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

Malalai Joya Visits! Our Food For Thought Event and Our New Work Together!

Two weeks ago we were profoundly honored with a visit from Roots Activist Malalai Joya. For those who do not know her, Malalai is one of the most important Peace and Justice Activists working in Afghanistan today. She tirelessly resists the War and Occupation, attacks on Women’s Rights, violence, corruption and warlords who have been handed authority over townships and Communities in Afghanistan.  As many know she has survived 7 assassination attempts not to mention a constant wave of aggression coming from those that she stands against. It would be easy to caricature her as fierce and fearless, a mythical Super heroine, after all , she is called the bravest Women in Afghanistan. That she is. However,  Malalai Joya like so many Activists is more than just her Activism,  she is a Mother, a member of her Family and Community, and a citizen of Afghanistan. She worries, faces many fears and feels the weight of a path that is chosen but very difficult. I feel very lucky and honored to call her a friend. She is profoundly kind, gracious, loving, likes to be silly, and yes she is fierce, strong, and profoundly effective at moving mountains. We spend a lot of time checking in about the challenges when I see her but also we laugh a lot. She amazes me. I feel exhausted from doing 5 events in a couple weeks while she speaks in a different state every night for months at a time. When she is at home she must stay in a different safe house every night because of the danger to her and to her Family. Can you imagine her concern for them? For her son?

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When she was here Malalai Joya and I had some time to talk about and work on the details of an additional Postcard campaign that will support her aims. We currently send Postcards that we created with Malalai demanding an end to the war and occupation in Afghanistan, around the World. The Postcards are pre-addressed to President Obama and the White House and a stream of them are sent each month from many corners of the Globe. Malalai and I are now creating an additional Postcard and Street Postering campaign to raise funds for a film she is working on called, A Woman Among Warlords. The film is a very important one, as it will be informing a World Community about the real truths and realities of the past and present Afghanistan through interviews and conversations with Malalai and with spoken experiences of the People, Families and Communities inside of Afghanistan. The film is important for many reasons but the ones Malalai sites have to do with bringing attention to Afghanistans forgotten People and bringing their true realities, their truths, to all.

The new Postcards bringing support for this Film, will be available this week so please be in touch if you would like to disperse some.

Malalai Joya is someone who deserves profound respect and the consideration of your support , and I pass on her gratitude to you for that.                                                          The link below will allow you to directly support Malalai and her new film:                               http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/malalai-joya

To learn more about how to support Malalai Joya please visit the site of her Defense Committee: http://www.malalaijoya.com/dcmj/

A great article written about the event by local media Organization Orangeink: http://orangeinkeducation.wordpress.com/2013/10/13/the-first-demand-of-my-people-is-justice-malalai-joya-comes-to-food-for-thought-books/

 Click here To learn more about the Roots To Resistance Project

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Human, Again

Today’s Blog by Syrian Journalist Razan Ghazzawi. This is about more than facts and accounts, it is about emotional spaces entered into in Revolutions, Uprisings, Resistance Movements. Gratitude to Razan.

Exiled Razaniyyat

I am sitting in my office, on the ground – we don’t sit on chairs around here.

I am sitting in my office. My freaking office, that took me months to get. It took me months to get my close circle here take my work and believes on children rights seriously. It took me six months to get where I am today.

I am sitting in this office and feeling down. Very. I’ve been talking to my friends in another city telling them that I am moving in to where they are. I don’t think I can live here any longer.

I am tired. I can’t cry with someone here. I can’t speak my mind at all, with someone here.

I was talking to another female blogger living in the liberated part of her city- what she’s facing is the same as I am here.

It’s war and it’s a…

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