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Excerpts from my journal as I explore the situation in Palestine and Israel

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 Bassam Tamimi with his daughters

Photos

The Freedom Bus project was not started as a way of doing touristic and artistic tours of the West Bank. And this is not why we joined either. It is helping us to understand more fully this occupation and to speak to Palestinians first hand. Our role as witnesses is to go home and share the reality on the ground, which is way too often distorted in mainstream media. We are not innocent and have to transform knowledge into action – action that has been called for by the locals themselves. They are asking for political support, which can be demanded and fought for back in our own countries. They are also asking for the support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which should be implemented on a personal level as well as in our schools, supermarkets, offices and nationally. As internationals we have a role and we can work in solidarity with the Palestinians to make a difference.

—Sama, one of the bus riders

March 20, 2015, Friday, Cinema Jenin Guest House, Jenin, Palestine

Cool, low 50s, 80% cloudy with altocumulus, slight breeze.

Yesterday [March 19, 2015] was another full day: breakfast at 8; at 9 various warm ups for team building on the outdoor stage of Cinema Jenin (touch-don’t touch partner’s knees; call out names during a rhythm game; stretch together; shake out; breathe, stop-go, down-up, referring to the occupation, and then the reverse as resistance; and share a feeling with the group; all good techniques to use during my later photography teaching); a lecture demonstration by Eyad Burnat from Bil’in about what to expect at today’s Nabi Salih demo (gas, bullets, arrests, etc); lunch at the Freedom Theater with an intro to the theater and freedom ride by Joanna; tour of the refugee camp including the cemetery with its martyrs’ markers, then to the horse statue (made of pieces of shattered ambulances, pointing north toward liberation); a brief talk by a bureaucrat about maintaining the camp; a stunning musical performance by beginning and advanced students at the Al Kamanjati music school; a playback performance there (I offered my Gaza kidnapping story); dinner at the cinema garden (sitting with lubna, the translator, and the shy quiet woman from Acca), and finally, after staff twice grabbed the wrong DVD’s, a screening of Arna’s Children about the founding of the Freedom Theater.

I’d seen the movie before so it looked familiar, but I recalled very little of it. I was puzzled by the time sequence and asked Jonathan, the managing director of the Freedom Theater, who suddenly appeared for the discussion, about this. Most takes place during the battle for Jenin in 2002. Arna died in the late 1990s of cancer, and the Freedom Theater opened in 2006. I set myself in the movie’s time frame and realized I may have visited the camp with the delegation one year after the fighting, and the theater opened during my early period in Israel-Palestine. In fact I may have first visited shortly after it opened.

Trying to sort out what I will bring on the Freedom Ride, realizing I may lack some vital things (like a sleeping pad, suggested by Bryan), with all we human beings jockeying for space, with virtually no sort-out space like my bed available, is—as was true during my various pilgrimages—daunting. But rather than this lasting for 1 year as with the Middle Passage Pilgrimage (retracing the transatlantic trade journey), this is only 12 days. Thus it is tolerable.

Maybe differing from the pilgrimages, especially the Middle Passage Pilgrimage, is the feeling of camaraderie, mutual support, shared mission, and above all else, exceptionally fine organizing. Unlike that pilgrimage this is not a first time effort. This tour is the 4th annual.

March 21, 2015, Saturday, Guest House/school, Bil’in, Palestine

Cool, mid 40s, clear, slight breeze.

We are in Bil’in (pronounced with the accent on the 2nd syllable, and adding a sort of grunt at the ‘ —Bil-hi-een.). I believe we are in a school or community room, men in the main room, women in 3 separate rooms, all on the floor, luckily with plenty of mattresses and cushions, relatively quiet after about midnight (Fidaa asked for quiet around 11, reminding me of when I tried this on the Middle Passage Pilgrimage and was angrily opposed), me again next to Bryan (as I’d been in the Jenin guest house, after I seemed to have swiped, in his view, his corner space and his cushions, a very curious relationship), all leading to a fair night’s sleep (but short, 6 hours). I am back in pilgrimage mode.

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Nabi Salih and the colony of Halamish

Yesterday we were at the village of Nabi Salih most of the day, for the demo, village walk around, and dinner. We heard of course from Bassam Tamimi, probably the chief leader, who gave a nuanced discourse about resistance. He joked that “we don’t need more tears, we have the tear gas.” Apparently he is originally from this village settled by Tamimi’s and is now filled with them, but in 2009 when the settlers in Halamish took over the village spring (on the other side of a divide), he returned to lead the resistance. His children are in the forefront of the struggle and were clearly the main presence at the demo when they loudly confronted the soldiers, all 4 sisters, ranging in age from about 6 to 11.

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Halamish upper left, spring middle right, demonstration in the middle, Nabi Salih behind the photographer

As the sisters scurried up the hill, warned by the soldiers to leave within minutes or they’d be tear gassed, breathlessly one told me she could speak Hebrew and told the soldiers this was not their land, no one invited them here, the Palestinians were the rightful owners, and the soldiers and settlers should leave. To me she spoke in good English. Later she and 2 of her sisters spoke to our group, encouraged by their father and mother, electrifying us with their courage and articulation of the struggle.

Their mother, Nariman, was injured fairly recently, shot in the leg at close range with a tear gas canister. She used leg braces but attended the demo.

Unlike last week when the Israelis arrested 2 women and injured a boy, yesterday [March 20, 2015] they merely shot opening salvos of tear gas, and then allowed resisters to approach to about 5 meters, the kids closest, face-to-face with the army. I remained back, not at the very back where many stood on cliffs, but about 300 meters from the front line. Partly because I have trouble navigating the rocky hills, and mainly because I appreciated the new vantage point afforded by the elevation. Maybe a little confusion and fear as well.

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Tamimi girls confront the soldiers

There I perched for about 30 minutes using primarily my telephoto lens, chatting with Lorenza, a young woman from Switzerland. So she could see the action better thru my long lens, we shared my camera from time to time. I felt I was photographing a tableau—lines of people constantly changing their geometry. (I thought of Henri Cartier Bresson, known for “the decisive moment,” his use of evolving human geometry in photography.) The kids, the acrobatics from one of the Freedom Theater members, the casually positioned soldiers, and the spring off to one side now developed by settlers. I used my wide lens to show the positioning of settlement, confrontation, and spring. I’d read about this but now could picture it.

Would the solders attack? A key question. This time, no, perhaps influenced by the large number of internationals, or perhaps wisely realizing, as police in the United States seem to be doing more now, that waiting out the demo is simplest, cheapest, and least likely to lead to negative publicity.

Writing this entry in the early morning, I sit now in the main room of the Bil’in center, leaning against the wall, cushioned by a pillow, on my sleeping bag and blanket (kindly lent by Ayman from the Jenin guest house), while others slowing awaken and rise.

Last night traveling here from Nabi Salih, the driver became lost. Which seemed to lead to a raucous songfest that disturbed me. I was sitting alone in the front, about 5 seats back, the front seats occupied by Palestinians, when they began singing. One woman in particular, who I’d earlier noticed seemed depressed, sitting sullenly and separately with her phone in hand, maybe not loving the bus experience, suddenly became suffused with wild energy. She jumped about, screamed, clapped her hands madly about her head, and was eventually subdued by the Palestinian with dreads. I thought she might be manic-depressive.

Later one of the men explained they sang traditional songs, often sung at weddings, similar perhaps to folksongs in the USA. This episode reminded me of terrible moments on previous trips, pilgrimages, especially the Middle Passage one, where the new living mode I’m subjected to just does not appeal. Let me off this bus, please!

During the spring of 1961, student activists from the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) launched the Freedom Rides to challenge segregation on interstate buses and bus terminals. Traveling on buses from Washington, D.C., to Jackson, Mississippi, the riders met violent opposition in the Deep South, garnering extensive media attention and eventually forcing federal intervention from John F. Kennedy’s administration. Although the campaign succeeded in securing an Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) ban on segregation in all facilities under their jurisdiction, the Freedom Rides fueled existing tensions between student activists and Martin Luther King, Jr., who publicly supported the riders, but did not participate in the campaign.

—Freedom Rides in the United States during the freedom movement

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On the wall of the Tamimi home

TO BE CONTINUED

LINKS

Freedom Bus blog

Excerpts from my journal as I explore the situation in Palestine and Israel

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PHOTOS

March 8, 2015, Sunday, Golden Gate hostel, Old City, Jerusalem, Israel-Palestine

(Warm, low 60s, sunny, calm—other than the temperature this might be the usual report.)

Yesterday [March 7, 2015], one day before the official International Women’s Day, I arrived at the checkpoint, the site of the march and demonstration well, before the slated start time of 11 am. Thanks to Sahar V, a Jewish Israeli woman with the American Friends Service Committee in East Jerusalem, who told me about the demonstration and suggested I participate on the Palestinian-West Bank side, I met an extraordinary Israeli Jewish woman, Tamar. I’d noticed her talking with Palestinians—short blond hair, jeans, lightly built, she reminded me from a distance of Lynn. Believing she was present for the demo I walked near her to possibly strike up a conversation. She invited me to have coffee from a stand she sat at.

She told me she is a presence at the checkpoint every Sunday, on her own apparently, not part of Machsom Watch, the Israeli women who monitor and report on checkpoints, or other organizations. She makes photos of the boys who flock around her and then gives them prints the following week. This she says in lieu of giving them money which she feels they would give to their fathers. When she first started appearing, they’d beg, she’d refuse, they’d grow angry, and then she thought of the photography. She touched each one of them in greeting, very motherly, expressing deep love and solidarity.

Belatedly I thought, since I am now on the Ramallah side of the Green Line/Wall, why not visit Ramallah, then why not visit friends, why not visit Jean and Fareed? Trying to phone them, I discovered my phone’s minutes had disappeared. I was stranded. Tamar let me borrow her phone. I reached Fareed who agreed to meet me later.

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The women arrived, some 300 of them, males mixed in. I’m not sure of their starting point, possibly the Kalandia refugee camp. The media presence was large. Most wore helmets, bulletproof vests, and carried tear gas masks. Am I prepared for this? The women marched right up to the closed, heavily patrolled checkpoint and confronted the soldiers. Media rushed to the front of the line, cameras high above their heads. Suddenly someone fell down, a heavy-set woman; others clustered around her, including media. I tried to photograph from outside, not effectively. I smelled a slight tinge of tear gas. Had gas been used? Why so quickly? I did not see stones hurled at the army.

People regrouped, more confrontation, this time I came closer and might have made better photos. A stand-off—the soldiers and police; their commanders at least, older, seemed cool and poised. I wandered around looking for context photos—the wall, observation tower, graffiti—and human detail, faces, mainly faces. I concentrated on faces from the beginning, as the march approached, and believe these will be among my best photos.

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At one point everyone fled, laughing, to return, I with them. Not nearly as limber as I once was, unsure of my footing, I was more attentive to my safety than to photographing. Then gas again, much gas, this time with tear gas canisters exploding all around me, immersing me in stinging stinky gas, a smell I abhor. My eyes teared up so I couldn’t see well; I gasped for breath, wishing to breathe only thru my nostrils but unable to resist opening my mouth as wide as possible to inhale the most oxygen possible (and the most gas).

I stumbled in retreat, not even thinking about photos. The wind blew with us, from the soldiers, not the best direction. More gas ahead, swerve, avoid it. People helped each other. I empathized with the obese and aged. Finally out of range, I tried to show people struggling with the gas, aided by others. I made a series of photos without the viewfinder and then noticed that the camera was not operating. Either I’d run out of battery or memory or I now had a defective camera. Checking, I discovered that I’d jarred open the door to the battery and memory card. Closing it, I tested, found my camera did operate, and resumed photography. My camera almost a casualty.

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Oh yes, the stones. Someone, probably the shabab, the young boys, began throwing them shortly before the main gas attack. Lobbed over the fence in a wide arch they were hardly threatening, yet they became the impetus for the gas. Once again, a futile exchange of power, messages from the mute, on both sides.

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Since Kalandia was closed, traffic toward Jerusalem backed up for what may have been kilometers. Toward Ramallah, likewise, it only creeped. I walked. I found a toilet in a gas station, relieved myself, and then noticed a few serveeces (shared taxis) were moving toward Ramallah. I boarded one. And soon found myself in central Ramallah. After a delightfully ample turkey shuwarma followed by chocolate ice cream at Rukabs, I borrowed the Rukab man’s phone and reached Fareed. Let’s meet at Rukab’s, I suggested. He replied, I’ll be there in a few minutes. He was.

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On the wall of Kalandia refugee camp

TO BE CONTINUED

LINKS 

Palestinian, Israeli protest marks Women’s Day.” by Zena Tahhan

Hundreds of Palestinian women march on Qalandia to protest Israeli occupation,’ by Anne Paq and Ahmad Al-Bazz

In Photos: Int’l Women’s Day in Israel-Palestine,” by Activestills

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In an Israeli shopping mall 

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Model of Yad Vashem

Excerpts from my journal as I explore the situation in Palestine and Israel

March 6, 2015, Friday, Golden Gate hostel, Old City, Jerusalem, Israel-Palestine

PHOTOS:

(Warmer, low 60s, sunny, calm.)

“I’m sure [my memory] only works one way,” Alice remarked. “I can’t remember things before they happen.”

“It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards,” the Queen remarked.

“What sort of things do you remember best?” Alice ventured to ask.

“Oh, things that happened the week after next,” the Queen replied in a careless tone.

Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll

Building on my idea yesterday [March 5, 2015] to ride the rails of Jerusalem’s 3 year old light rail system, connecting settlements, aka “neighborhoods,” and Palestinian towns, not sure where or why, completely spontaneously, drawn magnetically, Yad Vashem turned into the main event. As I wrote to a close friend first and then adapted for others (one of the greatest gifts of digital writing):

today i visited yad vashem, my third time (my first was in 2003 with a delegation and later with a friend around 2008). now completely redone, it’s designed as a prism by moshe safdie whose modular homes i love.

this museum is truly, in my view, too much: not the topic but the quantity of exhibits—repetitive, floor to ceiling photos, media blasting out everywhere. i doubt many can take in more than a morsel or two. a separate art exhibition of drawings, paintings, frescoes, etc helped me much more to understand the holocaust. many pieces were profound in tone, execution, technique, and meaning. art became a survival tool, not only of the individual artist’s spirit but of the suffering itself—a powerful visual testimony. i think you would have been very interested in it.

unfortunately yad vashem refuses to expand “never again for jews” to “never again for anyone,” ie, there is only one holocaust and nothing is comparable. a docent was fired in 2009 for mentioning deir yassin village and the nakba, not as equivalent horrors but as related atrocities.

i chanced onyadvashem. my mission was riding thejerusalem light rail from end to end, disembarking occasionally to walk thru a variety of neighborhoods, palestinian and israeli jewish, making and expressing thru photography differences and similarities. the day was crisp, sunny, dry, virtually cloudless, the beginning of early spring and the dry season. wildflowers bloomed, the air smelled fresh. nibbling on anything green, 4 goats crossed my path in a jewish neighborhood, heedless of me and traffic,.

The name Yad Vashem derives from a biblical account; it is not a translation of holocaust memorial museum as I’d wrongly supposed. The name emphasizes transforming anonymous victims into human beings by remembering and recording their names.

And to them will I give in my house and within my walls a memorial and a name (Yad Vashem), an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.

—Isaiah 56:5

How do others view Yad Vashem? Most reviews are respectfully affirmative: a highly emotional experience, well thought-out displays, good information, etc. Nothing about either the holocaust message in the context of the occupation or the esthetics of museumship. Here’s one lonely contrary review, by Michael Ratner, a Jew with holocaust roots:

…As saddened and horrified as we were by what we had just experienced [visiting the museum], we were all struck by the contradiction of having the museum in Israel, a country forged out of the theft of other people’s land and homes, a nation whose treatment of Palestinians had echoes of what we had just seen: walled-in ghettos, stolen houses and land, a segregated population….

Read more of Ratner 

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I rode the tram on the Jewish holiday known as Purim—the holiday commemorates Jewish survival in the 4th century BCE when in exile in Persia and threatened with annihilation, a Jewish woman, Esther, orchestrated resistance that led to the slaughter of many Persians. (One might note the parallel to the recent speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the US Congress comparing Iran to various radical and brutal Islamic entities like ISIS.) Israeli kids were out of school, many including adults wore costumes such as fairy outfits, flaming red hair, angels etc. I photographed kids jumping on an air-filled device behind a school and in a mall receiving balloon crowns from a jester, while a stilt walker frolicked behind them. No sign of the holocaust today.

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In an Israeli Jerusalem settlement

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Mt Herzl Park

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Monument to Jewish soldiers, one of many to Jewish victims along a path to Yad Vashem

Leaving the train at Mt Herzl station, the last station south and west, I walked thru the park, admired its landscaping, stopped at the grave of the founder of Zionism, Theodore Herzl, passed graves of other Zionist notables, noticed signs about Yad Vashem, and eventually realized the museum must be nearby. Checking maps and asking direction of 2 women, I learned about a connecting path and walked the 2 km or so to the museum. There I had the experience I wrote about. Along the way I observed many monuments to Jewish suffering connected not only with the holocaust but with ongoing onslaughts. A life—a long history—of oppression. How odd, I’m not the first to note: these people, so long and so viciously oppressed, have turned into the opposite. Of course, in all the monuments, not a mention of the occupation of Palestine and the siege of Gaza.

Rarely remarked: the museum is near the site of Deir Yassin, while Yad Vashem itself is alleged to be built on an Arab village.

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Exiting Yad Vashem, facing west, the new life—also presenting a view of Deir Yassin, scene of a massacre during 1948

In the museum I photographed models of the gas chambers and furnaces at Auschwitz. (I did not see the exhibit about the Warsaw ghetto wall that I photographed on my first visit in 2003, while Israeli high schoolers listened to their teacher or docent explain about walls, but probably not about Israel’s construction of the “security barrier,” aka apartheid wall.) These models brought me painfully back to Auschwitz, my time there while on pilgrimage in 1995, living with the truth of the holocaust and my German people’s role in it. An eerie confluence of feelings struck me: Jews as victims, Jews as perpetrators of suffering, Germans as operators of the death apparatus, me as German, me possibly as Jewish. Perhaps this day will stand out as an early high point of my trip, reminding me of multiple truths coexisting in one organism—and one people.

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Model of the gas chamber at Auschwitz

TO BE CONTINUED

LINKS

Yad Vashem art exhibition, The Anguish of Liberation as Reflected in Art, 1945-47 

Yad Vashem fires employee who compared Holocaust to Nakba” by Yoav Stern

Israelis wounded in Jerusalem ‘terror attack'” by Palestinian motorist (March 6, 2015)
A Palestinian motorist rammed his vehicle into a group of pedestrians standing near a Jerusalem tram stop on Friday, injuring at least four, Israeli police said….

 

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Our ultimate end must be the creation of the beloved community.

—Martin Luther King, Jr.

Excerpts from my journal

PHOTOS (in two parts)

November 25, 2014, Tuesday, on the train east of Cleveland heading home to Cambridge

The main event of yesterday [November 24, 2014], other than my departure from Detroit after 3 weeks (which on the universal scale counts for very little) was photographing the Boggs School, a publicly-funded charter school. Initially the head, Amanda Rosman, seemed nervous about my presence and asked me to estimate how long I’d be in the school. She also cautioned me against photographing the kids of one family whose mother refused blanket permission for photography, a prohibition that baffles me, especially at such a renowned school as the Boggs.

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I was deeply impressed with the quality of education. The teachers seemed skilled in handling their subjects and discipline problems (the latter were frequent in one art class I observed, not in others). A main pedagogical principle is place-based education, meaning the students are to learn about where they live and go to school. One group, with the theme of orienteering, went for a walk around the block. When they stepped outside, the teacher, a burly fellow with thick arms teaching gym or physical education, asked them which directions were north, east, etc. I added and he agreed, what direction are the clouds coming from? and he added, and that means the direction of the storm—all central to moment and place.

[Place-based education is] local, and it’s connected to students in a way that they can identify with. It’s either a problem in their community or an event that’s happening, or it could be a geological phenomenon. But it’s something that they’re familiar with….so it means something to them. And then we ask questions about it.

—Cay Graig, Vermont teacher

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After the walk —perfect for me because it shows the East-side neighborhood, typically deteriorated—they built something inside that I failed to locate and photograph.

Another teacher dealt with garbage, putting on the board 3 key questions: what happens to our garbage, where does it go, and what does it mean to throw it away? She had them write in their notebooks, and then read from them. Later she showed them an effecting movie about garbage.

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The school runs kindergarten thru 5th, in 3 groups, something like kindergarten, 1-2-3, and 4-5. One teacher wears a hijab, about 1/3 the other teachers are black. Amanda, now softened toward me, not overseeing me as she did at our first location, the playground, and apparently assured I will do the school well, is a cofounder. I promised to send her a selection before I post, to make sure no kids whose parents refused permission are included.

Upon entering I noticed immediately two things: pizza for lunch and the policy of choices rather than self-control. The latter came up when a teacher in a contentious situation, rather than preaching self-control, reminded the student that he had choices. This reflected a conversation with my dear friends, Anne and Fred, when Anne advocated the choices approach. A good principle to keep in mind—with one’s self as well as others.

Because Thanksgiving was later in the week, let us think about Native Americans

Other observations: the art teacher showed them drawings of Indian language symbols in the context of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. (I wonder what spin they’d put on the traditional Thanksgiving story, probably a more accurate one.) Water bottles with names were in many rooms, presumably an effort to teach conservation. On my second pass at the bottles I photographed them with neighboring houses in the background. Often I used my Canon camera’s pullout viewfinder so I could hold the camera at my waist level, thereby distracting the children so they noticed me less.

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Our challenge, as we enter the new millennium, is to deepen the commonalities and the bonds between these tens of millions, while at the same time continuing to address the issues within our local communities by two-sided struggles that not only say ‘no’ to the existing power structure but also empower our constituencies to embrace the power within each of us to crease the world anew.

—Grace Lee Boggs, The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century

Now the big story of that event, altho minor in the grand picture (too bad that I have no photos), this meant a great deal to me: wind. Gusting to more than 50 mph, swiveling between south and north, it blew me to the school, but ferociously resisted me on my little pedal machine (my folding bicycle) later when I tried to return home from the school. It nearly blew me over when I left the protection of a building and entered an intersection. I shifted down to the lowest gear to make headway against the tumultuous wind. Crackling, snapping, flaring, ripped-by-the-wind power lines forced a detour. I thought I might not make it without the intercession of either a divine being or someone like my neighbor Johnny with his huge truck. One block from the school, it blew over my bike when I stopped to photograph a recently burned house, stepping thru bags of what turned out to be shit to get a position. The wind-induced fall damaged my bike light needed in the dim, dank, afternoon darkness. Riding on the leeward side of buildings, on sidewalks, I achieved my objective: home. Thank god, humdilila. Outside my home I washed the shit off my boots and bike pedals and brought my bike inside.

My bike ride thru the wind might represent the school’s course thru the perils and challenges of troubled but perhaps recovering Detroit.

Down the street

Burnt house

TO BE CONTINUED

LINKS

Boggs School website

Boggs School Facebook page

A story about the founding of the school

Place-based education

“The Boggs School Oral History Project: Linking Youth and Elders to the Past, Present and Future,” by Laura de Palma, December 2014

Children’s Voices, Dave Eggers Illustrates Stories by Elementary Schoolers,” by Maria Russo, December 2014

Detroit Walk-In Portrait Studio, a video about a photographic project at the school conducted by Corine Vermeulen, December 2014

New coalition on Detroit schools unveils its membership,” by Ann Zaniewski, December 2014

Activist Boggs honored for work toward social justice,” by Amy He, December 2014

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Homes in Palmer Woods, a district of Detroit

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Excerpts from my journal

PHOTOS

November 19, 2014, Wednesday, Detroit, Karen’s house

Extremely cold, upper 10s, overcast, calm—light snow expected over the next several days.

 A big day with Colin Connair (formerly of the Detroit police department, now a sergeant with the Grosse Pointe Park police department). First the absences. We did not manage to visit the functioning Detroit police station as I’d hoped—they never responded to Colin’s requests. We did not get permission to photograph the private security company in Palmer Woods that he told me about—altho I do have a tentative visit lined up for this early afternoon but I think I’ll cancel for several reasons: 1. Colin is not available to accompany me and he is a central feature in the photos and he presents himself as a police officer which might sweeten the conversation. 2. It is frigid and snow is expected, making biking difficult. And 3. I have a date with Kim at 3:30 pm for the New Work events of the afternoon and evening. So I might request a postponement.

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Home of a Grosse Pointe Park woman murdered in this garage by a killer allegedly hired by the woman’s husband

Despite those setbacks we did photograph in Grosse Pointe Park, his home city, two sites of crimes—the murder of a woman allegedly by her husband and a robbery in an alley. Plus a barrier erected by the city to block easy access from Detroit [since partially removed]. Maybe not the most dramatic photos but they can offer a taste of life in Detroit and environs.

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Detroit side

Barrier between Grosse Pointe Park and Detroit, from the Detroit side

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Looking into Detroit from the other side of the barrier

Colin showed me the gas station that was the site of a shooting, the victim badly injured and bleeding, customers stepping over him as he lay there—as a Detroit police officer Colin came upon this scene later. And another site, a vacant lot, was the scene of a raging fire during a frigid time—Colin doubles as firefighter, common in small towns to conserve resources.)

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

The gas station where a man lay bleeding

We explored a rehabilitated housing complex which appears to house mixed income people. And the Roosevelt Hotel, the squat I thought the two guys at Manna’s kitchen told me about. But it is being renovated and seemed tightly secured. Other buildings near the intersection they’d named, roughly 14th and Vernon, did not look like squats. That Colin was willing to explore with me heightens my love and respect for him.

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Roosevelt Place Hotel, under renovation, across from the abandoned Michigan Central Train Station

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The hotel next to what remains of two buildings named Imagination Station, both burned and gutted, one ripped down

We cruised thru Palmer Woods, hoping to bump into private security in their Hummers. No luck. I made a series of photos of the houses, each distinctive, most of them exceedingly elegant. We found the so-called Bishop’s House, once occupied by the city’s bishop, now sold to private interests. In preparation for this, it was made “profane,” i.e., all religious articles removed including the Stations of the Cross and the papal throne, whatever that might be. We never found the Fisher Mansion that Spenser, Barbara’s husband, told us about.

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Catholic bishop's former residence

Catholic bishop’s former residence

We joked about the church and its wealth. I told him about the day before meeting Father Tom who runs a women’s shelter, much like that of Shelly Douglass in Birmingham Alabama (Tom and Shelly know each other). The two residences represent the two poles of the Catholic Church—“royal splendor” and “catholic worker grit.” Similar to the gap between Palmer Woods and a somewhat less affluent Grosse Pointe Park, and most of Detroit.

I thought I recognized the home of Barbara and her husband Spenser, but I was mistaken. A woman appeared in a second floor window, peering at me suspiciously. She called, what do you want?

Is this the home of Barbara H?

It is not!

Do you know where she lives?

I don’t!

All very curt, unneighborly and indicative of fear.

ThreatManagement1

Photo courtesy of internet

ThreatManagementHummer

Dale Brown of Threat Management Center checks in on an elderly woman in the Boston Edison neighborhood in Detroit, Mich., AP Photo | Detroit Free Press, 2011

Colin phoned the security company, Threat Management  Division/Century Security (TMD), formerly known as Recon, identified himself as a police officer, said he was with his friend, a photojournalist from Boston, explained we’d like to talk with them about how they work, said this is not an expose. I complimented him on his phone presence and asked again whether he’d consider moving into detective work. No, he likes what he does, street patrol in a car as a sergeant partly because of the hours.

Detroit-Grosse_Pointe_Farm-Palmer_Woods-4045

Colin and I discussed our work, how we both are drawn to danger and accept it. He asked me about danger when I photograph in Israel-Palestine, whether I’d ever been threatened with kidnapping. Yes, I have, and I told him about the time I and friends searched for the site of Rachel Corrie’s murder, when we encountered armed men, they looked inside the car and saw me, how I believed I was about to be kidnapped, but I was shockingly calm. He reminded me of the occasion when a man he was about to arrest leaned forward in the driver’s seat and could have pulled out a hidden gun. And the many times during a street chase that ended with capitulation of the suspect.

He works 2 back-to-back 12-hour shifts, 7 pm to 7 am, with 2 days off between. Which he finds ideal for his family life, 4 kids by 2 marriages, the youngest in pre-school. He calls this stage “the last days of my many-year nightmare with young kids.”

How do you deal with boredom, Colin? I asked. He replied, as a friend says, the Internet is a great boon for cops. Grosse Pointe Park cops know where all the open Wi-Fi hotspots are in the city. When I was doing street patrol in Detroit, I often read books during my down times.

We discovered that he was raised on Franklin Street in Cambridge. I told him where my younger daughter and her family live and he replied, I grew up next door! My mom built a trellis for the grape vine that is on the border fence. I remember looking over that fence at the set back house where your family now lives.

This coincidence is yet another element in what I call our “line up,” elements of our close friendship. On a lesser level, it’s like my friendship with Dan Turner—many eerie correspondences, seemingly incomprehensible. Colin is one of my Detroit treasures—a gateway to Detroit divergences and contradictions.

A stop for coffee and donuts

Donut and coffee stop

TO BE CONTINUED

LINKS

Palmer Woods

“Palmer Woods Historic District”

“The Other Detroit” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, February 2011
The city’s grandest enclave clings to the dream.

Threat Management Division Of Recon Security Palmer Woods
Palmer Woods channel 2 story demonstrates the efficacy of the Threat Management Center V.I.P.E.R.S. bodyguard training program. By creating non-violent outcomes through non-offensive, non- intrusive tactics, strategies and logistics preventing the conditions that lead to inappropriate societal conditions that are not conducive for a good quality of life.

“Homegrown Documentary Focuses on Paramilitary Security Force in Detroit” by Allan Lengel, December 2012
The movie “Detroit Threat Management” by Jacob Hurwitz-Goodman

“Fisher Mansion sells for $1.6 million in Detroit’s Palmer Woods,” September 2014

“Detroit’s Fisher Mansion to be retreat for addicts,” by Christine MacDonald and Joel Kurth, September 2014

“The Cities of Grosse Pointe Park and Detroit have reached an agreement regarding the construction of Piazza Square.  The following links contain an artist’s rendering and street plan for the new Piazza Square:  Artist Rendering & Approved Joint Plan.”

“Road barriers aim for safer streets in Detroit neighborhood”

“$10,000 reward offered in Grosse Pointe teen’s death,” by Mara MacDonald [recently increased to $100,000]
Local real estate developer offers reward for information

Written for a group exhibition at the Friends Meeting at Cambridge, about artistic process.

…designed to reveal the process or steps involved in producing our art. If our final product is a destination, what is our journey, and how is meaning created along the way?…There has been a trend for museums to reveal the artist’s journey or process as part of an exhibition…

—Exhibits Committee

Simply put: listen to that still small voice; find a place where the noise of civilization and the quotidian do not drown it out; sit, walk, bicycle, sleep until the notion, the impulse, the need to photograph arises. Then photograph only what presents itself to be photographed (and then maybe a little more).

Great plains

Some 50 years ago when I was 21 years old, I heard the whisper of the Great Plains, crossed it alone in my old Ford pickup truck named Cimarron, stopped to listen in the silence, heard only the sound of my own blood rushing thru my cochlea, and made a photograph.

Iowa Farm

Around that time, winter 1962—I’d photographed since I was 7 years old, inspired by my father’s gift of a cheap box camera, a Brownie no doubt—I visited the Iowa farm family of one of my best college friends, Mark Chapin. I noticed his father standing by the window, imagined what he might have been feeling, and photographed.

JudeanDesertPano

(Click image for an enlargement)

In the winter of 2004, I joined The Journey of the Magi pilgrimage walking to Bethlehem from Jericho thru the Judean Desert Wilderness, not far from where the devil reportedly tempted Jesus. There I discovered and tried to express the luminous winter desert landscape.

Israel Palestine-Gaza-2193

Finally, urged on by that still small voice, that same year I entered Gaza for the first time, drawn by the knowledge that the American Friends Service Committee had a program there. On subsequent visits facilitated by them, I often wandered thru downtown Gaza City, usually the only foreigner, and one day in 2013 a group of young men signaled an invitation to photograph them. Who is this young man, I pondered, with his multivocal expression? I worry now, after last summer’s violence, whether he still exists. Maybe only in this photograph.

It is said, let your lives be examples, sermons, and images so that you may then walk cheerfully over the earth, answering to the divine in all people, creating images of people and many lands.

This benefit of seeing…can come only if you pause a while, extricate yourself from the maddening mob of quick impressions ceaselessly battering our lives, and look thoughtfully at a quiet image…the viewer must be willing to pause, to look again, to meditate. 

—Dorothea Lange

LINKS:

Words at an Exhibition, an earlier blog about my process, with more details and photographs

Photos

Slide show: “And you will be carried where you do not wish to go,” a photographic witness & a summary (for the moment & as of 2005) of my photography

“And you will be carried where you do not wish to go,” a photographic witness
(part 8 & earlier, added April 2 – May 24, 2010)

As an Artist, How Do I Survive & Thrive?
Revised and added February 15, 2010

The Palestine-Israel Kaleidoscope, a memoir-part 1
Newly revised and added January 16, 2010

The Palestine-Israel Kaleidoscope, a memoir-part 2
Newly revised and added January 21, 2010

Last night, December 21, 2014, was winter solstice, the beginning of returning light.
Tonight is the seventh night of Hahukkah, the festival of lights.
Today is five days before Kwanzaa, a celebration of community, family, and culture.
And today is three days before Christmas, a celebration of hope.

During the holiday season, please take some time off to take care of yourself, your loved ones, and friends. Find time to be with nature, to enjoy the stars, and the white clouds and to truly come home and be at home within ourselves, as Thay (Thich Nhat Hanh, a revered Vietnamese teacher, monk, activist, and poet) always encourages us to do. You may like to write love letters instead of spending money and consuming more. The New Year is a wonderful opportunity to begin anew with ourselves and let go of resentments and regret.

—Monks and Nun of Plum Village (Buddhist community led by Thich Nhat Hanh)

HolidayCard2014BoggsWalkSM2
If you’re interested in my photos of the Boggs School in Detroit, click here.
And for my video about the blacklivesmatter-hanukkah event in Boston last week on the first night of Hanukkah, try this.
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