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Posts Tagged ‘witness’

Can you suggest venues for my photographic presentations?

In this moment of escalating violence and burgeoning right wing Israeli politics, all my presentations address systemic injustice and some suggest strategies for transformation.

I have firm dates now for the California section of my West Coast tour, March 4 thru March 20 and for Alaska, March 22 thru April 5, 2016.

My most recent productions, all based on my three month spring 2015 trip, are:

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Timeline Palestine & Israel, a narrated introduction to the history of the conflict, especially suited to audiences new to the issues

 

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The Freedom Bus Ride thru the West Bank, a cross section of oppression and resistance in key sites such as Tuwani, Bil’in, and Nabi Saleh, with special reference to the Freedom Ride in the USA

 

Nomika Zion, author of %22War Diary from Sderot,%22 written during Operation Cast Lead in 2008-09, the predecessor to the last war-1

Gaza’s Israel Neighbors: Other Voice, a movie in process about Jewish Israelis living within one mile of Gaza, heavily attacked, yet calling for negotiations rather than violence

 

Israeli military surveillance installationHoly Water: the Jordan River, Sea of Galilee, and the Dead Sea, demonstrating unequal water rights, a slideshow that combines the climate crisis, hydrology, and politics

 

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Palestinian Jerusalem, featuring the controversial March of Flags, this slide show-movie remaps Jerusalem to show the pervading inequalities in that historic city supposedly shared by Christians, Jews, and Muslims

 

So you can learn better what I offer, I’ve posted on YouTube a short (22 minute) video excerpting from my five most recent shows:

 

More photos, writings, and movies.

My full list of offerings for those who might not have seen it, indicating the newest works with an asterisk.

General Tour 2016 Announcement

I plan to put a calendar on line that will facilitate organizing. It will show open dates, and indicate where I expect to be in California at various times. This is in the works. At the moment all dates are open. I am particularly interested in visiting educational institutions, 6th grade and up.

I look forward to hearing from anyone with questions and invitations. Thanks to those considering hosting me and my art.

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Photojournalist, Advocate for the Undocumented : 1940 – 2008

“I could hear the five hundred pound bombs going off, and see A-37 jets that my country had sent down to El Salvador, and we were in a dirt floor hut and those who could read shared some scripture …, and one of them a mother breast feeding her baby, and the A-37 jets came in … And then the woman brought me out of the hut, and as the bombs were going off in the valley she pointed to the planes coming in and she said they come from a part of the world where people believe in a God of death. We believe in a God of the living, and when you believe in the God of the living, she said you end up doing things that you never dreamt yourself capable of doing. ” (Jim Harney)

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Courtesy of Jessica Bloch and Bangor Daily News

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Courtesy of Jessica Bloch and Bangor Daily News

Sages are benevolent without trying,
trusted without speaking.
They gain without seeking,
succeed without striving.
They take naturalness to heart,
preserve ultimate reality,
embrace the Way,
and promote sincerity,
so the whole world follows them as echoes
respond to sounds;
as shadows imitate forms.
What they work on is the root.

—Wen-Tzu

Jim shared his apartment with me, “temporarily,” until I found a new home to buy. My home deal fell thru. That was in 1989. It is now 2015, 25 years since I moved in with Jim. He moved out around 1995 to live with Nancy, his life partner, in Bangor Maine. Jim influenced me greatly, not so much by the quality of his photography, but thru his dedication to the suffering caused by political ignorance and greed and the resistance this often engendered—and his use of photography.  Happily I remain where we once lived together, beholden to his example.

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With Nancy Minott, photo by Skip Schiel, 2008

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With Louise Dunlap, photo by Skip Schiel, 2008

Meeting a woman selling organic blueberries at her roadside stand

Walking in Solidarity with the Undocumented, photo by Skip Schiel, 2008

Here’s an obit from 2008 in the Bangor Daily News. And from the Nation.

My good friend Louise and I walked with him for a few days on his last journey in August 2008. She introduced Jim and me, I will always be grateful to her for that connection. Curiously, I’ve found no online source for his photographic (or written) archive, a distinct loss. Vanished!

Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go. (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he [Peter] would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”

—John, 21:18

LINKS:

Jim Harney’s Final Journal
Nancy Minott, Jim’s companion in life, discovered this journal that Jim kept the last summer of his life. Here are the first three segments shared. Pictures are from Possibilidad.

Jim Harney’s Walk in Solidarity with the Undocumented (Video)

Milwaukee 14 Today »James Harney

“The Long Walk,” written and sung by Chris Nauman

Some of my photos of Jim

My earlier blog (2008): Jim Harney Walks

 

 

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Your sensitivity to light and emotion is dramatic, the brilliant daylight framing the sad courageous eyes and brave determined expressions of our Gaza neighbors, as they face such a cruel, demented, and terrifying adversary.

I think you are very brave too, and I thank you deeply for shining a true light on these barbaric crimes committed with America’s complete support.

—John Paulman

PHOTOS

From early March thru end of May 2015 I photographed, videoed, and wrote in Palestine-Israel, north to south, east to west, Israel and Palestine, wet and dry, happy and tragic, brightly lit (oh that Mediterranean Light!) and dark. With what I hope is an open heart, available to all parties, a fair-eyed and handed treatment of different experiences, I labored. I can now offer five new photographic presentations. Do you know of venues where I might show these? (I am planning a five week tour to California and Alaska in the spring of 2016.)

With the support of many in my local and national Quaker community, since 2003 I have travelled to Israel and Palestine to investigate and portray conditions and struggles. I have worked with a variety of organizations, both Israeli and Palestinian and joint organizations, volunteering to make photographs for them that I also can circulate as slide shows and print exhibitions. My hope is to open eyes and doors and windows, encouraging awareness and action.

 



Thru my Lens: Palestine-Israel
The look, feel and meaning of the situation in this troubled region.
Based on my recent journey of faith in action, I show and discuss my photographs about coexistence, Palestinians in Jerusalem, the Freedom Bus Ride thru the West Bank, Gaza’s Israeli neighbors, the hydropolitics of the Jordan River and Dead Sea, and other topics.

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Conversations across barriers—Some 70 Palestinians, Israelis, and a few internationals met for two days in a Global Village Square. A project of the Center for Emerging Futures, this was held at the Everest Hotel in Bethlehem under the shadow of the separation barrier.


The Freedom Bus Ride thru the Palestinian West Bank

A slideshow about Palestinians under occupation practicing exemplary strategic nonviolent resistance.
The renowned Freedom Theater of Jenin West Bank organized a two week bus journey inspired by the Freedom Movement and Freedom Bus Rides in the United States, some 60 international and Palestinian riders, to explore some of the most attacked and resilient communities in the West Bank—Bil’in, Tuwani, Nabi Salih, the Jordan Valley, and Jerusalem itself, known for their creative struggles against oppression.

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Bil’in is one of several sites in the West Bank of relatively successful popular resistance against the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

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Popular Resistance in the village of Nabi Salih—Seeking justice and freedom and organized by the Freedom Theater of Jenin, the Freedom Bus travels to sites of suffering and resistance in the West Bank, Occupied Palestine.


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erusalem Day: the Controversial March of Flags
A slideshow about the annual celebration of Jerusalem’s “reunification.”
In reality, Jerusalem is not unified, but in the eyes of many of its Palestinian residents it is occupied. Violence in this holy city has recently escalated. All governments refuse to locate their embassies there, but instead base in Tel Aviv. The march provocatively begins in Sheik Jarrah, a contested Palestinian neighborhood, marches thru the eastern, largely Palestinian, sector of Jerusalem, thru the Damascus Gate, and into the Muslim Quarter to the Western Wall. I photographed and videoed this year’s March, trying to carefully depict both sides of the controversy. I accompany the short movie with a slideshow about Jerusalem from a Palestinian perspective.

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At the wall along the old Jericho road, now blocked, Fayrouz shows us a tear gas cannister used to disperse demonstators-7794.jpg

At the wall along the old Jericho road, now blocked, Fayrouz Sharqawi from Grassroots Jerusalem shows us a tear gas canister used to disperse demonstators


Gaza’s Israeli Neighbors
A movie about courageous Israelis advocating for talks, not tanks, diplomacy, not war.
Living within one mile of Gaza, these Israelis suffer the brunt of rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza, most recently infiltration as well. Yet some have formed an organization called Other Voice that calls for an intelligent and humane response to the violence and injustice in their neighborhood, in league with similarly minded Gazans.

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Military tower, Gaza in the background

Nomika Zion, author of "War Diary from Sderot," written during Operation Cast Lead in 2008-09, the predecessor to the last war-1.jpg

Nomika Zion, author of “War Diary from Sderot,” written during Operation Cast Lead in 2008-09, the predecessor to the last war


Holy Water—The Jordan River, Sea of Galilee, & Dead Sea
A photographic exhibition.
Ample in the upper Jordan, threatened in the Galilean Sea, shrunk to mostly wastewater in the Lower Jordan, and the Dead Sea rapidly dying, this photographic series intersects regional history, geology, hydropolitics, and the global climate crisis. Water rights powerfully demand justice, security, peace, and reconciliation.

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Mt Hermon—Israeli military surveillance installation

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Water rescue training in the Upper Jordan

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Sea of Galilee

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Baptism in the Lower Jordan at Qasr el Yahud, the Israeli site

Dead Sea, stranded pier because of rapidly decreasing sea level—this section of the Sea is in the West Bank and most Palestinians are not allowed on this beach.-4876.jpg

Dead Sea, stranded pier because of rapidly decreasing sea level—this section of the Sea is in the West Bank and most Palestinians are not allowed on this beach.

FROM EARLIER TRIPS:

Eyewitness Gaza (movie)
About current conditions and struggles in Gaza based on my photography, directed by Tom Jackson of Joe Public Films. The context is the Arab Spring.

Eyewitness Gaza (book)
Photography of the current conditions & struggles in the Gaza Strip, Occupied Palestine, from 2004 thru 2012

Timeline: Palestine & Israel
An inclusive history in slideshow form from the First Zionist Conference in 1897 to the present.

“You don’t change the course of history by turning the faces of portraits to the wall” (Jawaharlal Nehru)
Portraits of a wide variety of people through out Palestine-Israel.

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Report of Faith In Action in Palestine-Israel – 2015

 

Though unquestionably didactic, Skip Schiel’ s images are also haunting glimpses of the perilous nature of life in Gaza. The photographs never feel invasive or forced; they simply capture moments of intimate truth between photographer and subject.

—Sarah Correia (Fuse Visual Arts Review: “Gaza in Photographs: Up Close and Personal”—artsfuse.org/?p=26044)

Skip Schiel has been documenting the Palestinian and Israeli reality through photographs and journal postings since 2003—work with a better feel for the detailed texture of life in Gaza and the West Bank than any appearing in US media. Schiel spends time where most journalists dare not tread, amidst ordinary Palestinians, sharing in the dangers and frustrations of their lives.

His work has been invaluable for my own. As a writer for a Buddhist publication whose parents were victims of the Holocaust, I try to convey a view of the conflict that differs from the US media’s, which obfuscates the injustices and sufferings inflicted on the Palestinians by Israel. Through his portraits of Palestinian men, women, and children striving to maintain ordinary routines despite harassment and attacks by Israel’s military, Skip reveals to us the true face of Palestinians.

—Annette Herskovits, former consulting editor, Turning Wheel, the Journal of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship

You capture such powerful, symbolic moments in your work, that reach beyond the context they are in. I admire your brave tenacity and commitment to documentation of this struggle for justice.

—Marjorie Wright, filmmaker and activist

Skip Schiel photographs not only with his eyes but with his heart.

—Fares Oda, former staff American Friends Service Committee, Ramallah, West Bank, Occupied Palestinian Territories

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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

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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 

Jerusalem light rail map SM

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….

Read Full Post »

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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.

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Photo courtesy of internet

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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.

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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

Read Full Post »

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.

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(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.

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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

Read Full Post »

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Plan for a new city from New Work New Culture

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Downtown

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

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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.

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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.

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Slow Roll, group bicycle ride

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Back Alley Bikes, Midtown

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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.

SEEDS

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.

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Frithjof Bergman

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Kim Sherobbi

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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.

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

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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

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At a support meeting for Rev. Pinkney

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Detroit Friends School

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Detroit Friends School

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Boggs School

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Boggs School, observation of the neighborhood

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

CONTRADICTIONS, COUNTER INDICATIONS, UNEXPECTED CONSEQUENCES

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

A SURPRISE: THE TRIAL OF RASMEA ODEH

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.

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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.

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Rasmea Odeh during her trial

BACKGROUND

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.

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MY HOME & NEIGHBORHOOD

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.

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School nearby—every other morning I circumambulate its grounds

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Gloria

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Johnny

WHAT’S NEXT, FOR DETROIT AND FOR MY PHOTOGRAPHIC PROJECT?

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.

 

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

TO BE CONTINUED

LINKS

“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

Read Full Post »

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PHOTOS

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.

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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.

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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.

MexicanTownMuralDetroit-8840

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

KENNETH PEETE KILLED!!!

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: …

KennethPeete_9097

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.

KennethPeete_9098-3

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.

FoldingBikeDetroit-Farmada_Free_Ride-3880

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

TO BE CONTINUED

LINKS & MORE INFORMATION

“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/,

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