Hundreds of people gathered for a Ferguson rally in Portland on November 25. People attended the rally for their voices to be heard, but 12-year-old Devonte Hart and Portland Police Sgt. Bret Barnhum shared a moment that went beyond words— a hug.
Portland freelance photographer Johnny Nguyen, 20, captured this moment.
Nguyen said he first saw Hart hugging another man, not Sgt. Barnhum. “I thought, ‘What a powerful image: A white American man hugging a young black American boy,’” he said. “[So] I started taking pictures of that.”
Later in the rally Hart turned toward Nguyen. “Tears were running down his face and I saw that he had a sign around his neck that said, ‘”Free hugs,’” Nguyen said.
Nguyen talked to Hart for a little while. “I asked him if he knew why it’s going on,” Nguyen said. “He said ‘yes.’ I asked him if he thought it was good or bad. He didn’t say anything. He kept crying, so I gave him a hug.”
After the hug Nguyen decided to give Hart some space, so he walked about 10 feet down the sidewalk. “But my gut kept telling me to stay there for a little while, Nguyen said. “The next time I looked over [at Hart], Sgt. Barnum was talking to him.”
Sgt. Barnum saw Hart’s sign and motioned for him to come toward him. Sgt. Barnum said they had a brief conversation about school and life, and then he pointed to Hart’s sign and asked if he was getting one of those. Hart embraced the officer as his eyes swelled with tears.
Nguyen said this photo has resonated with so many because it depicts something other Ferguson rally photos have not — hope.
“The [rally] images have depicted violence, anguish and anger,” Nguyen said. “But this one showed humanity, hope and positivity. I think, deep down, that’s how every human being wants it to be. That’s what people want to see…The photo shows there is humanity left — there is hope.”