Culture

Photojournalist Documents Rise of Haitian Refugees in Tijuana

Haiti is a country that is no stranger to devastation and despair.  The earthquake of 2010 nearly destroyed much of it, leaving many of its citizens homeless, without clean water, housing or job opportunities. The recovery is still ongoing. Over the past year thousands of Haitians have come to the U.S. border seeking asylum and a better life after living in many parts of Latin America, especially Brazil and Venezuela where many found work linked to the 2016 Olympics. As a result of those jobs going away, they ventured north into Mexico, finding an usually welcome atmosphere in Tijuana after many were turned away at the U.S. border.  Immigration officials were said to be overwhelmed by the asylum petitions.

The conditions are not ideal but a far cry from the impoverished atmosphere the refugees left behind in Haiti. Tijuana-based photojournalist Omar Martínez has been documenting the social conditions they live in with photos and video. Martinez has a series of images featured here in a story by Mariana Martinez Esténs.

 

Women’s March DTLA Jan 21st, 2017

On Saturday morning, the day after the inauguration, my friend had asked me to document the women’s march with her.  We gathered at her apartment early that morning to prepare for the day ahead.  She had made coffee and had a spread of pastries, fruit and hard boiled eggs.   More and more people showed up, new faces, old faces, familiar faces; we all had the same purpose.  We jumped in an art bus that had been painted all black and spoke of what it meant to march that day.  What a privilege it was to be able to walk freely and speak for those who could not be there. We were going to march for what we believed in.  We were standing up for ourselves collectively against oppression, against the scary thought that all our progress as a nation would be reverted to a time before any of us had any say.

As an immigrant and woman, it scares me to think that a visibly divided nation has been repressed and has propagated so much resentment to the unknown — to their neighbor.   We gather in communities of similar thought exchanging information and ideas, but are unable to connect with the rest of the country; perhaps we are in a progressive bubble living in California?  How could the other half of the country be so scared of people that live and breathe in the same space?   My purpose as a woman that day, as a human, was to stand up for what I believed in.  We marched for women, for immigrants, LGBTQ, Black lives, for our children and our future children…   It was awe inspiring to arrive in downtown later that morning to streets full of people with the same collective emotion.  We were driven by fear, hope, the need to speak out our dissent; but really, we were driven by joy. We were 750,000 people walking alongside each other in peace.

We embodied everything that this country represents in its beauty through diversity. Some unaware of the gravity of the future…  What I felt being there was pure joy witnessing all the creativity and effort that everyone expressed while being there in order to communicate to our new leader.  What affected me the most was seeing the children not understanding the gravity of what we were marching for, but just interpreting the energy that surrounded them as joy.  Their faces were proud and full of hope.   That is what I marched for. If necessary, I will march again to have my voice heard to protect our future. I will be there for our future generations.  We as a people have been ignited.  We will not be left on the side submissive and complacent while being stripped of everything that everyone before us has and is still fighting so hard for: Equality.

 

Dorothea Lange’s Censored Photographs of FDR’s Japanese Concentration Camps

In 1942 photographer Dorothea Lange was hired by the U.S. government to make a photographic record of the “evacuation” and “relocation” of Japanese-Americans during World War II, which was part of an executive order signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to make parts of the country military zones. The U.S. Military wanted to publish these photos as a way of showing the world that these citizens were being treated humanely.  Her efforts created a true record of the evacuation and how American citizens of Japanese Ancestry were treated during a dark time in American history.

Military commanders that reviewed her work realized and seized them for the duration of World War II, even writing “Impounded” across some of the prints. The military seized her photographs, where the photos were quietly deposited into the National Archives. They remained largely unseen until 2006. The images captured showed Lange’s point of view on the matter, and not the whitewashed version the military was looking for at the time.

PBS produced and aired a wonderful documentary on Dorothea Lange and her experiences photographing the internment of our Japanese American citizens.

 

Byron, California. These field laborers of Japanese ancestry at Wartime Civil Control Administration Control Station are receiving final instructions regarding their evacuation to an Assembly center in three days.

San Francisco, California. Residents of Japanese ancestry appear for registration prior to evacuation. Evacuees were housed in War Relocation Authority centers for the duration of WWII.

DNA Test Reveals That We Are All The Same

Who are we? Where do we come from?  Do we really know our heritage?  These are just a few questions that all people ask themselves.  Then there are those who believe they know who they are, where they come from and what their lineage should be.  A promotion conducted by travel site Momondo included a campaign where the company selected 67 people from various ethnicities and offered them a DNA test. The participants won a trip to visit the regions which feature in their DNA analysis. More than 167,000 people had entered the competition so far according to the company’s own website.

In the video the participants offer their own take on their genetic background and how sure they were of their gene pool.  All the participants were very proud of their heritage, nationality and ethnicity, and even had a bias against people they deemed different from them racially and ethnically. It’s a resounding theme these days it seems.

After the test results come back 2 weeks later the results and the participants’ reaction are amazing. Some of the participants do feel a little rehearsed at times, giving you the thought that they are professional actors, but the reactions seem very real in most cases.  Momondo did state on their own website that casting agencies were used to find the participants who used their own names and received their own DNA results. There are some online reports that Danish scientists have contested the DNA test and its reliability to specifically identify whether a person is a 100% French, Danish or Turkish, etc.

Check out the video clip above and judge for yourself, which has received 34 million views on Facebook and 13 views on Youtube. There is a real takeaway here though – a reminder that we really are all the same.

 

 

Prince EA Breaks Down School Systems

A lot can be said about our education system here in the U.S., and its mostly bad.  But rarely do you hear someone rhyme about it with such eloquence and vigor as Prince EA.  The St. Louis spoken word poet, filmmaker, and speaker recently posted this video “I Just Sued The School System”, and it is an incredible work of art. The video has accummulated over 2.6 million views since its posting on Sept 26.  We would recommend every person who is under the age of 30 to watch this clip. No wait – everyone should watch this clip. There are some moments in watching the video where you have to ask yourself, “what took so long for someone to finally speak the truth?!” Prince EA not only provides a compelling performance but he has created a well-formed argument on why we need art and music as a core component of our school curriculum around the country.

We encourage you to turn up the volume, sit back and just soak it all in.  You can check out videos from Prince EA at his site www.princeea.com or his youtube channel.

The 100 Most Influential African Americans

We love lists! One of the most interesting annual lists comes courtesy of TheRoot.com. It’s their “100 Most Influential African Americans.” Some names and faces are likely quite familiar to you, while others will having you scratching your head going, “Who?” Well now you know! Before you lose it over who ISN’T on the list (Oprah, Tyler Perry, Barack Obama, etc.) keep in mind that no one on the list is over 45 years old. Check it out — who would you add to the list?

Alternative Methods for The Unruly Kid

This school replaced detention with meditation. The results are remarkable.

Imagine you’re working at a school and one of the kids is starting to act up. What do you do? Traditionally, the answer would be to give the unruly kid detention or suspension. But school officials at Robert W. Coleman Elementary in Baltimore, Maryland decided to take a different and unique approach. The school created a meditation room where kids who are having behavioral issues in the classroom are brought in for this after-school program for yoga and meditation sessions. The meditation room was created as a partnership with the Holistic Life Foundation, a local nonprofit that provides tutoring and mentoring to kids as well as environmental education.