation,” Frazier said. “A deeper look is necessary to understand what has brought this country to where it stands.” 

Frazier has worked for publications such as National Geographic, The New Yorker and The New York Times.

This year, students were sent out across the state to tell the story of "A Nation Divided," the title of Frazier's CMU-based workshop. When the weeklong workshop concluded, students came back with stories covering various topics: gun control, the life of Iraqi refugees in Michigan, what it's like to be a transgender man, what it means to be a person in a small town.

The nine students presenting in the workshop included:

  • Josie Norris, Saint Charles junior
  • Emma Sydor, Farmington Hills senior
  • Josh Barnhart, Hudson senior
  • Mary Lewandowski, Dearborn Heights senior
  • Mackenzie Brockman, Colorado junior
  • Mikayla Carter,  Blissfield junior
  • Alison Zywicki, West Bloomfield Township senior
  • Sammy Madar, Saint Johns senior
  • Elizabeth Hosang, Lake Orion senior

Frazier said the dedication and passion he saw in students throughout the workshop assured him that their missions to foster a better understanding of those from different backgrounds is achievable. 

Under the assistance of photojournalism professor Kent Miller, the topics were presented Monday, Oct. 30 in Moore Hall, room 101. The following are a collection of some of the photo stories featured during the October presentation.

Emma Sydor: Refugees in Michigan

Farmington Hills senior

In 2016, Michigan resettled 1,300 refugees from Iraq.

Among them was the Al-Dulaimi family. 

Arriving in America eleven months ago, the family of seven settled in Grand Rapids and in their short time in America, the family has developed a strong community with other refugee families.

Ammar Al-Dulaimi refers to their community as his “family in America.” The families help each other adjust to life in America and provide support for each other with everything from helping each other to learn how to read English, paying bills and finding employment. It’s not all hard work though: the Al-Dulamimis and their “family in America” also frequently get together to celebrate holidays and help the younger members of their communities and families with schoolwork. 

Their found family is made up of a number of other refugee families who have been in America for a range from nine months to as long as 12 years.

Allison Zywicki: Racial reconciliation in Detroit

West Bloomfield Township senior

Mack Avenue Community Church in East Detroit is a staple in the community. MACC, located on the corner of Mack Avenue and Harding Street, works to foster racial reconciliation "block by block, neighbor by neighbor." 

The church is led by Executive Pastor and Pastor of Community Development Leon Stevenson and Lead Pastor Eric Russ. They are also assisted by a group of church elders and a Director of Operations. MACC lists their vision as "seeing communities transformed both spiritually and physically starting with our own." 

MACC also hosts five ministries including outReach Detroit, MACC Groups, MACC Development, MACC Youth and MACC Kids. On the organization's website, outReach Detroit is described as “an expression of Christian — followers of Jesus Christ — servants caring for others with intentionality so that those who live in the city of Detroit may experience true life."

MACC works to build opportunities for children, church members and the community to grow individually, spiritually and physically.

Josh Barnhart: Armed Nation

Hudson senior

Guns are a major part of American life. It’s estimated there are 270 million to 310 million guns in the United States.

For some, guns are a hobby. For others, guns are a way of life.

Blissfield resident Bruce Carter is an advocate for firearm safety. He owns a number of guns for protection, hunting and target practice.

Dansville resident Timothy Keepers is a regular hunter who frequently visits shooting ranges to zero-in his scope.

Dave Haynes, the owner of Showtime Guns & Ammo in Mount Pleasant, recently came across a M249 light machines gun which was ordered online by one of his customers. U.S. law dictates a person can’t buy a gun online and have it shipped to their home, instead having the buyer pick up the weapon at a gun store.

They all believe the danger of a gun rests in the hands of the person holding it and that gun users in America are one of the most misunderstood subcultures in the nation.

Mary Lewandowski: Life as a transgender man

Dearborn Heights senior

Since he was four, Ellyot Gryczewski knew he wanted to be a boy. Two years ago, he took the steps to begin his transition and now the Perrysburg, Ohio graduate student is living life as an openly transgender man.

It was only when he got to college, did Gryczewski decide to start his journey. Once a week he takes a testosterone shot and will have to for the majority of his life in order to regulate his hormones and increase testosterone levels in his body. Gryczewski has recently gotten married to wife Karlie Penn, and is now a father to their daughter, Rien. 

In the future, Gryczewski hopes to open a home for people in the LGBTQ community to live, who have been kicked out of their homes by guardians or family members.

Elizabeth Hosang: Small Town USA

Lake Orion senior

About 30 miles southwest of Mount Pleasant lies the farm town of Six Lakes, which has a population of approximately 2,000 people. 

Residents in this small community have developed close friendships. No place demonstrates this more clearly than the Flat River Saloon, where almost everyone knows each other by name. 

The political divisions that have become prominent since the 2016 Election are alive and well in Six Lakes. But while people may disagree, they're always willing to share their opinions and engage in healthy debates.


About Jordyn Hermani

Troy senior Jordyn Hermani, Editor-in-Chief of Central Michigan Life, is a double major ...

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