ross oscar knight

press, Typical American Families, community dialogue

Mackey, Knight, MailChimp: A Beautiful Band of 'Misfits'

Friday, September 18th, 2015 

BEAUTIFUL IN EVERY SHADE Directors Carlton Mackey, Director of the Ethics & the Arts Program at the Emory University Center for Ethics, and Ross Oscar Knight, international photographer and photo-culturalist, presented to the employees of MailChimp at their Ponce City Market headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. While MailChimp is a corporate company, focused on email marketing services, CEO Ben Chestnut takes pride in the fact that his company is made up of “misfits” and has made it his mission to create a culture that celebrates difference and diversity within the workplace.

Chestnut met Mackey at Chestnut’s first meeting as a new member of the Emory Center for Ethics Advisory Board. At this meeting, Mackey presented his work on Typical American Families—a project that explores the beautiful spectrum of family and ways it crosses barriers of race, religion, ability, class, sexuality, and age. Chestnut invited Mackey to present to his company as part of the company’s “Coffee Hour” series, which invites “creative, interesting, thought-provoking, and downright weird people” to come to challenge the view’s of the employees and teach them something new. 

Just as several guest speakers before them, including Big Boi from Outkast and Ann Friedman, journalist and professional .GIF-master, Mackey and Knight challenged normative thinking through their presentation. Mackey and Knight brought the Typical American Families photo exhibit, shared stories from families that were part of the project, expressed their understanding of art and its role in social change, and communicated their overall philosophical approach to their work.

In my interview with Mackey, he linked the mission of the company with his work with Beautiful in Every Shade and Typical American Families, which, as he said, “celebrates the misfit and gives them an opportunity to affirm that identity.”

The presentation was widely received. People stressed the importance of Mackey and Knight’s work and the need to broaden the image pool of people seen and how they are seen. One person talked about how, even though evidence would show that diversity is all around him, when he stopped and thought about a ‘typical’ American family, the image that pops into his head is always a very normative one. He felt challenged by this realization.

Sure enough, Mackey and Knight achieved the mission of the Typical American Families project and pushed MailChimp employees to think about “What is typical? What is American? What is family?...and who gets to decide?” 

-Ashwini Krishnamurthy
Emory University Freshman and Ethics & the Art Program Intern

Typical American Families, press, news


Dear Supporters of Typical American Families,

We are thrilled to announce the reception and unveiling of our exhibit, Typical American Families –Atlanta,

winner of the 2014 One Region Atlanta IDEAS Challenge.

Please join Carlton Mackey and Ross Oscar Knight, as we celebrate you! 

Meet the families that participated in our photoshoots who represent the diversity of the American family.

You will hear stories and view how these Atlanta residents bridge faith and culture in our city. 

At this event, you'll gain insight into Mackey and Knight's inspiration for the project and get a behind the scenes glimpse of the making of this exhibit.  You’ll also be able to hear from the families themselves as they offer commentary on the experience of being part of this project and what they celebrate about their own families.

Typical American Families is one of four signature projects of BEAUTIFUL IN EVERY SHADE

The reception will begin at 6:30 pm on May 7th

at Emory University’s Center for Ethics

1531 Dickey Drive

Atlanta GA 30322

 Light hors d'oeuvres will be provided.


Please register to attend:


Contact Mika Pettigrew with questions.


50 Shades of Black, press

Amma Asante: Seeing Myself In Belle - Exclusive Interview (Part 2)

Belle Movie Director opens up about the connection of the film to her personal life, her bi-cultural identity, and why art is a power resource for inspiring positive social change in the world in exclusive interview with 50 Shades of Black Co-Director Ross Oscar Knight.

50 Shades of Black is committed to using the power of art and personal stories to explore the complex relationship between skin tone and sexuality in the formation of identity. Through collaborations with visual artists, scholars, and the general public, this project hopes to offer a deeper & more nuanced understanding the diverse spectrum of black identity. It is in the recognition of this diversity that 50 Shades of Black acknowledges the historical ways in which race and gender have been constructed and the role that and skin tone and sexuality play in shaping the way we engage the world, how we perceive beauty, and our own self-worth.
50 Shades of Black is one of four signature projects of the BEAUTIFUL IN EVERY SHADE™ Campaign -

50 Shades of Black

Exclusive Interview with Amma Asante: CNN Woman of the Year, Belle Movie Director (Part 1)

Amma Asante: 2014 CNN Woman of the Year and Director of Award Winning Film, Belle, sat down with 50 Shades of Black Co-Director Ross Oscar Knight to discuss her inspiration to create one of the highest grossing independent films of the year, why she cast Gugu Mbatha-Raw to play the leading role, and the film's connections to her own life. 

50 Shades of Black is a signature project of BEAUTIFUL IN EVERY SHADE

international initiatives

I AM A HUMAN BEING -an interview with a Romani Chief

Ludvik Levacic, born in 1951, grew up traveling with his family and a caravan of Gypsies throughout the seven states of former Yugoslavia. To earn money for food and necessities the family played instruments for coins and repaired everything from umbrellas to bikes. According to Levacic’s oral history, the Romani people migrated from northern India during the 9th century and have settled in countries from eastern Europe to the Americas. He recalls that his people have been persecuted in different parts of the world for several hundred years. They have endured slavery, the Holocaust, sterilization, discrimination and much more.

While touring villages on the outskirts of Slovenia, BEAUTIFUL IN EVERY SHADE Co-Director Ross Oscar Knight met Ludvik Levacic. He is the Romani chief of the Kamence Village.

Read Knight's complete reflection on his website.

news, press, signature apparel, international initiatives

T-Shirt Sparks Global Conversation

Emory University Center for Ethics reports on the International growth of BEAUTIFUL IN EVERY SHADE with KNIGHT's influence

Emory University Center for Ethics reports on the International growth of BEAUTIFUL IN EVERY SHADE with KNIGHT's influence

It began with a black T-shirt and a powerful phrase: “Beautiful in Every Shade”. The shirt is part of a grassroots empowerment campaign and international brand founded by Carlton Mackey, Director of the Ethics and the Arts Program here at the Center for Ethics. Knight has been actively involved in Beautiful in Every Shade since 2012 and works alongside Mackey as the project’s Director of International Initiatives.

His wearing the symbolic shirt while in Rwanda welcomed opportunities for thought-provoking dialogue on color complex discrimination and identity, a topic all too familiar to the African-American artist. Maja Ladić had been taking Knight on a tour of the Nyamirambo Women’s Center when their discussion first began. Ladić is a coordinator of various development projects like this local women’s center in Rwanda for the Mirovni inštitut (or Peace Institute).

by Kimberly Johnson


news, community dialogue

BEAUTIFUL IN EVERY SHADE Holds Diversity Conversation in Slovenia

WE ARE BEAUTIFUL - Knight poses with group after 2 hour diversity conversation in Sovenia's capital city.

WE ARE BEAUTIFUL - Knight poses with group after 2 hour diversity conversation in Sovenia's capital city.

Ross Oscar Knight, Director of International Initiatives for BEAUTIFUL IN EVERY SHADE just completed a 2 hour roundtable with a diverse group of intellectuals in the capital of Slovenia - Ljubljani.

The group discussed Shade-ism and what it means to them to be BEAUTIFUL IN EVERY SHADE.

"It was fascinating to hear their perspectives not only about Slovenia but also about Mali, Zimbabwe, Iran, Israel, Turkey, Italy, UK and more," Knight said.
Several statements really stood out during our recorded session:

  • "The first itme I saw a black person I was 14 years old. I took a picture of him and I put it on my wall. It is still on my wall."
  • "Slovenia is my motherland but I am more comforatble outside of it."
  • "My family taught me when I was younger that blackness is ugly."

 More to come about this developing story