Something new is happening at Ground Zero in Manhattan, and unlike so much else there, it’s cause to celebrate. Just after September 11, 2001, when terror struck New York, my friend Danny Goldfield was on a road trip through America, and found himself in a gas station in Arizona. There he met a Sikh man whose brother, just after the 9/11 attacks, had been murdered, presumably for looking different, for not looking “American” enough.
It’s then that Danny came up with this project, to picture America through the eyes of New York. What he found was global diversity. He spent from then until now photographing one child from every country in the world, currently living in New York City. The project, called NYChildren, has captured 171 countries through 171 children. Danny set out to picture the face of New York. In so doing, he’s captured the world.
Today, Danny and many others are working to get these photos (featured in LIFE Magazine, FOX News, MSNBC, and a host of other venues) into an exhibition space that means more than any other. NYChildren would be the inaugural exhibition at Park51, lambasted by protesters and xenophobes as the Ground Zero Mosque. Park51 is a community center that will open its doors—to all people—in a place where community-building is needed most. What better way to celebrate the International Day of Peace, 10 years and 10 days after 9/11, than to say that these children, together, are the new face of New York, and of the global future? A child from every country of the world is right there, and thriving, now.
Writing this from Johannesburg—where I’m currently based—what used to be platitudes about “future generations” take on special meaning. Here, 17 years mark the transformation of individuals from “human rights case files” under Apartheid to citizens, The walk past Ground Zero used to be my morning commute to work at the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. We too worked for global understanding, and while every day at my office my “work product” entailed photos of children scampering over tanks as playgrounds, and mothers holding tightly to malnourished babies swaddled in feeding tubes, there were other pictures I saw. The crowds I passed through on that walk to work eagerly purchased from hawkers pictures of the jumpers, of the crushing quickness with which the Towers fell, buying mayhem as another souvenir to come home alongside I heart NY t-shirts and Empire baubles.
What they gape at was a glimpse into New York’s tragedy, and what Danny is offering is a glimpse into the world’s future. That belongs not just to New York, but to every country from which these littlest New Yorkers hail. (All of them.) A true monument to globalization is the notion that all children are messy with spaghetti noodles, like to put things like buckets and plastic snakes on their heads, and like to chase birds. All children laugh.
As a former NYChildren intern and current backer, I ask you to support this project by because I love these pictures of New York. I love that they represent that everyone can be at home here, and is always welcome, to come, and enjoy the right to walk with their heads high. The world comes to New York because there is possibility, I ask you to make it a possibility that New York might share this with the world.
Do you agree with me that this is worth being a part of? We only have 20 days to make this a reality!
Become a backer on kickstarter, and your purchase of gorgeous (discounted) photos, books, and more from NYChildren (not a charity) can bring this global project alive!