Plan for a new city from New Work New Culture




Near my house, West Side, vicinity of Grand River and Wyoming Avenues, early morning


Rasmea Odeh, tried and convicted in Detroit for a fraudelent citizenship application

A wrap up of 3 weeks in Detroit, searching for those seeds. November 4 thru 26, 2014.

Despite the catastrophic conditions in Detroit and the possible impending failure of the bankruptcy agreement, I detected in myself and in others in Detroit a nearly jubilant spirit. Maybe equivalent to gallows’ humor, but tangible nonetheless.


MGM Grand Casino

A casino and hotel.

Motor City hotel and casino

Of course this feeling of joy and hope depended on where I was. Downtown—no problem, eat chicken shuwarma at Mike’s Kabob Grille, or stroll thru the MGM Grand Casino wondering if I could hit it big. Or Midtown, AKA Cass Corridor—snacking at the Cass Café or Avalon Bakery, pumping up my bike tires at the Hub of Detroit and Back Alley Bikes, or lugging my bike over the new light rail tracks along Woodward. Or the East Side—bicycling the many streets empty of homes, or examining the burned-to-near-annihilation Heidelberg Project, or stepping in open bags of shit while photographing a recently burned and leveled house near the Boggs School. Or my neighborhood in northwest Detroit, near Wyoming and Grand River—some vacant lots, many liquor stores, a rapidly expanding Grand Price supermarket owned by Arabs who probably live in Dearborn. Or further northwest in Brightmoor—said to be a district under renovation but to my eyes nearly as desolate as the emptiest regions of the city. Or Dearborn itself with its mix of Arab-Muslims, Arab-Christians, Christians and many others, and its plethora of bakeries, restaurants, and supermarkets. Each region with a different feel, different history, perhaps different destiny.



Slow Roll, group bicycle ride


Back Alley Bikes, Midtown


Detroit’s East Side

Down the street, Washburn near Wyoming and Grand River Ave, where I stay

One block from my house

Shrine to someone murdered in Brightmoor

Brightmoor, shrine to someone murdered

As I wandered these varied Detroit landscapes and cultures I searched for the seeds of the new Detroit miracle: Detroit Down and Up, where and what are those seeds? Using my two cameras as tools, I made 2,180 images, requiring 31.9 GB of memory. Roughly 100 per day, equivalent during film days to about 3 rolls.


Here are a few:

New work new culture, a movement for meaningful work rather than just a job and a culture based in love and respect rather than competition and obsession with money, in short, the Beloved Community of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The movement organized a conference in October 2014 which drew more than 300 people from across the country; so surprising that they temporarily ran out of food. The movement is based on the thinking of Frithjof Bergman, an Austrian philosopher who taught for many years at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. The James and Grace Lee Center to Foster Community Leadership spawned it. I attended several of its meetings and celebrations and heard directly from an excited conference participant who happens to be the sister of my son-in-law, Phil.


Frithjof Bergman


Kim Sherobbi


Planning meeting for New Work New Culture

Grass roots activism generally which includes urban agriculture (Detroit may be among the leaders); opposition to the bankruptcy settlement which many believe favors the financial and corporate industries; opposition also to large-scale development putting dollars before people; Detroit Summer based on Freedom Summer of 1965 in the south, a project spawned by the Boggs Center which continues to bring young people to the city to build morale and leadership and contribute to the community; and several remarkable schools amidst a generally debilitated school system.


Recycle Now, established by a grass roots movement, now with city support


Reverend Ed Pinkney, convicted of petition fraud in a campaign to recall the mayor of Benton Harbor, accused of siding with local corporations rather than the citizens


At a support meeting for Rev. Pinkney


Detroit Friends School


Detroit Friends School


Boggs School

Boggs School Schiel 2014_IMG_9309

Boggs School, observation of the neighborhood


Grace Lee Boggs with students of the school (photo courtesy of the internet)

Big money-driven development such as emanates from the billions of dollars invested by the mogul CEO of Quicken Loans, Dan Gilbert, and the founders of the Little Caesars Pizza chain, Mike and Marian Illitch. The Illitch’s also own the Detroit Red Wings hockey team, Detroit Tigers baseball team, and Motor City Casino. The combined net worth of these Big Three is $8.1 billion. Gilbert has exploited cheap downtown real estate, and the Illitch’s clear land and will build a sports stadium. Also the automobile industry; some feel Detroit may become the Silicon Valley of the Midwest because of high-tech automobiles.


Light rail project along Woodward Ave in Midtown,
AKA, Cass Corridor

The hipster movement has come to Detroit, largely the downtown and Midtown areas. Consisting mostly of young people, in their 20’s and 30’s, they are also called the “creatives” because of their new ideas. Broadly speaking, Hipsters are young, well-educated, energetic, politically apathetic, bring more resources than most current residents have, and most importantly they transform—gentrify—the character of the neighborhoods they reside in. I’ve heard local Detroiters derisively refer to them as Outliers or New Hipsters. I wonder myself as I pedal thru my Black neighborhood on my fancy folding bike whether I’m suspected to be one of those, at least to be shunned, if not attacked.


My folding bike

Contrary to my worries, so far I’ve been roundly greeted with waves, smiles, friendly questions, and for a few neighbors near my house, invited in for food and conviviality.

Artists, often part of the hipster movement, thrive here as they do in Brooklyn and some other cities like Chicago and Boston. These folks paint murals, not only downtown and in Midtown, centers of White culture, but in Mexican Town, honoring the indigenous ancestors. With a friend last spring, Colin, we discovered an arts center in an abandoned police station, the artists using the cells for studios and shops.


Mexican Town (click image for enlargement)

Along the Grand River Corrdor

Grand River Arts Corridor

Urban agriculture spreads; Detroit, one-third vacant, offers much land for this form of development. Dating back to 1893 during a depression, mayor Hazen S Pingree wisely encouraged Detroit citizens to grow vegetables in unused plots—Pingree’s Potato Patches. Unfortunately because I was in Detroit in late autumn, well past the growing and harvesting seasons, I found little agriculture to investigate and photograph.

Urban agriculture near New Center

Put to bed for the winter


Investors have also discovered Detroit, a preponderance from China. As of June 2014 the China Daily reports that “a total of $1.1 billion from China has been invested in Michigan since 2000, the vast majority of it in the automotive and aviation industries, according to a January 2014 report by the Rhodium Group. From 2000 to 2008, Michigan received $232 million from Chinese investments. By 2010 that total rose to $714 million.”

In addition the China Daily also claimed that “according to the National Association of Realtors, Chinese spent $8.2 billion on US property in 2012, generating approximately $492 million in commissions for US Real Estate Agents that year. Preferred destinations for the Chinese throughout the US include New York, Los Angeles, Detroit and San Diego.”

Renovation along the route

 Along Woodward Ave, Midtown


As I search for the seeds of the new Detroit miracle I also investigate exceptions to expectations about power dynamics. There are three primary power sources: Big Money with cash to transform reality, Grass Roots with people to transform reality, and Hipsters with ideas to transform reality. Big Money has the resources to eradicate blight; it might also foster wealth and income disparity. Leaders arise from the Grass Roots and may become corrupt, as was allegedly the case of a former Black mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick, currently serving a 28-year prison sentence. (He recently lodged an appeal.) Hipsters can tune to their neighborhood, and like many in the congregation of Bill Wylie-Kellerman, pastor of St Peter’s Episcopal church in the gentrifying neighborhood of Corktown, they may open a soup kitchen, host meetings of community activists, and risk arrest for political actions.

Colin Connaire, a police officer in the nearby suburb of Grosse Pointe Park, formerly served with the Detroit police force. On two different trips he toured me to sites in both cities he’s had contact with, telling me stories and inspiring my photography. The police station series we toured and I photographed last spring is one example, and most recently the beginning of a series about private security in an upscale Detroit neighborhood called Palmer Woods is another. We looked at several crimes sites in his own city, as well as that city’s attempt to curtail access from Detroit.

Scene of a crime in Detroit that Colin responded to when on the force

Colin Connaire at the scene of a crime that occured during his days on patrol in Detroit


I experienced an unexpected confluence of my two major photographic themes, Detroit and Palestine-Israel: the trial, conviction, and jailing of Rasmea Odeh, a Palestinian activist serving her community in Chicago. I attended most of the trial and rallies outside the federal courthouse, as well as attempting to visit her in the Port Huron county jail, as she waits sentencing in March 2015.


The jury convicted her for a fraudulent application for citizenship. Judge Drain prohibited her defence attorneys from arguing that alleged Israeli torture and rape elicited a false confession and subsequent imprisonment for her alleged bomber operation in 1969—influencing her current conviction. The trial was in Detroit because this is where she first settled and applied for citizenship. Many feel she has been attacked by the FBI and Homeland Security—the intelligence apparatus generally in this country—because of her support for Palestinian rights and Arab-American women generally. In Chicago she has been in the forefront of encouraging Arab-Muslim women to fight for their rights not only as human beings but as women. This counters two cultures, an Arab-Muslim sexist one, and another denying voice and rights to Arab-Muslims.

Convicted of one count of Unlawful Procurement of Naturalization, she plans to appeal. Until recently she languished in the Port Huron county jail, in solitude for many days, with health and dental problems, no visitors and no letters. After an international campaign, Judge Drain finally granted release on bail and so, assuming her community can raise the needed $50,000, she can return to her family and community in Chicago until sentencing.

Rasmea Odeh

Rasmea Odeh during her trial


The book, The Origins of the Urban Crisis, Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit, by Thomas J. Sugrue is a seminal analysis of Detroit. Altho published in 1996, I found its history and general insights about Detroit’s problems useful in leading me to sites, people, and ideas I can photograph. In the summer of 2010 I attended the US Social Forum, perfectly located in Detroit. I attended workshops and a tour (led by Rich Feldman who offered an excellent introduction to the city and its history and struggles and has provided invaluable leads), remained in Detroit an extra week, explored the refinery district, learned Marathon was upgrading to process the highly toxic and polluting tar sands oil from Alberta Canada, and immediately visualized the water body I’d grown up near in Chicago, Lake Michigan, flooded with oil from a major pipeline or tanker spill. That same year, heavy crude oil leaked from an Enbridge pipe into the Kalamazoo River in July, and in April the Deepwater Horizons oil rig operated for British Petroleum exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, both desecrating vast swaths of earth. Marathon and tar sands oil helped inspire my Detroit project.



While in Detroit, thanks to Karen, a very generous and compassionate woman living in Ann Arbor Michigan, I stay in her unoccupied but fully maintained house near Wyoming and Grand River avenues, in a reasonably intact black neighborhood. Living there for nearly of 2 months each year since 2010 I’ve gotten to know some of the neighbors such as Gloria across the street and Johnny next door. For the first 3 days of my recent trip I had no water. Johnny provided facilities, fed me dinner, and we watched a boxing movie together on his enormous flat screen TV. Later at his urging I photographed him in his Civil War Buffalo Soldier uniform. Gloria lets me use her Internet connection, at times feeds me breakfast, and several years ago arranged for me to make portraits of other neighbors. With his gun Johnny claims he will run off neighborhood criminals, and Gloria watches the house when no one lives there.





School nearby—every other morning I circumambulate its grounds






I’m convinced a new spirit permeates Detroit, a mix of forces embodying new ideas, energy, cash, and will. Perhaps Detroit will resume its status as the Paris of the Midwest, or become the Bicycle Capital of the United States, or the Urban Agriculture Model for the world.

Or sink into oblivion, harbinger of failed post-industrial American cities. Or forced to bend its knee to massive corporate power as seems to have happened to much of post-Katrina New Orleans.

Detroit Down and Up. Searching for the Seeds of the New Detroit miracle (or Bust). I plan to return next summer during the growing season.



Speramus Meliora; Resurget Cineribus
(Latin: We Hope For Better Things; It Shall Rise From the Ashes)



“Detroit by Air,” Photographs by Alex S. MacLean

“Six grueling demographic indicators of Detroit’s decline (and some pictures)” by Philip N. Cohen (December 2014)

“Detroit Pushes Back With Young Muscles”
An influx of young creative types is turning Detroit into a Midwestern TriBeCa. by Jennifer Conlin (2011)

“Detroit Urban Agriculture Movement Looks to Reclaim Motor City” on Democracy Now (2010)

“Detroit Doesn’t Need Hipsters To Survive, It Needs Black People” by Ashley Woods (2014)

“Detroit Rink City: Ilitches’ grand plan to supersize the entertainment district” by Bill Shea (2014)
A gargantuan 3-year plan: 5 new neighborhoods, a $450 million hockey arena and an accelerated timeline to complete it all

“Judge orders Palestinian American Rasmea Odeh freed on bond” by Ali Abunimah (December 8, 2014)

My blog about attending the trial of Rasmea Odeh




Excerpts from my journal

November 10, 2014, Monday, Detroit 

Cool, upper 30s, 80% cloudy with altocumulus, calm. 

Yesterday, Sunday [November 9, 2014], a day departing from my more usual Detroit days: attend Detroit Friends Meeting in the morning where I met a few people like Peter and Mike who provided photographic leads (later Peter very kindly toured around many parts of Detroit I’d not previously visited and Mike offered me possible use of an extra car), a discussion after meeting with a young woman and man who are part of the Friends of Jesus Quaker group, and generally a chance to exercise my tribal tendencies by linking with local Quakers and discover a home away from home.


Photo courtesy of Detroit Friends Meeting

Since the meeting site is, you might say, inner city, near the river, (West Fort St and Livernois Ave), in an industrial zone (and they hope to keep the meeting located in such a site, after they’ve been forced to move by new bridge construction), by bike I cruised the area and acceded to my strong desire to photograph industrial landscapes. Plenty of them here: a former commercial harbor area, now mostly abandoned; a building with all its window frames scrapped; a mysterious industrial structure about 4 stories tall; a long warehouse without variation; a tall wide building missing all its windows; each structure an icon of Detroit, each a source of beauty—and potential. This was my first experience on this particular trip of free wheeling, spontaneous photography, the type I love to practice best. From Old Fort Wayne to under the international but privately owned bridge.




Then thru Mexican Town thinking I might devour a steaming burrito in a small restaurant or café. Nothing. Only one large restaurant which probably had waiters and table cloths and whose burritos might be too expensive for my budget and needs. I found some new construction, small houses, ticky-tacky type, but housing none the less, perhaps in a neighborhood convenient to downtown and possible jobs. Also some gorgeous murals. One I made a panoramic photo of, a testimonial to indigenous people.


Home finally in the late afternoon, hungry, I feasted on my fish-chicken-lentil combo, beer, coffee, Arabic sweets, and accessories such as stuffed grape leaves from my favorite Dearborn bakery, New Yazmeen. After a nap, I phoned Rich F and when he called back (from Chicago) he was warm and helpful, promising many leads which I see in this morning’s email he’s provided. We have established a vital relationship. This type of photography relies on good contacts—to alert me to photographic possibilities, to inform me about underlying dynamics, to introduce me to otherwise wary communities, and in some cases for protection. Leads provide this and I give back photographs.

A few days ago I found lying along the sidewalk outside my house a notice about a crime:

Help solve this crime!

Cash reward up to $2,500


On Friday, August 4, 2013, Kenneth Peete III, a.k.a. Skip was found murdered in his home on Detroit’s west side. He was found during the early morning hours at West Outer Drive and Santa Barbara.

To submit a tip: …


Chilling for sure, especially because we shared first names, Skip, sad also. I find nothing on-line about consequences, expected none. Could be me, I suppose, killed by a robber or because of mistaken identity. Thus I run a risk.


Yesterday [November 9, 2014], bicycling home, a minor mishap. I was tired, I was hungry, I was cold, the light was beginning to fade, I was about 4 miles from home. And when I shifted, the bike chain jammed itself so tightly between the freewheel and the bike frame that it stuck. I was rendered powerless. What to do?

Free the chain of course. How do it? I had no tools. I was on Grand Blvd. West, apartment blocks nearby. I searched for something strong, maybe wooden, that I could use to pry the chain loose. Wood didn’t work. I wheeled the bike around a corner, into an alley, the area gasping with garbage. Maybe in one of these piles I could find something metal, a tool. First pile—no luck, just clothes, containers, old mobile phones, furniture. Second—none here either. Then finally, searching thru the debris behind one of the empty buildings—was anyone watching, prepared to jump me and steal my gear and bike?—I found a 1 foot length of metal, relatively thin. Would it be strong enough?

Yes—it worked. I finally freed my chain, vowing to either adjust the shifter so this doesn’t happen again when I suddenly shift to high gear, or remember to slowly shift into that cruising gear.


I had been close to panic. Who could I phone? I thought. Could my neighbor, Johnny, pick me up with his truck? But I don’t have his phone number. Maybe another neighbor, Gloria, could give it to me or get Johnny to the phone. (She doesn’t own a car.). Karen? Lives in Ann Arbor, too far from here. Wink, maybe. All not needed, thank god. Skip’s little adventure, another in a long string.

Down the street, Washburn near Wyoming and Grand River Ave, where I stay



“Detroit’s Staggering Murder And Violent Crime Rate Are ‘A Public Health Issue'” by Kate Abbey-Lambertz, November 14, 2014

“Detroit Crime Dropped In 2013, But City Had Same Number Of Murders As New York,” by Kate Abbey-Lambertz, January 3, 2014

Detroit Friends Meeting

How will the new International Trade Crossing affect the Detroit Friends Meeting? (from the meeting’s website)

The proposed International Trade Crossing between the United States and Canada will force the Detroit Friends Meeting to relocate.  The DFM is currently discussing ideas for a new meeting house and location.  The meeting is committed to remaining in the City, but an exact location has not been determined.

So why aren’t shovels in the ground? Well, the short answer is bureaucracy.

Because it is an international crossing, a presidential permit is needed. The Obama Administration has signaled it is strongly in favor, but getting a permit takes months. After that, there are needed site preparation measures. Building a billion-dollar bridge is a bit more complicated than adding a deck in your back yard. But Roy Norton, Canada’s consul general in Detroit, told me he expects to see actual work begin next year, or in 2015 at the absolute latest (Lessenberry, 2013).

Commentary: The latest on the bridge,  Lessenberry,  Jack, Retrieved from: http://buildthedricnow.com/,


The trial of Rasmea Odeh in Detroit concluded on Monday, November 10, 2014. The federal government charged her with a fraudulent naturalization application. She had declared in 2004 that she had no arrests, convictions, or imprisonments. The trial is in Detroit because she first settled and applied for citizenship here. A Palestinian, she’d been convicted by a military court in  Israel for coordinating two bombing attacks that killed two people. Allegedly she  falsely confessed after coerced by torture and rape. Her defense in this current trial is not fully understanding the application instructions, whether “ever” means “ever anywhere” or only in the United States.

The larger issue is justice.

She was convicted of one count of Unlawful Procurement of Naturalization. She plans to appeal.

“No,” said the priest, “you don’t need to accept everything as true, you only have to accept it as necessary.” “Depressing view,” said K. “The lie made into the rule of the world.”

― Franz Kafka, The Trial

National Week of Action to #FreeRasmeaNow


Notes from my journal:

November 7, 2014, Friday

Rasmea Odeh (pronounced raz-mee-a o-day), on trial for alleged naturalization application fraud, has instead, I do hope, put the Israeli government and the USA intelligence apparatus themselves on trial. Because of Judge Gershwin Drain’s rulings (which might become the basis of an appeal), the trial avoided the larger issue—justice generally, but, in this case, her treatment by the Israelis and their occupation of Palestine and her subsequent contributions to Arab-American society in Chicago. Little mentioned, the fact that the trial grew out of the investigation and threatened prosecution of 23 anti-war and Palestinian community organizers in Chicago and Minneapolis in 2010, many of them under continuing surveillance by the FBI and Homeland Security.

Arriving a little late on Thursday, November6, the third day of the trial, not sure where the federal courthouse was, or the specific courtroom, I finally entered the actual room only to learn they allowed no more visitors and I would be able to observe in the overflow area. With wide-screen TV and good audio I might have seen and heard better in this room than in the actual courtroom.

I won’t detail the proceedings because Hatem Abudayyeh, the executive director of the Arab American Action Network (AAAN) where Rasmea works, and others have done a fine job.* I will write about photographing the rally, followed by my thoughts springing from witnessing the trial.


Hatem Abudayyeh

First Rasmea. initial impression: this woman has suffered; suffering defines her; her face, twisted and lined, perhaps aging beyond he actual years (67), reveals her suffering. Yet a fascinating face, one I photographed extensively. Then the rally group, some from my hometown of Chicago; others from Minneapolis, the site of FBI interrogations; and me, from Cambridge Massachusetts (here to photograph aspects of the city): energetic, committed, caring, devoted not only to Rasmea but to the cause: justice for immigrants and activists, for all.


I felt welcomed, nor did any seem suspicious of me, altho I might have been a government agent. I noticed one young woman wearing a hijab concealed her face with her poster when I turned the camera toward her. Otherwise, no exclusion, no hiding from the camera.


The lead defense lawyer, Michael Deutsch from Chicago, tall and with a white beard, long involved in human rights campaigns, spoke mostly about the case and strategies; Rasmea thanked the group, promising to remain strong; Hatem emphasized how important support is; and Invincible Ill Weaver, a renowned local rapper and activist, who I’d met earlier and spoke to about Grace Lee Boggs, roused the crowd. They all concentrated on prospects and gratitude.

Inviinciple Ill Weaver, Detroit activist with the Boggs Center

Invincible Ill Weaver

Michael Deutsch, lead attorney

Michael Deutsch, lead defense attorney

November 8, 2014, Saturday

As I wrote SF:

i’ve just returned home from my second and possibly final day at the rasmea odeh trial [friday, november 7]. cross examination of rasmea, closing arguments, and the judge’s instructions to the jury occupied the morning. outside some 60 supporters, including a large contingent from chicago, rallied before and after. i photographed as much as i could—outside only because of the proscription against cameras and other recording devices.

the jury returns monday to continue deliberations. her lawyer, michael deutsch, did a top notch job closing today, trying to lift the argument from the narrow issue of lying on her naturalization application to fairness and justice…

A few ideas occurred to me while observing the trial.

1. Another way to decide Rasmea’s case would be: suppose she is declared guilty. She will be removed from her community and the country, no longer able to provide services or advocacy. She could suffer prison for some 5-10 years, a huge fine, and then deportation. Where will she go? How will this contribute to the community’s—and the country’s—well being and security?

2. Did she actually help organize the bombing of the Jerusalem supermarket in 1969 that she was convicted of? Was she a member of a banned, so-called terrorist organization, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine? An interview with the brother of one of the two victims, Basil Joffe (the brother, Eddie Joffe, has attended the trial) suggests she is guilty of the bombing. What evidence is there? What media exists from that period? She claims she was arrested in a wide sweep which included her father, and then falsely accused and convicted after torture and rape. What is the truth? If guilty, might she eventually confess? Is her benevolent work a form of repentance?

3. The prosecutor repeated numerous times the phrase, “convicted of two bombings that killed two innocent people.” In his concluding statement, the defense attorney, Michael Deutsch, used the frequency of that phrase to demonstrate how slanted the prosecution’s case was. In effect, without using the T word, ruled out by the judge, the implication was “terrorist.” In contrast Judge Drain ruled against allowing Rasmea’s claim that Israel tortured and raped her to coerce a confession. Had this been allowed, the defense would have used a different strategy, emphasizing her Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and how this affected her application.

Nadine Naber, University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC) professor, character witness

Nadine Naber, University of Illinois-Chicago professor, character witness

4. One factor deciding the outcome of this case might be the jurors’ feelings about Israel, whether supportive or opposed. If opposed they might understand that most likely Rasmea, if guilty of the bombing, was acting in defense of her people against the occupation, and, if not guilty, which is quite likely given Israel’s documented use of torture and brutal interrogation and imprisonment, a victim of a large sweep as she claimed. If supportive of Israel, then the opposite. They might believe she is a terrorist killing innocents. And should be punished and expelled from the United States.

5. What threat does Rasmea pose to out country? Living here she has never been arrested, tried, convicted, or jailed, but the FBI and Homeland Security sucked her up during a dragnet in 2010 of anti-war and Palestinian rights’ activists in Chicago and Minneapolis. To the contrary she was honored with the Mosaic Award for Outstanding Community Service from the Chicago Cultural Alliance for her work with immigrants from Arab-Muslim countries, primarily women and youth.


6. If her original alleged crime had occurred in another country such as Libya or Syria or Iran, a so-called “enemy entity,” part of the new Mideast “axis of evil,” the arguments would have taken different forms. She might have been viewed as a freedom fighter, exercising her people’s right of self-defense.

7. Is this case propelled by Israel, materially aided by Israel (they furnished documents of her 1970 trial), fully supported by the US intelligence apparatus?

8. Supporters claim she is being targeted because she is Palestinian. Yet as far as I know her work in this country has not been primarily for Palestinian rights. It has been more general, in support of Arab-Americans. Why consider her dangerous?

Rasmea Odeh

9. As David Sole, active with citizens’ groups about Detroit’s bankruptcy, pointed out to me, our government has allowed entrance of German Nazis and Cuban “freedom fighters.” Where’s the consistency?

10. As for observing the trial itself, I compare that experience to setting up and shooting a Hollywood movie scene—tedious, endless detail, shots repeated. Or to reading an academic text—repetitive, poorly edited. Not at all exciting as some courtroom dramas can be. (David Sole also compared parts of the trial to the Three Stooges. I suggested Jon Stewart would have a delightful time with the story on the Daily Show.)

The drama occurred later, out of my range, off stage—the deliberation of the jury, and the suffering of Rasmea. What did they all feel this past weekend pondering outcomes?

11. I have been searching for links between Detroit and Palestine-Israel where I also continue my long-term photographic work. The main link is imprisonment, especially true for the Palestinians in Gaza, but also for those in the West Bank and even Palestinian Israelis—gross denial of human rights, including freedom of movement. In the case of Detroit, economic and racial conditions prohibit full exercise of human rights. The worst case is denial of water, affecting hundreds of thousands of Detroiters, all or mostly all Black. Many Detroiters live in such rotten economic conditions they have little freedom of movement, geographical and societally. And now a vivid case of imprisonment in Detroit: Rasmea Odeh, a Palestinian, convicted and jailed.


Gaza City, Palestine, 2010, photo by Skip Schiel

12. The lobster boat-coal barge story** from New England is an example of how a prosecutor can be enlightened in the course of his work. Could that happen with the prosecutors of Rasmea?

13. Brecht’s play, The Caucasian Chalk Circle, speaks to the larger issue of justice. Judge Azdak, attempting to decide which of two women claiming to be the mother of a child, draws a circle, places the child in it, and requests the two women decide. He decides for the woman who refuses to hurt the child by pulling it out—not the actual mother who is selfish and cruel, but the one who treated the child well, the maternal one. (When I told this story to supporters they added that it is a version of the biblical story of Solomon in a similar situation—“Cutting the child in half.”

What there is shall belong to those who are good for it, thus
The children to the maternal . . . the valley to the waterers.

—Bertold Brecht, The Caucasian Chalk Circle


13. As I’ve written earlier, my main observation is that trials such as this one tend to concentrate on narrow issues—whether she committed fraud in her application for citizenship or in other cases whether protesters trespassed at a military facility?—rather than larger issues such as justice and stopping militarism. (An example of the narrow issue in this case was whether she understood the directions on the application, whether ever means ever anywhere or ever in the USA?) I think of Kafka and his novel, The Trial. Poor Josef K, the chief character, his confusion, his entrapment.

“But I’m not guilty,” said K. “there’s been a mistake. How is it even possible for someone to be guilty? We’re all human beings here, one like the other.” “That is true” said the priest “but that is how the guilty speak.”

― Franz Kafka, The Trial

At the request of the prosecution, the judge revoked Rasmea’s bail. She is now in a Detroit jail awaiting sentencing due in March 2015.



Coverage of the case, thru the US Palestinian Community Network

Arab American Action Network, Chicago (Rasmea is the deputy director)

“Defense promises to appeal guilty verdict against Rasmea Odeh,” by Charlotte Silver, November 10, 2014

“Palestinian Organizer Rasmea Odeh Jailed Hours After Being Convicted by Jury of Immigration Fraud,” by Kevin Gosztola, November 10, 2014

“A political prosecution”: inside the trial of Rasmea Odeh,” by Nora Barrows-Friedman, November 9, 2014

“Admitted Palestinian terrorist may be deported from US (updated),” by the elder of zion, May 18, 2014

FBI questioning Chicago Palestinian community members,” May 7, 2014

“Activists cry foul over FBI probe,” by Peter Wallsten June 13, 2011

“FBI Raids Homes of Antiwar and Pro-Palestinian Activists in Chicago and Minneapolis,” Democracy Now, September 27, 2010

Death in the Supermarket” (Eddie Joffe was murdered in Jerusalem 45 years ago. Today his terrorist killer is lionized.” by Jillian Kay Melchior, May 21, 2014

“Jerusalem Supersol Re-opens for Business; 2 Young Bombing Victims Are Buried,” February 24, 1969

** “In May 2013, Ken Ward and Jay O’Hara used a little white lobster boat, the Henry David T, to block a shipment of 40,000 tons of coal to the Brayton Point Power Station in Somerset, MA, the largest coal plant in New England. They were charged with conspiracy, disturbing the peace and motor vessel violations and faced up to several years in jail.

“The Bristol County District Attorney, Sam Sutter, dropped the conspiracy charges and reduced the other charges to civil infractions this morning, saying that he saw the need to take leadership on climate change. He called climate change “one of the gravest crises our planet has ever faced” and told a cheering crowd that he would join them at the People’s Climate March in New York City in two weeks.”

Lobster Boat Blockade

Quaker Meeting for Worship

Spontaneous Quaker Meeting for Worship


Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations wherever you come; that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone; whereby in them you may be a blessing…

—George Fox, 1656



Like a suddenly-bright sun piercing the ozone-depleted atmosphere, not incinerating islands and other low-lying lands and peoples, but a burst of light crying out for earth justice, this march was a big event on the minor scale, and possibly—but we might have to wait decades to know—on a major scale: the People’s Climate March yesterday [September 21, 2014] in NYC. I marched with Quakers largely, SF and EM more minutely, a little-light-of-mine among the radiance of some 400,000 people. In turn we were one country among some 150 and one march or rally among some 2,600 that stood or marched or spoke or listened or sat for the earth.

Climate March numbers

Part of the "The Debate is Over," interfaith and scientists contingent

An estimated 300-400 Quakers from across the country marched in the interfaith contingent.

Our route thru central Manhattan was less than 3 miles long, which would require less than 1 hour when walking at the usual pace, but we had not marched one step in the first 2 hours, waiting for our contingent, named “The Debate is Over,” to join the main body. We were interfaith, thus Quaker, and scientists. EM and I wore blue sashes, indicative of Quaker affiliation (EM agreed to be an honorary Quaker for the day, even tho her Sisters of the Sacred Heart order were probably not too far from us; SF refused, and might have marched in the interfaith group reluctantly, being such a strong anti-religionist), and we three marched immediately behind the Quaker Earthcare Witness banner. MVB persuaded me to make a group portrait which I will process this morning and send to the Quaker Earthcare Witness head, Shelley Tanenbaum.

Several highlights for me:


Marching in front of a group of boisterous college students, mostly from Princeton and the New School, who loudly chanted resistance to the big powers soon to descend on the UN this week to determine policy—probably more of the same, endangering the earth. A group from Bard MBA’s hanging out of window about 4 stories up shouted encouragement.


The tall, well-muscled, black man who led singing, notably “Down by the Riverside.” Judging from signs carried by people behind him, I surmised he and they were from the famed Riverside Church where Martin Luther King Jr had delivered his Vietnamese War sermon. This leader’s gusty singing and powerful presence stimulated many others to join in song.


Two groups on the border of Central Park that honored us. The first with silent meditation, with their banner, “Earth Vigil;” and a gustier group perched on a rock formation shouting support and waving arms, sometimes in the Black Power Salute.

Because of SF’s walking problems, we three rested a few times. This provided the opportunity to view other elements of the march, which would have been precluded if we had remained with our contingent.

And several disappointments:

Not meeting my daughter Joey and boys even tho Joey and I texted and left phone messages constantly. They were in Bryant Park where the march turned west after marching south and had hoped walk with their school, the East Village School, maybe as part of the “We Can Build the Future” contingent which included schools and elders. They may have left minutes before we arrived; perhaps the boys tired.


Worried about my post surgery condition and after checking with my surgeon, I happily made the 4 hour each way bus ride and walked most of the march distance without incident.

We quit a little early, encouraged by organizers because of the flood of people at the end. I was tired and overloaded with so many people in a relatively small space. Waiting for our bus to leave, I made one last NYC stroll and discovered the Air Pegasus heliport along the Harlem River, a perfect counterpoint to what the march demands: climate justice.


Helicopters are a major polluter with their noise, fuel, and fumes.

I made many photos. Have I expressed the faith of the marchers? Our belief that this symbolic gesture can help turn human beings from ruining the earth to bolstering it? When asked why I walked I answered, for my 3 grandchildren and for the Seventh Generation.



People’s Climate March

Report in Time Magazine

Photos from related events worldwide

Quaker Earthcare Witness




Excerpts from my journal during a 3 week sojourn in Detroit Michigan, late winter 2014, searching for the seeds of the New Miracle of Detroit

(I am planning another 3 week trip to Detroit in November. Please stay tuned.)


April 5, 2014, Saturday, Detroit, Karen’s home, dining room table

Cool, mid 30s, overcast, mild westerly wind.


Another big day for photography as I wind down this 3 week spring Detroit sojourn [April 4, 2014]. 4 themes actually [more later on these]. The 1st was the scheduled visit to Alan Kaniarz’s fundamentals of design class at the College for Creative Studies (CCS), a school I’ve been drawn to since visiting Detroit in 2010. I’ve pictured myself teaching photography there. He’d invited me to visit, I’d sought permission from the administration, and finally, because the big administrator never responded to the small administrator in the form of Marcus, Marcus said OK.


Students were building a piece of wood and metal that seemed to have no purpose other than providing experience fitting pieces together, drilling holes, creating threads, etc. Of course I may have missed the larger context. Women alongside men, blacks alongside whites, tall with short, fat with lean, etc. A good mixture. The equipment was superb, all a woodworker might desire. I thought again of my son-in-law, Phil, and of myself when younger when I had plans to create my own basement shop. And further back, to high school when I took all the shop courses available including metal, wood, electric, and engineering drawing, not so much to prepare for later engineering studies which I followed but because I loved tools and making things.



How much of my background will show in the photos? Big-small question.


Alan has excellent rapport with students, joking with them. But he seemed a little lax about distractions. I noticed 2, maybe 3, women peering into their mobile devices while he lectured about lighting. One quickly hid her screen when I approached and pointed my camera at her. Some texted, some looked at female models, I doubt they were doing further research on topics of the day. Had I been Alan I might have required them to stow their phones, as I did with my students at the Jenin Freedom Theater. Which they appreciated.


The lecture about lighting was to prepare them for their next assignment: design a lighting fixture. So he demonstrated all the sources of light from a facsimile of the first Edison bulb with carbon filament to a string of LEDs controlled remotely so it could change colors and flash. Here revealed, in the span of some 150 years, an array of lighting.



I thought he might ask me to launch the topic of photographic lighting, magnesium powder to strobe, but he didn’t. How well would I have done this without preparation? (Maybe this was my dream last night?)

That finished, it was lunchtime and I’d not checked my morning’s email. So after exploring the photographic section, meeting no one, seeing students at work, observing the well equipped but perhaps not so often used film darkrooms, and the fine photos made by students, thinking of myself here teaching, I took lunch in the cafeteria (fish sandwich and fries, followed by a large chocolate chip cookie and Americano coffee which I learned is not standard American style coffee but espresso with hot water, a potent concoction which I will try again) and dove into the swift internet stream of CCS.

Rapid does not begin to describe the speed of this free, open Internet connection—67 mb/s download and 64 upload. The speed pushed my Internet speed tester into the red zone. Is CCS to be my new office? Maybe next visit I’ll upgrade my housing to live in Midtown around the corner from CCS.





College for Creative Studies Facebook



Excerpts from my journal during a 3 week sojourn in Detroit Michigan, late winter 2014, searching for the seeds of the New Miracle of Detroit


April 4, 2014, Friday, Detroit

Cool, upper 30s, overcast, foggy, mild easterly wind—rain forecast, again.

After a bit of imagined bad news out of the way [a waking nightmarish fantasy about lost love] I can get to the better news, how life is in Detroit for me photographically. Lifting me out of the 4 day no photo doldrums I’d been in, yesterday afternoon [April 3, 2014], thanks to Mike who laid out numerous possibilities for examples of Detroit Up for me to photograph, I met and extensively photographed and interviewed Alan Kaniarz in his shop in the Russell Industrial Center on Detroit’s near East Side.


Alan Kaniarz

60 years old, with a long white mustache and matching goatee, tall and thin, wearing a dark leather long-billed cap and a paisley shirt, he toured me thru his shop. (I thought my son-in-law Phil would admire such a shop and pursuit and must remember to tell him about Alan.) Alan is multi-talented: wood, metal, glass. He invents, constructs, and repairs wood furniture and cabinetry. He collects and repairs antique lamps. He renews old picture frames and other wooden antiques. He commented that being so multifaceted helps him over the tough economic times he, Detroit, and the nation have recently faced. He also teaches at the College for Creative Studies and invited me to photograph him later if the administration gives us permission.




I told him I was searching for the seeds of a new Detroit miracle and asked, are you one? Without hesitation, he answered, yes. And explained that he employs students from the college, and has recently purchased a derelict building that he will rehab into relatively reasonably priced apartments for students. He is part of an association that includes Mike, possibly fosters clever social entrepreneurship, and goes by some initials that I did not record.

After my long session with Alan, at least 90 minutes, I explored the old factory complex, designed in 1915 by Albert Kahn. He’d explained that its first use was as a carriage-making factory, the entire complex, then with the rise of the automobile, it converted to making car bodies, not Fisher, but something equivalent. After other iterations, it now houses more than 140 tenants, mostly artists and craftspeople. I discovered 2 cars cut in half and affixed to walls. I discovered faces made of scrap metal. I discovered a set of words that resonated with me. (I hope to use them somehow, maybe transcribed as a footer or added to a display.) I discovered long hallways, mostly empty. I did not penetrate any studios so what’s behind the doors and walls remains a mystery to me.



The art of others in the building.


Alan gave me more leads including the CEO of Quicken who apparently invests in a socially wise manner. And Whole Foods, committing to the city, a true outpost in the realm of food. (For lunch yesterday from Whole Foods I gobbled down a chocolate chip scone, with milk, heated. I—and I presume many others—cannot survive without my daily consumption of spiffy food. Good bread in particular. And chocolate chip anything. Also peanut butter without sugar, chunky style.)

As usual finding the place presented problems. But the roaming brought me into new zones where I might return to pursue my sub theme of industrial landscape.



Reminding me that I temporarily live in Detroit in a relatively tough neighborhood, out my window yesterday early evening I noticed a heavy woman walking on the opposite sidewalk, apparently tracked by someone in a car. The driver pulled into a driveway to block her, left the car, and walked hurriedly to her. Is this a case of domestic violence unfolding before my eyes? I mused. He confronted her, held her. Because of the distance I couldn’t quite make out the tone. I picked up my phone and thought I might immediately phone 911 to report the incident as it unfolded—let the cops handle the situation. Then a succeeding and perhaps much wiser thought occurred: monitor the situation, outside where he can see me, with phone in hand. Deliberately banging my door, I stood conspicuously on the porch, phone in hand, and observed. He seemed to notice me. From confrontation the mood seemed to change to reconciliation. Another woman cracked open the rear door of the car and shouted something to the couple. He held her, this time maybe lovingly, and escorted her back to the car. No violence that I detected. And they drove off. All three were African-Americans.

What was the true story? Would he harm her later? Should I have intervened more forcibly, either by phoning the cops or walking into the scene? How much risk would that entail? To me and to the woman? Should I have brought my camera, as another form of intervention, not necessarily to use it, but to be ready to use it?



Alan’s workshop and business, A.K. Services

Russell Industrial Center


 Ban al Ghussain, Islam Madhoun, and their son, from their Facebook page

After the Israeli assault on Gaza, yet another, probably the most damaging, with Palestinian deaths topping 2,100 and injuries 11,200, most of them civilian, more than 106,000 displaced in UN shelters and with host families, one half million children unable to begin the new school year, restricted electricity and severely threatened water supplies, and with 71 Israeli deaths, 66 of them soldiers, and Israel’s astronomical financial and political costs, after a cease-fire, I wrote some of my friends in or from Gaza. Knowing electricity is often limited to 3 hours daily, I’m even more appreciative for their replies (and for those from my Israeli friends, living in Sderot and Netif Ha’asara within one mile of Gaza and under attack, and another in Jaffa, threatened while protesting the violence):

Thank you very much for your loving wishes and mail …  love you so much. I really hope to see you soon (Ban al Ghussain)


Thank you my friend, miss you. I hope everything going to fine after ceasefire, See u in Gaza closely (Islam Madhoun)


I hate the fact that we reunite only after a devastation hits Gaza. However, it’s always nice to hear from you. You are missing a lot in here my friend. Thus, you should come over as soon as you can. Meanwhile, Keep safe. (Hisham Mhanna)


Hisham with his father, 2012

Hi dude! I hope u r ok. we hope it will lead to a permanent solution. u are mostly welcome…..just tell me when u come to celebrate your coming. stay safe. (Muntaser Abu Kmeil)

Muntaser Facebook
From his Facebook page
Mr. Skip, Thanks a lot.. We trust Allah, everything will be okay in shaa Allah We will heal our pain . Thanks for sending me (Suhair Hajjaj)
Suhair my secondary school in  copy
Suhair’s secondary school in Shuheya
Thank you Skip for your lovely and compassionate support of Palestine. Actually, you are one of the people who made the Palestinian justice work more lively in New England Area and beyond. I hope our paths will cross again soon. (Ayman Nijim)
Ayman facebook
Here are two other articles offering perspectives, the first from Rana Alshami in Gaza:
Whatever was going on in Gaza for the past 51 days has finally ended. People can finally breathe, sleep, live! My family and I lived and experienced the worst of times, but we are still alive. We survived….
And from Alex Cane, a form of reality check:
The cease-fire that ended seven weeks of hell in Gaza is only two days old. But the countdown to the next round began as soon as the ink dried on the agreement between Israel and the Palestinian armed factions….
This is what I earlier wrote Gazan friends:
with you perhaps i celebrate the extended cease-fire. i’m sure you’re relieved that you can now return to a relatively safe location and situation. “relatively” is a tricky word. will the cease-fire lead to the end of the siege, reconstruction of gaza, and freedom and a just peace after so many years of suffering? i pray for all this and for you personally.
my most recent blog outlines what might happen, a fantasy which could become a world-shaking reality.
I hope to see you again sometime next year, inshallah.
Your enduring friend,

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