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Thursday, March 6, 2014

International Women's Day: Miki Turner



(Photos from tomorrow by Miki Turner)
To pay homage to International Women's Day, which takes place every year on March 8,  I’d like to highlight multicultural female artists who are making a positive impact on humanity with their work.

First on the list is the award-winning photojournalist, Miki Turner. The African-American artist recently published her second photo book, tomorrow, which is filled with snapshots of children taken from around the world.


To bring tomorrow to life, Turner visited more than 10 countries over a course of several years and captured the images of young beaming faces. During her travels Turner realized that behind some of those smiles were children who were undereducated and undernourished. She figured it was time to step up to the plate. “I wanted to do something that would raise money and raise awareness about the plight of children in underdeveloped countries,” Turner explained to me during a phone interview from her Los Angeles home.


It was Turner’s first trip to Kenya that really pulled on her heart strings. In the early 2000s, she was traveling from Nairobi to Nanyuki with a group of people to visit a school in the bush.

“As soon as they saw the van, the kids started running after it and they tried grabbing our hands through the windows of the moving van,” Turner shared. “To this day it makes me really emotional because we were perfect strangers and I never seen kids react that way to strangers on a bus. It suggested to me that there was some type of yearning there.” Turner recalls that most of the children were barefoot and wore tattered uniforms, but the things she remembered most were the smiles. “All they did was smile. It was the first time that it occurred to me that even people in the most repressed areas, particularly Black African people, that their resolve is so strong even in settings we would deem unbearable. They are still smiling.”

The smiles and the acceptance of the villagers and children gave Turner a great deal of warmth. She made sure to make a connection with the headmaster of the school before returning back to the states. The children were in need of everyday schools supplies like pens, pencils and notebook paper. As soon as Turner landed back home she headed to the Costco Wholesale to bulk up on supplies to send back to the rural school in Nanyuki. Unfortunately, the care packages were held up at customs because the school had to pay taxes on the supplies. Two years later the packages were returned back to Turner because the school couldn’t afford to pay the taxes on the much needed supplies. 

Turner started to think of other ways to help these children of the future. “It just popped in my head when I did tomorrow,” said Turner. “This is what I can do to give back.”

The mission took some time to get off the ground but Turner had a breakthrough in January when she found an organization to partner with. She was introduced to Dr. Gudata Hinika, who is the head of the trauma unit at the University of Southern California and the founder of Ethiopia Health Aid – a non-profit health and education provider helping rural Ethiopia though sustainable initiatives.


(Cover of tomorrow by Miki Turner)
Turner learned that Dr. Hinika also had a book and he built a school back in his village in Ethiopia. After swapping books and taking notes Turner offered her help to assist Dr. Hinika with his organization. “Now the plan is to go with him in December 2014 to document the journey and also use the book for fundraising efforts,” said Turner noting that a portion of the proceeds from tomorrow will be donated to Ethiopia Health Aid. 

Tomorrow hit the shelves in December 2013 and readers have been receptive. “It’s been selling really well because people like kids and they like the photos,” said Turner. “It’s probably some of the best work I’ve done. … I realized that my calling is to be of service.”

Speaking with Miki Turner for this piece was motivating and inspiring. I'll be sure to share some of the other topics we discussed in future posts, including her take on the multiculutral art scene and where it's headed, and the lack of notable female photographers.

Until then, swing over to www.MikiTurnersTomorrow.com for a copy of tomorrow.
And to keep up with Miki Turner and her calling follow her on twitter @mikiturner

Do you know of any female artists answering her calling to serve through their work? Tweet me @TCsViews or e-mail me at astutestories@gmail.com

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