Through the end of November 2023, visitors can view the photography of Nedahness Rose Greene alongside KingDemetrius Pendleton’s work at his new place, Listen 2 Us Studio (3730 Chicago Ave.).
A member of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, Greene is best known for her photographs of Indigenous people, especially women. She has documented them in exquisite detail taking part in pow wows, participating in demonstrations, and in daily life – often wearing cultural attire. Her portraits have been featured in the New York Times, USA Today, People, Cosmopolitan and other national newspapers and magazines, and some of her images are part of a mural installation on the Springboard for the Arts building in St. Paul.
She draws meaning in her work from learning about her culture. Her father was half Native American and half African American, although she knows little about his side of the family. Her mother is Native American, and was raised by her grandparents who went through the boarding school system. Because their families were split up, they lost some of her grandmother’s side of the family.
“Diving into all of that and learning all of that helps me connect to my culture, to everything that was lost,” said Greene. “It also helps me learn and teach other people, including my children.”
Passionate about standing for justice and protecting the earth, Greene most often takes photos at rallies and other large events – as Pendleton says, she’s “boots on the ground.” She has photographed water protectors against the Line 3 pipeline. She witnessed a dozen women pull down the Christopher Columbus statue at the Minnesota State Capitol. She’s traveled to South Dakota, New Mexico, Mississippi, Louisiana, Washington D.C. – basically wherever she’s needed.
Touched by tragic loss herself, Greene began doing Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women photographs as a way of healing. The subjects are advocates, survivors and families who have been affected and often paint a red handprint across their mouth and face as a symbol of solidarity.
“We were never noticed before,” she said. “I believe a lot of my photos have made a difference with that.” According to Greene, one of her photos got 14,000 shares within 15 minutes of being posted on social media – in contrast to a couple dozen shares from a posting of the same missing person by the Bemidji Police Department. With assistance from Hennepin County Library, they created a QR code to provide information on advocates and available resources.
Greene came down to Minneapolis from Leech Lake during the 2020 Uprising and has been back 20 times or so to document George Floyd Square. Although seeing the video of George Floyd’s murder at the hands of Minneapolis police was heartbreaking, Greene felt that what happened needed to be seen; the fact that the world was at home with nothing to do during COVID-19 ensured that it was.
“It was just like, wake up everybody, it’s time for change, this is what’s happening. It’s happening everywhere, not just… here,” she said. She wanted to be in Minneapolis to document the moment for her young boys, in part because she fears for their lives growing up to be African American men. “I always figure images can be powerful and change lives and change minds and… create emotions, so that’s one reason I felt I needed to be here,” she said.
It is a selection of these images – Black men standing together in the Square, the headstones at Say Their Names Cemetery, a crowd during a rally – that are currently displayed on one of the walls inside Listen 2 Us Studio.
“To have my work that I’ve done here, it’s powerful. Because it happened here, and to be showcasing it right here, it means a lot,” she said.
Paying it forward
Pendleton, whose work was previously exhibited in Wing Young Huie’s studio on Chicago Ave., has now opened Listen 2 Us Studio in the space next door and is already paying it forward.
He, too, has experienced tragic loss. Nov. 3 was the 10-year angelversary of when his daughter Brandy Ann Banks Sutta lost her life to a drunk driver.
“When she was killed, they really didn’t say too much about her,” said Pendleton. “I went in front of politicians, I reached out to a lot of people, and a lot of people just basically, bluntly slammed the door in my face. Or, didn’t wanna talk about it.”
(According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 32 people in the United States are killed every day involving an alcohol-impaired driver. The Minnesota Department of Health reports that about 1 in 7 Minnesotans has at least one DWI. And Mothers Against Drunk Driving states that two out of three people will be impacted by drunk driving in their lifetime.)
Experiencing this created a paradigm shift for Pendleton. He chose to go back to school after 28 years to train in photography and earn a degree.
“I wanted to give a voice to the voiceless,” he said.
It’s humbling for Pendleton to showcase another photographer, something he feels lets him know how much he’s grown.
“This is about giving back, right? The only way we can keep what we have is by giving it away,” he said. “I wanna make sure that I’m able to give as many things away as possible, ‘cause I know I can’t take ‘em to the grave with me.”
The name of his space, Listen 2 Us (which opened Sept. 1), conveys that the work isn’t about Pendleton alone.
“I wanted it to be about ‘us’ because so many of us were out here documenting what was goin’ on in Minneapolis,” he said. Alluding to the saying, “If you wanna go fast, go alone. But if you wanna go far, go together,” Pendleton added, “I wanna go together with some people.”
While most of the time Greene photographs Black and Indigenous people, she will work with people of all backgrounds. She can be found at Nedahness.Greene on Facebook and nedahnessgreene on Instagram. Pendleton is at listenmedia.org