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Celebrating the every-day heroes in our midst

by Josh Putnam

Celebrating the every-day heroes in our midst

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March 19, 2012

This piece was co-written with Kylie Akins


Sometime during our transition into adulthood, we were told that heroes are limited to childish fantasies and have little place in our hectic lives. Who decided, though, that heroes have to wear capes or have superpowers? 


With heroism on our minds and overwhelmed by the divisive messages we come in contact with on a daily basis, humanitarian photography nonprofit Silent Images took on a mission, asking the citizens of Charlotte to submit photos identifying local heroes within their community. 


We named the project, Silent Heroes and are seeking to transform the Queen City by changing the local conversation from racial division, political scandals and celebrity excess to a celebration of the unseen heroes living among us.  


These silent heroes are individuals giving their time, energy and talents to others without asking anything in return, such as the man who dedicates his summers to bussing underprivileged children or the young woman who spends her free time dumpster diving for the homeless.  As we enter into the new year and an upcoming presidential election, controversial issues may pit neighbor against neighbor. We hope to remind Charlotteans of the selfless acts surfacing throughout the city and envision an attainable call to heroism. 


Silent Heroes was birthed on the belief that Charlotte’s community is searching for something more than the conflict-ridden messages sprawled across billboards, headlines and news tickers. 


At the same time, our staff began hearing inspiring stories of everyday people who were making a difference in their communities. We had a hunch we were not the only ones aware of these inspiring acts and reached out to the members of the community, asking them to send photos and stories of their personal heroes to our website. Soon after, the Levine Museum of the New South invited Silent Images to display these community-contributed photos in a gallery from July to November 2012 during the Democratic National Convention.  


In October, the Silent Heroes project was honored to be announced among some of the most innovative and inspiring thinkers on the east coast at TEDx  where it was met with enthusiasm. Now, as the incredible stories of heroism currently taking place in Charlotte fill our inbox, we are increasingly aware that our team is not alone in its appreciation for the heroic acts in this city. Local individuals have responded by the dozens to our call for submissions, acknowledging and celebrating this community’s silent heroes.


Our staff was overjoyed by the response from Charlotte citizens and for the opportunity to display the photographs and share the stories of Charlotte’s finest, especially during such a pivotal time for the city.  


During the D.N.C., the nation’s eyes will be focused on our city.  While there is a time and place for conflict-related media, we believe the Silent Heroes project is an opportunity to share what makes Charlotte an amazing city. Instead of focusing on protests, rallies and lockouts, we would like to share the inspirational stories of Charlotteans who are driven to serve others in their daily lives.


Each hero of Charlotte may look different or have a diverse point of view.  However, they all have in common a unique passion to give back to their families, neighbors, communities and city. We are excited to share the story of the local teacher who spends her evenings tutoring to give students every opportunity to improve or the elementary student who started a club to pick up trash in her neighborhood. While an article about a global humanitarian hero may inspire us, it often strikes us as distant and unattainable. The next-door-neighbor serving in your community gives a clearer example of an everyday hero, not only inspiring us but also connecting with us. We believe local heroes will make this project relevant and inspire a unifying tone to the conversation of Charlotte. 


As we celebrate the selfless acts already occurring in Charlotte, we hope to inspire a call to action and remind citizens that you do not have to wear a cape to live heroically. And as we begin 2012, we continue to ask the citizens of Charlotte to share their stories with us. We are all inspired by others and witness heroic deeds every day; so pick up your camera and tell us about your Silent Hero.

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Tags: everyday heroes, silent heroes, nonprofit, photography, images, charlotte

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