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Breaking Barriers logo


Through Our lens


Through Our Lens Home
Leslie Elsasser - Introduction
Selina Roman - Looking Inward, Seeing Clearer
Christian Cortes

Beginning (Section A)
Jarrett Gafford - US Air Force
Dawn S. Hargrett - US Navy
Rebekka Huneke - Daughter of US Air Force Veteran Father
Ramonita Rosa - US Army
Kimberlee Nicole Smith - US Army
Monika Sutton - Wife of US Army Veteran
Karl Young II - US Army Colonel (US Special Operations Command)

Advanced (Section B)
James Alexander - US Air Force
Manfredo Bobadilla - US Army
Wildalys Class - US Air Force
Agustin Collazo Jr. - US Marine Corps / US Navy
Amanda Dodd - US Army
Evan Fountain - US Air Force
Mikko Maki - US Marine Corps
Alicia Morales - US Army
RaeAnne Swanson - US Air Force


Kimberlee Nicole Smith, Expression of Freedom, 2022.

Kimberlee Nicole Smith, Expression of Freedom, 2022.


Expression of Freedom

Standing on the land that had the largest slave port and where the most enslaved Africans passed through the city; human beings were sold, disvalued, and treated as goods in this place. Now tourists can come to a marketplace on this land to buy Ankara fabric from an African seamstress. Duplicity and an internal awakening unfold.

Expression of Freedom depicts the story of my husband’s journey of liberated healing. His decision to wear his hair as an external expression of his freedom after more than 20 years working as a K-12 educator is an exercise of his own freedom. Whether worn naturally or in braids, he is free to wear his hair in whichever way he pleases. He is free from the bureaucracy of the school system and the societal regulation of his appearance as a black male educator. The space created allows him to be on his journey of healing and reconnecting with the person he has become without the oversight of a system that was not created to serve people who look like him.

Braids and afros are a part of the story of the people of the African diaspora. While once braids were worn by women on the Continent as a symbol of beauty, they became a tool of survival during enslavement. Today, Black people have reclaimed ownership of their hair as recognition of their cultural roots, definition of beauty and a statement of solidarity. The afro joins braids as a convicted statement of freedom to BE who you are even in the shadows of oppression.

My husband’s expression of freedom is built upon the foundation of those before him, and carried on into the future.



Kimberlee Nicole Smith, The Freedom of Being, 2022.

Kimberlee Nicole Smith, The Freedom of Being, 2022.

Kimberlee Nicole Smith, Duplicity, 2022.

Kimberlee Nicole Smith, Duplicity, 2022.



For more information:
Email Leslie Elsasser at

Breaking Barriers is a project by USFCAM in collaboration with the USF School of Art and Art History, with Support from the USF Office of Veterans Success, Community Arts Impact Grant Program of the Arts Council of Hillsborough County, Love IV Lawrence 2020 Waves of Change Grant, and additional support from the ACE Arts for Community Engagement Fund and the Florida Department of State.