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Kimber Lanning Gathers Hundreds of Arizonans for SOS CONGRESS Photo This Weekend

As the state remains embroiled in a battle over immigration policy, the question emerges: What if you are against SB 1070, but in favor of Arizona's economy? Makes things awkward. 

Leave it to Kimber to find a solution. More than 700 Arizonans are expected to gather at the Heard Museum on Sunday, June 27, in a show of unity.

The event, organized by Stinkweeds owner Kimber Lanning, is designed to put hundreds of people shoulder-to-shoulder to spell out SOS CONGRESS. Everyone will be photographed from 12 stories above, and a series of portraits will also be taken.

Lanning stresses the event is not a protest in any way; the idea behind taking the photo is to show the rest of the nation that the immigration issue affects all of us, no matter which side of the issue we're on. We recently talked with Lanning about the "SOS CONGRESS" event, the image of Arizona as a racist state, and how to respond to a boycott.

As a longtime resident and independent business owner in Arizona, how do you think the threat of a boycott affects us?

It's not the threat of a boycott, it is a boycott...there's millions in lost revenue from tourism, lost revenue from businesses that decide not to move here, lost revenue from students who decide not to study here. We're already slow to recover from the recession, and transportation's being cut, library funding's being cut, everything's being cut. When people boycott us, that's more money kept out of the state. We need to keep our eye on the ball. If the entire ship - meaning the state - is going down, we can't stand on the deck slugging it out. We need to come together and find ways to solve our problems.

How did the idea for SOS CONGRESS come about?
I had a friend who was in L.A. for a Suns versus Lakers game. She and her husband starting chanting for the Suns, and everyone around them yelled "Go home, racists." I felt I had to do something. And another thing that inspired this event was Chuck D from Public Enemy, when he said, "Shame on everybody in Arizona who voted for this bill." But we never voted on SB 1070. That wasn't a voter-approved bill. That's the kind of misinformation we have to fight. Every day that goes by that nobody does anything is another day we're viewed as racists. Part of why I planned this is, as a state, I don't believe we have more than our fair share of extremists on either side. I believe we have more than our fair share of people who are ambiguous. What I'm trying to say with this photo is that this affects each and every one of us, and each one of us needs to help fix it.

Who will be taking the photograph?
I have five different photographers lined up, because we'll be doing portraits with groups of three, too. I have five photographers, six walkie-talkies, two videographers, and a bullhorn (laughs).

What do you plan to do with the photo?
The goal is to reach the national press, and to let our faces be seen. We're going to send it out to various media, and see how people react. I expect it to be very powerful.

The SOS CONGRESS photo opportunity takes place Sunday, June 27, at 8 a.m. in the Heard Museum parking lot, 2301 N. Central Avenue. Visit www.soscongress.org for more information.

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