Saturday, January 31, 2009
Things have been really insane, and I've been feeding off adrenaline for the past couple of days. I did my first interview today, and will be doing a few more tomorrow, including a couple of portraits.
New photographs from the AIPAC protest are up at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/vanissa/sets/72157613126170577/.
I'm a little at a loss for words. It's just been a draining couple of days.
Monday, January 26, 2009
It seems that since the ceasefire, the energy has died down. Don't be mistaken - it doesn't mean people are less angry or charged about the injustice in Gaza. It's been a good chance for people to organize. We are not silent, and we will never be silent.
I filled up three memory cards. Each photo I shoot adds to editing time. My schedule for shooting has already filled up four days of a week that has not begun. 2 protests. A meeting on Zionism. My brain is so thirsty, my body has forgotten itself, as my apartment collects dust and Nico's shedding accumulates. Laundry awaits. Luggage still unpacked. My fridge has a nice array of half-empty condiments and not much else. My mom asks me if I'd been eating well and I respond with laughter.
Friends call, but I can't talk. "Hey, you want to do dinner?" Not really.
I haven't been really social lately.
I'm not a photographer, I'm a socialist with a camera. I can't pencil you in, I have a message to get out to the world!!
I've been deemed "mad" and "crazy" by ex-boyfriend. Also, "crazy" by my Palestinian friend who took me to my first Gaza protest earlier this month.
Another ex cheers me on and says one day we'll be side by side documenting the world.
Feels nice to be believed in.
Parents are scared. Has Vanissa gone nuts? What happened to these plans that she's been talking about....maybe she should just settle down, meet Joe Shmoe and get married...pop out a few kids...
FUCK Joe Shmoe! He'll get in the way of my photography agenda....
And what is that exactly?
To reveal to the world: INJUSTICE!! INJUSTICE!! INJUSTICE!!
To convince the world of humanity, that we musn't allow ourselves to be seduced by capitalism (or so preoccupied with the bubble of our own lives) to the point where we begin to feel no attachment to our fellow human beings. It's easy to love the people we have in our life, family and friends, but to love our "neighbors," (or some would rather isolate them by calling them "strangers") even though it's a rule for nearly every religion to, "love thy neighbor," it doesn't appear that we are so inclined.
People have come up to me to "congratulate" me for my "humanitarian" efforts - this isn't something to congratulate me for, I'm not in this to win a prize, I'm in this to convince the people who are congratulating me and anyone else to give a damn like I do! We should be caring that people are dying (why? Because we are human), and even more so because the United States has a direct hand in Israel's massacre of 1400 people.
Then people ask, "Okay, well I do care, but what could I do to help?" There's so much you could do. Boycott organizations that support Israel. Get involved in an event. Read about what is happening, and don't just read one source or only sources that the U.S. puts out.
There are demonstrations everywhere, there are groups and organizations everywhere. You can easily get involved these days, especially with information being so easily accessed via internet. These people need help. They need more people to stand in solidarity with Gazans, and other oppressed people. The more people there are, the less power the government has, the less they are able to ignore us, the more we will be heard, and the closer we will come to some kind of justice in the future. Persistence will keep the movement going, indifference will only promise defeat and stagnation.
I ramble....I cannot change the world in one post, but maybe I can convince at least one person who's on the fence to give two shits about this and actually do something about it......
As far as my path goes, as far as my plans go, I make them and they either happen or don't. My heart is what leads me, and I will change plans if need be.
I cannot and refuse to live any other way.
it went something like this:
Man: I worked at Gap once...I lasted 3 days. All that folding at the end of the day? Fuck that shit.....I let the Chinese do my laundry.
Woman looks over at me, notices my "Asian-ness." Makes a face.
Man notices too, makes an, "Oops," face.
Woman does a subject change: I haven't had a chance to upload my new iPod yet. Blablablalblabullshitbullshitbullshit
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
The inauguration was all right. Might have been better for me to stay at home. We didn't get in, even with tickets, because it was so overly packed and we ended up getting stuck outside the gate. I spent most of Tuesday freezing my little toes off and disgruntled along with the rest of DC.
It was still an experience, however, and I definitely got to know DC better via their metro system. It was kind of fun that way, and I can see myself getting around fairly easily around our nation's capitol for future photo ops.
My kids are having music right now and they're improvising to action movie soundtracks. Kind of scary....they're all acting like soldiers in action.
Anyway, not much to post right now, with my pictures unedited. I'll take a look tonight.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
I met a Bush Lover last night while out with friends at Korean BBQ.
It was incredible. I was very interested in what she had to say, thinking, maybe I'll be enlightened somehow....How could someone possibly be a Bush Lover? I was under the impression that most if not all Americans hated Bush (unless you are related to him) in some way shape or form. Well, certainly not the case I found out tonight.
This is how the conversation went:
Bush Lover (BL): So, what are you doing down here?
Me: Oh, I'm covering Bush protests on Monday and also the Inauguration.
BL: Bush protests?
Me: Yes, one of them is called, "Shoe Bush."
BL: What??!! Why would people protest Bush?? I mean, I know some people don't like him, but isn't that a little much.....?
Me: Wait. You *like* Bush?
BL: Yes....I love him. I think he has done some amazing things, and I support what he does.
I was baffled, at this point. BAFFLED. I mean, I thought she was joking.
Me: What do you like about him....and what amazing things has he done?
BL: Well, you know, not every human being is perfect, you know...I'm sure he has made some mistakes, but I think overall, he is a good person. For example, in the Middle East, I don't know a lot about that, but I know that we are over there to defend our freedoms.
Me: Really. You think that we are in Iraq to defend our freedoms. You know Bush lied to us about WMDs. You know that they Bush Regime had every intention of going into Iraq before 9/11 occurred, and they said so themselves. You know that we've killed over 1.3 million Iraqis since the invasion.
BL: Mmm..Oh yeah, did he? Yeah...well, you know, you have to look at things long-term. I mean, I was watching t.v. and they just showed our officials really organizing and getting together and brainstorming on the Middle East. They said that we cannot look at things short term, that it has to be long term.
Me: Okay, can you explain that to me please?
BL: Yes, well, like I said, I don't know that much about it, I just know that they have our best interests in mind...You know, to protect us from terrorists. We are in Iraq because there are terrorists there.
BL: Uh huh!
Me: I think you need to fact-check your opinions.
BL: I'm entitled to my opinion.
Me: You certainly are, but you have no facts to back up your claims.
BL: Facts aren't truth, they're just facts.
Me: *silent with disbelief* What do you do for a living??
BL: I'm an accountant.
Me: How do you stay up with your current events?
BL: Oh I watch the news and I listen to Bush and I listen to other people's opinions. This one time Bush was talking about this kid who once couldn't fly kites in Iraq, and it was his favorite thing to do. Now that we have given them freedom, he can fly kites now...I thought that was a very moving story.
Me: Do you know about what is happening in Israel?
BL: Yeah..you know, but they're terrorists. I believe all those people in Gaza deserve to die. Israel has every right to defend themselves.
Me: *at this point, I imagined flying over to the other side of the table and beating the living shit out of this ignorant excuse for a human being. But....I restrained myself.* Really. So, all these women and children and civilians that are just defending themselves...deserve to die.
BL: Yeah, I mean, in the end, if there is injustice, they will be judged by God, whoever is wrong.
Me: So, back to Bush...Doesn't what a leader DO rather than what he SAYS mean anything to you?
BL: Well both things matter.
Me: Uh huh, and have you looked at the things that Bush has done?
BL: Yes, but like I said before, it is all to guarantee the safety of our freedoms in the long term. I am so grateful that people are out there fighting everyday for our freedom. I feel very lucky to be here. Plus, I think it is wrong to bash a leader.
Me: So, if you were living in Nazi Germany, and you heard about what the Nazis were doing to the Jews, you'd be okay with that? You wouldn't think less of Hitler?
BL: Well, I think comparing Bush to Hitler is really not right....They're so different.
Me: Not really, but that's not the point. I'm talking about you in that situation.
BL: You know, like I said before, I listen to Bush, I trust what he says, and I think he is a good person. Like I said, no one is perfect.
At this point, the conversation sizzles off, I mean..really, it was pointless talking to this extremely stupid individual. Either which way, I was baffled. A part of me thinks she was pulling my leg the whole time, but if there are more people that have such poor critical thinking skills as her in our country, well...We're totally FUCKED.
Friday, January 16, 2009
Little Pali boy crashed at last Sunday's protest in Times Square. Dads' are great for this sorta thing when you're still small enough to be picked up.
I know I'm cheesy. I'm just excited. There are several posts that I'm working on, but not nearly finished, because I want to put photos between commentary. It eats away at my time. I've been obsessively editing - finally finished with all the shots yesterday and got to put them all up on Flickr.
Finding a place to stay has been the main challenge of this whole thing. I have plenty of friends in Northern Virginia, but not in DC. However, through the help of many people who called many other people on my behalf, I think it's going to work out.
I've been researching the events going on Monday and Tuesday, and so far plan on attending a few protests happening on both days.
Well....time to go. Wish this Gazan Chink some luck.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
NYPD = lies
CNN = lies
January 11's rally is described by CBS only had 150 "pro-Palestinian" participants, which is an absolute lie. I've been so busy the last couple of days, I haven't had time to put up all of my photos from Sunday's protest.
The above are links to US media coverage (CNN and CBS) of the NY protest on Sunday, January 11, 2009. I attended this event from start to finish and was able to capture some of the violence that was happening at the end. I witnessed a few incidence, including mace victims who were also beaten down by NYPD cops, and was pushed by a cop myself for having a camera. My photographer friend was grabbed by the neck and pushed away when he couldn't comply because something was blocking his path. I also interviewed one mace victim when I bumped into him on my train ride home.
The CBS article was completely fallacious. I was enraged when I read it. It called our protest a "Pro-Palestinian" rally, which makes our movement sound like some sort of nationalist movement (which it only partially is, for example, Palestinian's right to a sovereign state and their right to return to their homeland), but mainly, our protest is about freeing the Palestinian people from IDF occupation and terror, specifically in Gaza due to the atrocities that are occurring there. Next, they claimed that our rally was small (they called it the, "much smaller Pro-Palestinian rally" when comparing it to the Pro-Israel by the United Nations), and that there were only "about 150 participants," which you will be able to see from my photos that that is a complete lie.
There were easily thousands of people on Sunday protesting for Gaza. The NYPD blocked us off on 51st and 9th, claiming that it was an emergency road only and that we couldn't walk anymore. I'm not sure if that was our stopping point, but we were locked there for the rest of the protest, which lasted probably about another hour and a half. Our speakers came out, and some people started to get frustrated being stuck in one place, so some people started opening the gates and leaving. At this time, tons of cops began entering the street, and tried to clear the sidewalks of protesters. As many of them as there were they weren't really successful. My friend and I were outside of the gate by this tree, and when a cop told us to move, we moved to the other side of the tree. Maybe ten minutes later, another cop would come and then we'd go to the other side of the tree. It was completely stupid. They were doing this to everyone but weren't really successful in getting us to move - but the thing is, we weren't really blocking the sidewalk anyway because most of us were right against the gates. One guy got into an argument with a cop, probably about being pushed around, and they started getting into each other's faces. Luckily, nothing happened, other than both sides pulling each of them away. I documented all of that.
After the speakers were done, everyone started to leave. I was on the outside of the fence where all the cops were, and they were trying to push all the outside protesters back into the gates (basically, we're cattle). When one of them saw me and saw my camera, he started yelling at me, "Hey! What are you doing here?! Do you have a press pass? Where's your press pass? This is authorized personnel only!!" When I told him that I was waiting for my photographer friend, he said he didn't care, and yelled, "Get outta here!!" and pushed me several feet inside the gate (with force, and I stand about 5'3"). I had knee surgery 4 months ago - had I not been fully recovered, I would have lost my balance. Asshole!
At this point, things started to get chaotic, and next to me was a kid who looked like he was crying, because tears were going down his cheeks. His friends all surrounded him, holding him up, and a few NYPD cops who were on the other side of the gate were addressing him. "Don't put water on it, it'll make it worse," said one of the cops.
I asked one of the bystanders what had happened and he said, "They maced him!"
Police brutality - live! Not that this made me happy-excited, but it did have me excited, as I went around trying to figure out what was going on, because I wanted to capture it with my lens to counter any media source that said otherwise. One kid was holding his eye, and yelling at a cop, as if he had just been hit. His friend pulled him away. I couldn't get his story because he was too pissed off.
My friend and I watched several arguments start breaking out, as people continued exiting the block and onto 9th Avenue. We decided to leave the drama because it was seemingly dying down and stopped at a cafe to grab a bite to eat. I go to the ladies' room....
..and when I come out, my friend is gone. And his camera.
I run outside, and immediately see a barage of cops...cops on foot, cops on horses, cops on their bikes..running, all towards this one corner of the street, to create a big blob of cops. Everyone (mostly cops) is in a state of panic, and I as I capture a few shots of the mess with my camera, I see a man getting thrown onto the cop car with his hands behind his back to get cuffed. Then I catch a man after having been arrested be escorted away by a cop, an expression of annoyance but submission on his face.
We must think Arabs are crazy for their suicide bombers. But, when it comes to their modus operandi, at least they carried out their mission, whether for their freedom, self-defense, or just pure hatred for the "Free World." There really isn't such a thing as a "humane war," and this mumbo jumbo of using illegal weaponry/tactics - well, I don't buy it. US media tends to focus on their sworn enemies' war crimes when clearly, we don't follow the rules ourselves (re: Hiroshima, Albizu Campos, more recently, Abu Ghraib, Gitmo, IDF too, with those soft-point round bullets http://www.casi.org.uk/discuss/2003/msg04998.html and Israel's apartheid wall deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice http://www.stopthewall.org ). Killing people is cruel enough in and of itself, and it's never going to be pretty.
What of the motives behind the eerily increasing rates of suicide among US and IDF soldiers, though? Why are they killing themselves? If not for their country, or in the name of God or Jesus Christ, what productivity comes from committing suicide?
Interestingly enough, these two military powers hold more in common than we might like to think. Suicide, and killing journalists.
US soldier suicides reach a record high:
Palestinian Freedom Fighters are not the #1 cause of IDF soldier deaths. Rather, it's suicide:
This article discusses both military powers' love for killing the messenger:
Maybe it's our dark common grounds with Israel that keeps our sentiments with them, which reinforces our apathy for Arab scum...or perhaps we're just plain pussies and never ever want to be labeled as anti-American, anti-Semites or anti-Zionists.
Monday, January 12, 2009
This little bit I wrote in my journal on the way to Washington, D.C.
1/10/2009 - The Beginning
I'm on the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition bus (1 of 2) and we've been driving now for nearly 2 hours.
I have to pee, I think.
I barely made the bus this morning. The trains were especially slow but I don't often take the train at 6AM on a Saturday...so I wouldn't know.
It's supposed to rain the whole time. I'm screwed. My camera equipment - screwed.
I had thought about interviewing people and taking their photo, but I haven't really talked much. I haven't slept much and my energy is low, and I'm feeling unusually shy.
Next time. I can't help but think about what atrocities are happening right now in Gaza - as we scream for their freedom and march in solidarity, how many Gazans will die? Children? Mothers and fathers?
God is Palestinian
Weirdest thing happened. We stopped at the rest stop and I take out my camera just to try it out. It won't turn on and I realize I left my battery plugged into the wall. As I realize this, I'm imagining the emotional turmoil I will endure just by being in the event, wishing so much that I was photographing it. My friend Jeff comes out to greet me and I explain to him in a frenzy what has happened.
He looks at me and says, "Wait...what kind of camera do you have?"
I show it to him and he says, "I might have an extra battery in my bag...."
He runs back to the bus and when he returns, hands me a battery and says, "See if this fits." It fit perfectly. It felt like a miracle. My photos would be taken! I would be able to document the event with photos, in the case that no major news media would cover it. I would be able to tell our story.
God is Palestinian!
On the bus, there are independent discussions everywhere.
Behind me, one begins with 3-4 people, and inside of 10 minutes, the conversation has spread to 7-8 people.
People talk passionately about the times, Obama, Chicago's sit-in, Gaza demonstrations around the world.
I am sitting next to my new friend, Saleem. He is from Pakistan, and now lives in Queens with his three kids and his wife. We talk about Gaza and how the US media is particularly bent towards Israel, under reporting, or, not reporting at all, the truth of so many things that happen. As he talks about his children, I can feel both of us getting sad, thinking of the children of Gaza and how precious our children are to us.
We have arrived! Time to shoot.
While I will post a few photos, please visit: http://flickr.com/photos/vanissa/sets/72157612392360737/ to experience the entire set. Thank you.
Department of Veteran Affairs.
Little girl looks at all the protest gear!
A man praying.
My friend Zach using a megaphone.
Yes, it was crowded.
Megaphones are awesome. I want one.
Okay, yes I like shooting children....But also I choose to focus on them at these protests because this is very much about them . The kids I've met at these protests are 100x more brave than the average adult. I've seen these kids lead cheers at the top of their lungs.
Hi. My name is Vanissa Chan. I am an artist/photographer living in Brooklyn, New York. My story of radicalization can be found in my profile. I will explain in more detail what I am doing and why I am doing this.
I take pictures. It is what I have done for many years and what I will continue to do. I also illustrate, but a photo is something that is undeniable. It is an uncovering of truth. It is bringing peoples' eyes to places they cannot see.
I am not Arabic. I do not speak Arabic, and I do not know many Arabs. This is all the reason why it is more important that I speak out about the atrocities that are happening right this moment in Gaza. I have only tasted a glimpse of the racism Arabs face in America. It is an institutionalized racism, much like the racism that our African and Latin populations face on a regular basis. I am fortunate to be a light-skinned Asian. My worst stereotypes include owning a laundromat and buying groceries at stinky fish markets. The typical stereotype of an Asian has positive connotations. We're smart, good at math, and eat a lot of rice. We're not known to be terrorists, crack-addicts, remedial, bestial, violent, impoverished, or uneducated with a child on the way. A poll was taken recently that captured the average Israeli's view of a Palestinian. 75% believe Palestinians are dirty, poor, and illiterate. Basically, they are worthless enough that they should exist within an apartheid wall which closes more and more inwards, and should be slaughtered without any kind of regard, including their young. 45% of the Gazan population is under the age of 15. So, who are the Israeli Defense Force soldiers fighting? Kids. Kids with slingshots. You've seen the photos. IDF tanks roaming towards children who bravely stand in front of them, screaming and hurling rocks. What, you think they've been photo shopped? Or maybe they did something to deserve it? If that's what you think, you need to question your humanity. I hate to sound moralistic, but these crimes that Israel is committing are the worst kind of war crimes: the killing of the innocent and the strangulation of an entire people. This massacre is genocide, and to call it otherwise would be injustice.
As a person of color, I got off easy. When I hear stories of what others have gone through, I'm deeply saddened but also moved. There needs to be a non-Arab movement to support the Palestinian people. Palestinians support each other. The people of Arabic nations support each other (even if their governments do not). Now, if people of other nations extend their compassion towards the Palestinian people, perhaps the people of Gaza stand a chance against the genocide that is happening as I type this. Every two days, at least another 150 Gazans are murdered. I am sure that is a conservative estimate. They are murdered by the IDF's deadly and often illegal weaponry (http://www.btselem.org/english/Firearms/Flechette.asp). Their tactics are chillingly inhumane; for example, civilians will receive a text message asking them to evacuate their homes, or otherwise be attacked. As families gather their belongings and their children, IDF soldiers await them from the outside and shoot them one by one as they come out of their homes, believing they are following orders. Doesn't sound much different than fooling people into a building to take showers and gassing them instead.
Another reason why I am doing this is because I am an American. I work for the government as well as pay my taxes. It is my duty as a responsible citizen to educate myself on where my money goes, and understand how my country operates. $5.5 billion dollars of our tax money goes to fund Israel's military PER YEAR, while only 7% of our taxes go towards our education system. I have seen our public education system. It is atrocious. It is one thing if you are an impoverished country and you don't have much to sustain your schools. It is another thing when you live in the most affluent nation in the whole world and yet still children are not learning, classes are overcrowded, teachers are overworked and underpaid, guidance counselors and social workers are given an unmanageable caseloads, segregation by race and class remain to be a serious issue...etc., etc. I could go on for hours about this, but I don't think I have to say much more to make my point: Our country is eating itself alive. We are unconsciously going through the motions in a push-button society without being aware of how our behavior effects the rest of the world. While we are consumed by our everyday tasks and demands, some that are so condescendingly remedial, buying our groceries, watching television programs, going to the next major sale at the mall, our preoccupation with our everyday lives is distracting us from the bigger picture: that our unconscious, mindless, habitual acts somehow contribute to the ethnic cleansing of a people who we feel absolutely no connection with.
Thus, my reason for putting up this blog, posting my stories, posting my pictures, is an attempt to create some kind of connection with the Palestinian people, so that we may relate, come to know, and come to realize that people of all cultures, not just our own, are actually a whole lot more like us then we would comfortably like to admit. I hope, that in humanizing the Palestinian people through a non-Arab lens, we can stand in solidarity with them through this most difficult time where everything seems to be against them and hope seems to be completely lost.
The people of Gaza are dying. Palestinians everywhere are crying. People everywhere are standing in indifference, in silence, in sorrow....People are sympathetic but feel helpless. You may think, "Okay, it's awful what's happening, but what can I do?" I'm here to tell you that you can do A LOT. It is only silence that will allow such atrocities to continue to happen. But, if we stand up as a collective against these crimes of war, our governments will have no choice but to listen to us.
Today, I announce, that I am no longer Chinese. I am no longer Canadian or American. Today I am Gazan. To identify myself as Palestinian, I will wear a keffiyeh, the traditional scarf for Arab men, which is also worn to display Palestinian solidarity (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keffiyeh#Symbol_of_Palestinian_solidarity). I will wear it until Palestine is free.