About the project
This project is a response to the observation that BIPOC providers are underrepresented in the art, media, and reporting around the country's response to the COVID-19 epidemic.
A career in medicine is not easy—for many reasons—yet these women choose it. Many of them form the frontline response to the epidemic but yet we do not see their faces in the news, on billboards, or in art honoring both the sacrifices and contributions they make as medical professionals.
They kiss their own children goodbye...
...then show up for their patients.
These portraits are a way to say, "Thank you."
"Role model: a critical missing piece in my medical career development. May this series reach young women of color and lift their eyes and spirits and aspirations. The force of these unheralded women needs a voice. My admiration is best expressed visually so, I’m honoring as many as I can."
-Nancy Prendergast M.D.
When I saw the New Yorker cover with the female physician in full PPE video chatting with her family from work as her husband put their kids to bed, I was so touched. I felt like my role as a physician mother was validated and honored. Unfortunately, as more and more artists paid tribute to healthcare workers, images of women of color seemed to be lacking.
This project started as a simple request to a physician moms’ group for photos of Black, Brown, and other women of color that could be used for portraits. The response was tremendous. More than 150 women shared photos of themselves on the front lines, most wearing the personal protective equipment they don every day to prevent transmission of COVID-19.
Given the robust response, I put out a call out to my artist friends to see if anyone else wanted to do some portraits. Several signed up right away, and many recruited their artist friends, who recruited their friends, and so on. The artwork is being made by fellow doctors, a CPA, a librarian, and people from many other fields. Some are even professional artists! These creative souls are using their talents to recognize the amazing service these women on the front line provide."
-Sarah E. Rowan, M.D.
Infectious Diseases, Denver, CO
A poem by dr. Jean Robey
They say, “She is intense.”
And they mean to wear me down
Till I fit
In a notion.
Some of my sounds are muffled
My smile becomes only a chagrin within
My hard fought authority withers
I know why I am here
Even if constantly behind
Fit quietly into a notion written as a “How to be feminine”
Every line in between what is said
What is allowed
I push back against
I know why I
To operate a machine still running
To regard a pandemic coming for us all
A fire is burning
On two sides of a three ply
You think the mask is opportunity to hold me back
In my place
In my race, color, gender, or a presumed magnitude pronounced since the beginning of prejudice
A mandate championed over and over to have but one class
I trespass these decrees
Force now to exact my
You will see
Me bleeding out a capacity that does not ask permission
These chains that remain
This mask that suggests I will always submit to being ill defined
Merely accentuate my eyes piercing into your soul,
Knowing full well
I have power in my mind that is frightful
My soul has rights
I fight back
The ignorance that gave opportunity to lies
Over human existence
The virus comes for us
But I make viral
Escalating finally to the frank
Women are equals
Holding back nothing to be both vulnerable and resistant
To impartial truths
Like a virus
May 2020 cleanse persistent arguments
She, he, they
Maybe maybe maybe
I remain here
Mark my word
As I have always been
An asset to the constant fight against a threat
We are all humans
Being eaten alive by a universal threat
Behind the scenes
Meet the talented folx who have been behind the scenes bringing Women of Color on the Front Lines to life.
Sarah Rowan, MD is an infectious diseases specialist at Denver Public Health. She grew up in Oklahoma City and now lives in Denver with her partner, twin boys, and puppy dog, Archie Thatcher. Sarah takes advantage of community classes at the Art Students League of Denver whenever she gets a chance.
Nancy Prendergast, MD, was born in Jamaica and completed her undergraduate and medical training at Brown, followed by a radiology residency and musculoskeletal fellowship at NYU. She now lives and practices in Central New Jersey where she is also catching up on her artwork after several decades without it. She has taken classes at RISD and the Art Students League in NYC. Nancy created several portraits for the Women of Color on the Front Lines project.
Brailyn Dudley is a Human Resources professional in Denver, CO as well as a WOC contributor.
Dave Thatcher is the founder of Together Creative, a multimedia storytelling agency in Denver, CO. When not behind a camera they can be found lost in a book, teaching their new puppy to sit and enjoying sunshine. You can find more of Dave's work at togethercreative.media.
© 2020 by Women of Color on the Frontlines