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Staff photo by Wyatt Massey / Salwa Ibrahim stands with her 11-month-old son Mousa in Riverpoint Park on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, while Brooke Bragger takes their picture. The family portrait day was hosted by the Chattanooga chapter of the Trust of Public Land.

Chattanooga-area families gathered in Riverpoint Park on Saturday to pose for a series of family portraits. But the photos were about more than just getting a nice picture.

The Chattanooga branch of the Trust for Public Land hosted the event alongside Bridge Refugee Services. The idea was to help local refugee families explore local parks they might not be familiar with, as well as build visibility for communities of color in public spaces.

Daniela Peterson, senior advisor for community strategies at the Trust for Public Land in Chattanooga, said the picture captures an important memory while also helping families feel ownership of the parks around them.

"When we think about the outdoors, we normally think about white people doing more competitive things, rather than it being a place for families to hang out and do family things," Peterson said.

Families who came to the park Saturday received a bag of picnic snacks and other recreation items donated by REI.

The event was part of a series of similar events in Chattanooga put on by the Trust for Public Land. The group has previously hosted similar photography events at White Oak Park and East Lake Park. The trust is planning to produce an exhibition with all of the photos sometime next year.

Salwa Ibrahim, who moved to Chattanooga about five years ago from Kenya, stood in the shade with her son Mousa for a picture. She said she enjoys helping other recently arrived families navigate the city and often cooks for them.

Another motivation for doing the family portraits is because such photographs can be expensive, creating barriers for some families to have those memories, Peterson said.

This was a motivating factor for Brooke Bragger, a local photographer who specializes in family portraits and community photography, to get involved.

"A lot of my work is doing family photography," Bragger said. "I don't want it to be a luxury item."

The event being held on the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks was not lost on Marina Peshterianu, associate director of Bridge Refugee Services. What occurred two decades ago was an attempt to divide the nation, she said.

"This is our answer to the terrible events that happened," Peshterianu said. "We still stay who we were, with diversity and inclusion."

Contact Wyatt Massey at wmassey@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6249. Follow him on Twitter @news4mass.

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