Over the past few months, Ria Rueda has been involved in 2 local social justice initiatives: Westport Pride, and the Asian American/Pacific Islander rally on Jesup Green.
A marketing manager, brand builder, event planner, community creator and digital storyteller, she says:
“My daughter is biracial. We have queer friends, international friends, and friends in all shapes and sizes and from different socio-economic backgrounds.
“When we moved to Connecticut from Los Angeles, it was very important to her father and me to raise her to embrace true diversity. Our country was founded and built by immigrants from various places, with various perspectives and ideas, which make us unique and special.
“As children, one of the first things we’re taught about our country’s history is ‘America is a melting pot.’ It’s explained to us that people came here from all over the world in search of a better life, and that our diversity sets us apart from other nations.
“In many ways that makes my daughter a visual and cultural representation of this country.”
With her keen eye for visuals — and many friends in the arts — Ria thought of on an intriguing (and eye-catching) project. Westport photographer Jerri Graham and art director Katie Conte brought her idea to life.
#CTUnitesTogether is a social media photo campaign. Initially created to build upon the Stop AAPI Hate movement, it has evolved into photographing the faces of all types of diversity in Connecticut.
A wide variety of races, gender identities, socio-economic statuses, ages, disabilities, sexual orientations, cultures and more are featured.
The photos are displayed via social media (@thebuzzct), on personal accounts, and community accounts like @aapiwestport.
“More than mere representation, diversity also requires showing individuals as humans first — rather than a representation of a group,” Ria says. “That is, recognizing difference without implying that anyone is superior or inferior to anyone else.”
Ria hopes #CTUnitesTogether educates and inspires people to embrace diversity, culture and equality within communities, families and individuals across Connecticut, and beyond.
She wants to “reinforce and educate others to have an empathetic connection to diverse groups. Ideally, I hope we nurture empathy and begin to break the cycle of intolerance so the children of our future can grow up in a world where tolerance, not hate, is the tie that binds.”
Ria will host a #CTUnitesTogether gallery showing with all of the photos next spring or summer.
The next photo shoot is in September. For more information, email Ria Rueda via Instagram: @thebuzzct.