Breaking Barriers of Race
PHOTOGRAPHY BY TAILYR IRVINE
I grew up in western Montana on the Flathead Indian Reservation. The way I was raised shaped who I am and the work I do as a photojournalist, as the home I know exists in sharp contrast with how it’s often represented in the mainstream media. Native American history and stories have been documented by outsiders since this country’s inception. I’ve seen the damage this storytelling has inflicted on Native America and how outside perspectives have shaped how my community is perceived by the rest of the world. This is why I became a photojournalist. It’s my hope that my work will be a tool to educate and help dismantle stereotypes for underrepresented communities. – Tailyr Irvine
Judith Heilman, Executive Director
The Montana Racial Equity Project
Judith Heilman is a former Palo Alto, California, police officer and now the founder and executive director of the Montana Racial Equity Project based in Bozeman, Montana. MTREP is a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization advocating equity and justice for historically marginalized, disenfranchised and oppressed peoples in Montana.
They educate, train and activate organizers, individuals, groups, organizations, institutions and businesses to invest in interrupting racism, bigotry and prejudice. Following the death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, MTREP along with Montana State University’s Black Student Union organized a rally in solidarity for racial equity in Bozeman’s Bogert Park, with roughly 2,000 people in attendance. Learn more at themtrep.org
Alex Kim, Racial Justice Engagement Specialist
EmpowerMT and YWCA of Missoula
Alex Kim is the joint racial justice engagement specialist for EmpowerMT and the YWCA of Missoula, Montana, working to build anti-racism initiatives for organizations and within the community. He has worked for the University of Montana college radio station performing community outreach, and for Backcountry Hunters and Anglers leading diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. Kim’s commitment to racial justice work is rooted in celebrating our differences, elevating BIPOC voices, educating the community, and building compassion and empathy for one another.
EmpowerMT is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that began in 1998 as a volunteer-run chapter of the National Coalition Building Institute at the University of Montana. To accomplish its mission, EmpowerMT has developed a leadership development program and comprehensive course curriculum to reduce prejudice, prevent violence and resolve conflict. Since they began, over 50,000 participants have received support and leadership development, learned skills to interrupt oppression, prevent violence, and resolve conflict, and developed strategies for building just systems.
Learn more at empowermt.org
Gerald Gray, Chairman
Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians of Montana
Gerald Gray is currently in his second term as chairman of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians of Montana. Chairman Gray led his tribe’s effort to restore its federal recognition, which they have sought since the 1930s. In December 2019, the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians became the 574th federally recognized tribe in the United States. On January 25, 2020, tribal citizens celebrated their victory in Great Falls, Montana, and remembered those who helped pave the way.
Gray was Senator Jon Tester’s guest of honor at President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address on Feb. 4, 2020. “He is a relentless advocate for his people who built strong coalitions but wasn’t shy about putting the screws to me and the rest of the delegation when he needed to,” Tester told the Great Falls Tribune. “Because of his leadership, federal recognition is a battle the next generation won’t have to fight.”
Tailyr Irvine, is a Salish and Kootenai photojournalist born and raised on the Flathead Indian Reservation in western Montana. Her work focuses on providing in- depth representations of the lives and complex issues within the diverse communities that make up Native America.