Razan and I | OpenDemocracy

This is a beautiful and important article written by Syrian Activist Razan Ghazzawi.

Exiled Razaniyyat

My latest article on Razan Zaitouneh published yesterday on OpenDemocracy:

10172824_691852620878867_7378733230773807252_nBetween me and Razan there are those tiny stories that do not belong to and cannot be classified as one of those typical close relationships between friends. We weren’t friends. To me, she was the woman whose path is always crossing mine, a hard working woman who values human life more than any other values favored by other humans. She believes everyone is equal and everyone deserves the same treatment from law. Razan is a true human rights activist who doesn’t just write statements, but actually commits to advocating human rights and equality in her daily life.

Razan cannot be racist, sexist, Islamophobic, homophobic or carry a prejudice, she only targets abusers. An abuser is he who commits a form of injustice against another. Period. Razan’s idea of human life is this simple, and it’s quite admirable to see…

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Syria, Gaza, Frances Crowe And A New Direction For Roots2Resistance

Hello to all and gratitude to you for taking the time to read the blog. I honestly do not know how you found the time 🙂 and truly I appreciate it.

I am reporting back to you after completing our 9th Portrait of the Syrian Activist Razan Ghazzawi. We partnered with Syrian Students, Activists and with Underground Syrian Art Collective Masasit Mati to create three Postcards that would support Peace and Justice for the Syrian People. We printed thousands of Postcards and translated them into French, Spanish and Arabic and sent them to Burma, Cameroon, South Africa, Bolivia, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, Lebanon, Afghanistan, France, Sweden, DR Congo, UK, Thailand, Mexico, Portugal, Canada and across the US! We continue to raise the funds to print and send to more partners in more places on this Planet and we will continue to support and Partner with Razan and every Community seeking Justice where they live!

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Portrait number ten is a supreme honor for me and is of a Woman who resides in my own Community, the amazing Peace and Justice Activist Frances Crowe of the US.

For any of you who do not know Frances Crowe, she is a Woman who has been on this Planet for more than nine decades and she has been on the  streets for more than fifty years demanding Peace, Justice, Accountability and offering in return Persistence, Hope, Resistance and a Raised Voice. If you ever feel you need a break from the hard news, the grim details of what is being perpetrated on the People of this Planet, spend some time with Frances and you will leave feeling you are not doing enough listening, and must double down your efforts. Frances in her 95th year is alert to every Resistance Movement, every call for Peace, every demand for Justice, she is always there at every rally, every vigil, every film. She has spearheaded organizations like AFSC and the Traprock Peace Center and stood on the forefront of Resistance to Nuclear Weapons and Power Plants here in the US.

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The Frances Crowe Portrait is under way and Frances and I will be partnering to create Global Campaigns which will support the Justice work and messaging that she wants to see passed forward into the World. More on how to support that in the coming paragraphs!

A brief word here on a very big shift in this project. Up until now Roots To Resistance has been a project about 12 specific Women that were chosen back in 2009 on the basis of the amazing and often profoundly risky work they were doing in places across the Planet. We have painted many of those Women who were chosen, beginning with Natalia Estemirova from Chechnya and following with Malalai Joya, Chouchou Namegabe, The Zapatista Women, Rebecca Gomperts, Wangari Maathai, Aung San Suu Kyi and Yvonne Margarula. What an amazing list and with so many yet to come. The original plan was to paint the 12 chosen Women and partner with them to create 12 Global Campaigns and to end there with a giant cross country tour in a big bus. But things have been changing…..

Last Summer I was approached by folks who wanted to bring attention to the Resistance Movement in Syria by having a Syrian Activist included in the Roots To Resistance Project. An amazing Activist by the name of Razan Ghazzawi came to the forefront and thus we painted someone not on that list of 12 originals. It felt very right to be creating something in the moment that would and could impact and support a movement so profoundly important and so current and since then I have been doing a great deal of thinking about bending and opening the scope of Roots.

I am starting the walk down a new path of Roots. The new path has no beginning and no perceived end. Perhaps there will be twenty Portraits, maybe fifty. Many names are being nominated every day, as there are so many amazing Activists, so many important campaigns. From here on in we will pick and paint on the basis of the most important Activism and campaigns happening in the World today, and of considerations of the many Women who are being nominated to me as we speak. I am looking for a permanent place to house the Portraits which will become a museum of sorts, but much more. What I do know is that I am currently painting the amazing Peace Activist Frances Crowe. After that I have decided to paint a Palestinian Activist as I have had more than half a dozen Women from Gaza and the Occupied Territories nominated,and because the profound importance of such a campaign is glaring.

Not to worry folks! I will be painting Vandana Shiva and Marina Silva. Their time is near as well 🙂

So that is where Roots To Resistance is heading. A more permanent fixture with more flexibility and a lot more Portraits! I will be honest folks, I am going to need serious help 🙂  The Postcards, The Printing, The mailings, I cannot tell you how successful, how connective and important they have become. We make do on very small Funds from many generous folks but we can increase that outreach with a bit more support. This is a small project and it is never meant to become big or blockbuster. Part of the magic is in it’s small scope and I want to keep it so, but I want to stretch and reach a little further. To do this and to find a permanent space for this project I will be hosting some Fundraising Events this Fall. I will be doing an event which will include Film, Art, Wine Tasting and Fall Harvest Foods and I am gearing up for an Indiegogo campaign as well. More on all the details as they arrive.

In the meantime if you want to help us start plugging with our Frances Crowe Campaign you can support us here: Roots Support

Please know I am grateful to all of you who have supported this project, the Women and the Campaigns. Thanks so much for taking the time. ❤

Denise/Roots

Kali’s Legacy

A Blog Post From A Syrian Voice Who Has Lived And Continues To Live Through And Speak About Power, History, Her Experiences and The Peaceful Revolution Which Is Mostly Untold Or Poorly Reported On In The West. Please Read As Razan’s Words Are Very Powerful And Profoundly Important.

Exiled Razaniyyat

I lived. Past tense. I lived nine months in a place called Nomy. Nomy was a strange town, I have to say. But that’s not what I want to talk about today.

I left Nomy four months ago. Past tense. It should be over by now, you know, the memories – good or bad. But those memories are called as such because of present tense. The old reality becomes new after leaving. Here is a new territory, your mind is working daily to accumulate new memories. The old memories are not so much old, they’re still alive with me in my speech, temper, I even developed new fakeness in my character. Most of all, those old memories are alive within me through my new semi-phobias.

In Nomy, there was no electricity, water nor any form of telecommunication. People use motorcycles and cars to reach that someone they want to talk…

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Razan Ghazzawi, Syria and The Roots To Resistance Women

I hadn’t planned to write this blog post today but the snow piling up outside has given me hope that some of you who are here in New England might have the time to read this. It is also not the kind of blog that I had planned to write but it is what has been on my mind.

I am always sifting through the same kinds of questions while I am painting, sending Postcards or putting up Street Posters. Am I doing this right?  Is it ok that I am doing it? Am I being careful enough about my own privilege? Am I sharing these movements objectively? Am I being sure not to be too heavy handed and preachy? Am I doing enough to help the Women I am portraying and working with? Are all of these questions holding me back? I guess it is good to have questions and perhaps it would be very bad news for all of us if we didn’t.

The campaign I am working on now as many of you know is for Syrian Civil Society and Justice Activist Razan Ghazzawi. I came to know of Razan through a Syrian friend Yasser who had worked here at Umass in the STPEC department and is now a Professor at Emerson out East. I had been following his posts about the Uprising in Syria and became very interested in finding a way to widen the conversation here about deeper truths in this Uprising than I felt we were getting from our media. We spoke about several Women Activists doing amazing work in Syria and I was immediately moved by Razan, at first because she had been detained several times for her Human Rights work, but it was in reading her blog entries that I realized her immense talent for conveying what was real and truthful. She has what many amazing Activists have which is a passion and authenticity that People want to connect to. So I decided to pursue having her on board as one of the amazing Women that I am painting and partnering with in order to tell the stories of the Resistance Movements they are a part of.

I was lucky enough to meet Razan in Boston about a month ago as before that we had been in contact over email and skype. I had learned she was leaving her work briefly to speak and raise funds for projects in Syria so I made arrangements to meet her. It really was an honor, Razan is truly a beautiful person and a fierce and honest Activist with real integrity. I was grateful to get to speak with her and to show her some of the Roots work and the Postcard I had created for general outreach about her and about the Syrian Uprising. I was elated that she was pleased with the Art and it’s message and that she was excited to work together brainstorming creative ways to support her Activism. Its just that I focus so intently on these Women, their stories and the faces I will be painting, so that when I meet them and form a connection it is a very high point for me. I am grateful for that.

I wanted to briefly address an issue that I know is out there in this Community and here in the West, particularly on the Liberal Left. About violence within Resistance Movements. About Guns, Revolutionaries, Pacifism. I have noticed that particularly with this campaign I am portraying in Syria that there are questions about the use of violence within the Uprising  versus non violence. “If we support the Uprising are we supporting the use of violence”? some People have asked. I am going to give you my opinion about this so you know where I am coming from. I believe that the question of Pacifism or use of arms to defend oneself or make change is a profoundly personal decision and very hard to assess when one has not been confronted with the extreme conditions that bring about the question. I have deep respect for so many movements: The Civil Rights Movement, The Zapatista Uprising, The Revolution in South Africa and the Uprising in Syria and all have used different paths. It is easy in retrospect to make heroes of all of these movements as can be seen with all of the Che Guevara Tshirts, love of Mandela and Zapatista Art but many of these movements were pushed to use force at some point in their struggles. Razan Ghazzawi is a Peaceful Activist doing amazing work within an Uprising full of many players, some who have chosen to use force as an option and who am I to judge that. I am shining a light on the Peoples Uprising, I am painting the Community Builders, Journalists, Human Rights Activists like Razan. I am sharing their story.

It is an odd thing to be painting a reality which is partially filled with so much pain, hardship and oppression that I am not a part of. That of Chouchou Namegabe and DR Congo,  Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma or Razan Ghazzawi and the Uprising in Syria. I am not telling my day to day story, I am trying to share the story, history and emotional essence of someone else. Maybe some would say I shouldn’t and that may be a valid consideration but I have decided to go ahead and try. I used to just paint for myself, maybe to try to heal old things but now I want to try to do something else with my Art, something cliche I suppose like make a difference and so be it, like many others before me I would like to do my best to be part of something greater that is outside of myself and my own needs.I think I have some talent for painting stories and telling the story of how things feel in the Art, so that is what I focus on when the inner questions come, the ones I started this blog with. They are good questions and I am sure mistakes will be made, have been made, but I am committed to this work and will just keep doing my best.

Gratitude. Denise/RootsSlide #9 Razan GhazzawiSAM_2489

My Experience Inside Roots To Resistance

Hello to my loyal group of Blog followers! Apologies for the long break between now and my previous blog as I have been ferociously painting away in my efforts to complete the Portrait of Aung San Suu Kyi! I am thrilled to say that her Portrait is done and pictured below!
So, this blog will be dedicated to giving a brief little peek into what I am doing in the months between beginning a new Portrait and it’s corresponding campaigns and those final days when I post the pictures declaring “The Portrait is done”.

How do these Paintings start? Do I have them mapped out ahead of time? Most definitely not. They build slowly, like a puzzle I am creating as I go,image off of tiny image, I fit the puzzle pieces in one by one. Perhaps the whole Portrait starts with one tiny butterfly as it did in Aung San Suu Kyi’s and then explodes forth from there. That said, the Portraits have common threads. All of the Women stand in the center of their Portraits generally surrounded by other images that define and support them and their work, their lives, their feelings and mine. I paint all of this directly on the eight foot wooden panels and in greater part on pieces of paper which are then collaged onto the wood(the puzzle pieces). The Natural World plays a central role in every Portrait, for both the Women who are profoundly linked to Nature as well as those who may not think of themselves this way. As many know, I do not believe we can have wholly successful movements of any kind with out a full intimate partnership with the Plants, Rocks and Creatures of this Planet and so the Nature is there to support the Women and it is there because it means so much to me. I am an avid Woods walker and hiker and spend some part of every day out on the trails. Many of the things I see there end up in this work.

My materials: wood, pencils, acrylics, watercolor paint and paper, lots of paper. I work standing at my studio table, the same one that the amazing Tammy Stacy built for me 16 years ago. I try to paint 8-10 hour days four times a week and one or two 4-6 hour days.

The rest of my efforts are directed toward researching the Histories of the places where these 12 Women Activist are doing their work, understanding the issues and the challenges they are addressing and listening to the people intimately involved so that I may come to understand a way that Roots To Resistance can support this work and support the voices of these Communities. In my last campaign for Aung San Suu Kyi this meant reading everything I could find written about Burma, its History, the History of Aung San Suu Kyi, and most importantly the History of the over 100 different Ethnic Peoples living there. It meant a lot of emailing. Thousands upon thousand of emails were sent out to People who have lived and worked in Burma. People with a great deal of knowledge about Burma and most importantly Indigenous People living in Burma and experiencing the challenges first hand. As always language plays a part in the challenges faced in corresponding with People in many places on the Planet. I do not speak Burmese or any of the other 100+ Indigenous languages spoken in Burma so I depend humbly and gratefully upon those who speak English and can bring these questions to their Communities. These are the People that make these campaigns possible.

Being that I am a White Woman from the West I have stumbled into predictable ways of thinking about change, being helpful, concepts of victims and perpetrators and conflict resolution, but I am learning and listening and noticing. I recently noticed how this came into play as I was trying to grasp the changing landscape within Burma and how it was affecting Indigenous minority groups there. ( For those like me who hear the phrase ‘Ethnic Minority’ groups so often that the words loses meaning, it is a good practice to remember that these are groups of Indigenous People who belong profoundly to the places that they live>In Burma Indigenous groups prefer to be called Ethnic Nationals)   I had been for many weeks deducing that the main issue in Burma that needed addressing was the physical violence being perpetrated against many Indigenous minorities in Burma, particularly the Rohingya People who recently had an entire village burned to the ground. From my outside view this was the pressing issue and it is certainly of profoundly critical importance, but there is such a complex web of issues which support such violence.When I began to read more reports written by Youth Workers who lived in these Communities  I found that time and again they felt that the main issue to be addressed was the violence of complete non inclusion. Most Ethnic Indigenous People in Burma are not even given the most basic rights to participate in decisions about their Homes, development on their Lands and about the resources which belong to their Lands and to them. These are the pressing issues that they feel separate them from any possible dreams of a Democratic Burma, as the race for resources, gas, dams, rubies(yes rubies Burma has more than anyone else) races toward them. So I think we have a Postcard Campaign here and I am grateful to the Youth Workers for speaking their truths and for translating them into the one language I can read. *Gratitude*

I hope I have given my friends and followers enough of a peek. I paint, hike, sketch little ideas in my tiny idea books, research and more research, and go through my daily meditations about how to keep calm about funds and little by little keep raising money for this project.

To clarify: Why do I sometimes use the word *we* when I speak about the Roots To Resistance Project? Most people know that the Art, research, and Global Campaigns contained in this project are created by me, Denise Beaudet the Artist. This much is true. However the Roots To Resistance Project is powered by so many People. The 12 Women Activists who’s work inspired this project, the People I correspond with around the Globe who help me to understand histories and issues, the Organizations who partner with Roots To Resistance to bring Postcards and Street Posters across the Planet, the People who translate these materials into the languages of the World, the People who have helped me with fundraisers and funds, and my much loved Friends and Family who have supported me through years of Roots To Resistance events and milestones. WE!

I am happy to answer any questions anyone may have about this project and I would be *very* grateful to receive feedback, ideas, brainstorms and offers of help:)

Please pass this on to others if you have enjoyed it because it makes me smile when People join my blog 🙂                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   For more information on this project: http://www.denisebeaudet.com/  or email me at invisible_earth@yahoo.com

Aung san is done!