Ibrahim–may your memory be a blessing forever.

2009: Wafaa Awajah hangs a “martyr poster” of her child, 9-year-old Ibrahim
 

Ibrahim. I never met you. Yet you have become part of my life forever.

On January 4, 2009, you were a 9-year-old little boy. Living in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahiya. You, your parents (Kamal and Wafaa), your sisters and brothers (Omsiyat, Sobhi, Hala, Diyaa, and Zikriyat) had just fled your house as Israeli military bulldozers began to topple it on your heads. Israeli soldiers shot at your family as you fled.

A bullet hit you in the side. Your father scooped you up in his arms and continued running. Then a bullet struck and injured your father. The rest of your family was able to make it behind the mud wall of a nearby garden, witnessing what happened next.

I can’t imagine what was going through the Israeli soldier’s head when he approached you, lying injured in the road, in your father’s arms.

I can’t imagine what you felt when the soldier lifted his gun, pointed it at your face, and pulled the trigger.

To be honest: I never fully tried to imagine that before, Ibrahim. I met your family just months after your murder. In the ten years since then, my heart has broken time and again from their pain, their ongoing trauma, their suffering. But today, I am thinking about you. About what you experienced the night you were killed. About the young man you never had the chance to become.

This short film that I made about your family, Ibrahim. It’s meant to capture the tragedy of what they lived through, but also your family’s profound resilience, their deep humanity.

One Family in Gaza, the short film I made about 9-year old Ibrahim’s family a few months after the little boy was killed during “Operation Cast Lead.”
 

Another confession: I almost didn’t finish the film. I had so many projects I was working on, that the 3 mini-DV tapes of footage from the three days I spent with your family almost stayed on my bookshelf without ever being edited.

But there was one image that was seared into my brain. The image of your 7-year old sister Hala playing with your 3-year old brother Diyaa on the rubble of your destroyed home. Laughing as they rolled shrapnel and bullet shells down the collapsed roof. Their only playground.  I would wake up some mornings with that image in front of my retinas before even opening my eyes.

It took me over a year, but I finished the film, calling it One Family in Gaza. People all over the world met your beautiful family through the film; some of them offered support, which continues  to this day.

I’ve tried to use whatever small platforms I have to ensure that you are remembered, Ibrahim. That your family’s pain impacts people of conscience. I made this short follow-up film about what your family went through in the years after your murder, including their newly rebuilt home being destroyed once again in the 2014 assault:

Short follow-up film about the Awajah family, 5 years after One Family in Gaza
 

I wrote about your family in this piece, No Exit in Gaza, shortly after the 2014 war, and in this piece, Gaza’s Mental Health Crisis and the Trauma of Permanent War a year after the war. (I start the article describing the visit when your 3-year old brother, who was born after you were killed and is named after you, told me over breakfast that the Jews had shot him. “No, no, you’re the second Ibrahim. It was your brother who was shot, not you,” your dad reassured your little brother.) And I wrote this piece, about Celebrating Eid with your family in the rubble of their twice-destroyed home.

Your mother messaged me early this morning. “We still cry,” she wrote. Your big brother Sobhi, now a 20-year old university student, is grieving particularly deeply. I hope they are finding some comfort in your tree.

Do you remember your tree, Ibrahim? Your olive tree? It was planted for you when you were born. You and your family took shelter under it ten years ago, just before you were killed. It remained a symbol for your family of their connection to you.

When your home was destroyed again in 2014, your parents were heartsick to realize that your tree was destroyed as well. Buried under the rubble. But 6 months later, Sobhi cleared some of the rubble away and found a small olive tree shrub, cut down in size but still very much alive.

Your tree.

Your family’s house is rebuilt again, Ibrahim. Your tree continues to grow.

May your tree contain your spirit, Ibrahim. And may that spirit somehow protect your family. May your parents experience the joy and peace that is possible only with the knowledge that they can keep their children safe. May Omsiyat, Sobhi, Hala, Diyaa, Zikriyat and the siblings you never met, Lulu and little Ibrahim, have the opportunity you never had–not just to live, but to thrive and pursue their dreams.

May no more children–in Gaza or Yemen or Syria or Israel or Kurdistan or anywhere–endure what you endured. May no more families suffer the way yours has suffered.

Ibrahim. May your memory be a blessing for ever.

Wafaa Awajah tending her son Ibrahim’s tree in 2015.
The Awajah family in 2015
Donkeysaddle Projects is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization. Contributions for the charitable purposes of Donkeysaddle Projects must be made payable to “Fractured Atlas” only and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.
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1 teen, 6 cops, 1 bullet and 5 years of a Black family screaming for justice

Dear friends and supporters,

Today is Ramarley Graham’s 24th birthday, Or–it would have been–if on Feb 2, 2012,  the NYPD had not trailed Ramarley (an unarmed teenager), broke down the door to his house, and shot him at close range in the chest, killing him–in front of his grandmother and 6-year-old brother.

I hope you will take a moment to read the article I wrote for Colorlines (with Amy Myers, intern at the Center for Constitutional Rights) about Ramarley, how he was killed, and the family’s struggle for some modicum of justice.

Excerpt of the article (published today in Colorlines)  is below, and you can also read it here.

As always, thoughts, questions, responses are welcomed.

In solidarity with all who have lost a loved one to police violence,
Jen Marlowe
Donkeysaddle Projects
www.donkeysaddle.org

Ramarley Chinoor Patricia

Ramarley with his little brother and grandmother–both of whom were home when NYPD killed Ramarley with one shot

1 Teen, 6 Cops, 1 Bullet and 5 Years of a Black Family Screaming for Justice
by Jen Marlowe and Amy Myers

A few months before his big brother, Ramarley Graham, was shot to death by a New York Police Department (NYPD) officer, 6-year-old Chinnor Campbell was being bullied in school. His 18-year-old brother showed him how to put up his hands to defend himself and demonstrated how to punch using a pillow. “You’ve got to fight back, or people will keep bullying you,” Ramarley coached.

Their mother, Constance Malcolm, says these lessons were typical of their relationship: “Ramarley would take him to the park, pick him up from school, just do what a big brother would do with his little brother.”

Chinnor didn’t have his big brother’s guidance for much longer. On February 2, 2012, a White NYPD officer named Richard Haste entered Graham’s Bronx apartment and fired a fatal shot into his chest. He was only feet away, as was their maternal grandmother, Patricia Hartley. 

Graham would be turning 24 today (April 12) if Haste and his colleagues had not followed him home from a bodega they were surveilling, kicked in the door and fatally shot him.

Read the rest of the article here

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Stand proud. Fearlessly. Together.

Dear friends and supporters,

During these first weeks of the Trump presidency I am reminded, more than ever, of the importance of resistance that is grounded in the values I hold most dear. Community. Equity. Love. Human Dignity. Freedom. Justice.

This short video embodies those values:

The video shows scenes from my play about the police killing of a Palestinian teenager interspersed with the reactions of audience members at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, drawing parallels between structures of oppression in Israel and here in the U.S.–and linking the struggles for liberation and equality.

The connections revealed in the video are profound.  The sense of possibility expressed in communal joint struggle is deeply inspiring. This inspiration is reflected in the words that audience members called out after post-play discussions:
“Stand Proud.”
“Fearlessly.”
“Together.”

gville-rehearsal2

Participants in a community residency in Gainesville, FL rehearse for a staged reading of There Is A Field

I hope you will take a moment to watch–and share! I would love to hear your responses if you do!

In solidarity, in struggle, and in community,
Jen Marlowe
Playwright/Producer, There Is A Field
Founder, Donkeysaddle Projects
donkeysaddle@gmail.com

[Donkeysaddle Projects is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization. Contributions for the charitable purposes of Donkeysaddle Projects must be made payable to Fractured Atlas only and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.}

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Activism, movement building, and fighting structural inequality

Dear friends,

Below, please find a blog post that I wrote for Hedgebrook, a phenomenal women’s writing residency and community of women writers that I have been a part of since 2010.

Activism, movement building, and fighting structural inequality

The play ended and my colleague Carlton Mackey (founder of 50 Shades of Black) invited the audience to share one-word reflections on their experiences. The students at Bowie State University, an historically Black institution in Bowie, MD sat in silence for several moments before their words came pouring out:

 “Familiar.”

“Discrimination.”

“Baltimore.”

“Relatable.”

“Ferguson.”

“Reality.”

 The play, called There Is A Field, tells the story of a 17-year old boy who had been killed by the police.

But it was not situated in America. The play was about Aseel Asleh, a Palestinian citizen of Israel who was killed by Israeli police on October 2, 2000, one of 12 unarmed Palestinian citizens of Israel killed by Israeli security forces at the start of the Second Intifada.

Read the rest here.

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Students at Bowie State University watching There Is A Field

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Nabeel Rajab in prison (again) for Tweeting

Dear friends,

There has been a lot of pain in the last weeks. Between fatal attacks in Baghdad and Istanbul, the massacre of predominantly Latinx and Black Queer folks in Orlando, and the recent murders of two young, Black lives by agents of the state…it has been difficult to keep going, let alone to hold space for everyone who is suffering, everyone who is experiencing repression, everyone who is in pain.

I’m asking you to take a moment to learn about, and hold space for, those suffering in the tiny Gulf Kingdom of Bahrain, where my friend Nabeel Rajab, prominent human rights defender, was re-arrested a month ago because of his audacity to Tweet criticism of the regime. If found guilty, Nabeel could spend up to 13 years in prison.

The U.S. and the U.K–who enable the Bahraini regime–hold direct responsibility.

I hope you will read my op-ed (in the Huffington Post), and consider the connections between the pain of Nabeel and his family to the pain of all those experiencing–and resisting–injustice, all over.

Baba, sumoud!” (“Daddy, stay steadfast!”)

Ten-year old Malak Rajab called out these words as Bahraini police led her father, prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, from his home to waiting police vehicles in July 2012. His crime: insulting the Prime Minister in a tweet.

I filmed Rajab and his young daughter in their front yard from the upstairs window of their house; I had to film clandestinely, as I had entered the country under false pretenses—Bahrain was denying entry to nearly all journalists and human rights defenders. But I captured the girl’s defiant resistance as she trailed after the police who had her father in tow. Later that day, I witnessed her fear as the reality settled in: she did not know when her father would come home.

Read the rest HERE

In solidarity and in struggle,

Jen Marlowe

daughter6

Malak making the sign for “Sumoud” or “Steadfastness” in front of a poster of her father, the day he was arrested in 2012 for a Tweet he sent which criticized the regime. Rajab is now re-arrested on similar charges

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Each one is a world

This morning. Learned that another COPINH activist, a colleague of Berta Caceres, was found murdered in Honduras.

Last night–thousands in the streets all over the U.S. demanding an end to state violence that disproportionately targets Black people, in the wake of police extra-judicial executions of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.

Also last night–5 Dallas police officers murdered, more wounded, in an act that will make everybody–especially activists in the movement for Black lives–not more, but less, safe. In the past weeks–ISIS attacks in Bangladesh, Istanbul and Baghdad killing hundreds, on the heels of mass murder in Orlando.

And in the midst of all this–remembering two years since Israel’s horrifying assault on the Gaza Strip.

Sometimes there are no new words. At this moment, at least, I have no new words. Instead, I want to re-post some of what I’ve already said, already written–pieces that affirm life, humanity, the dignity inherent in every human being. This piece–about Gaza, and about my friend Amer Shurrab–is also (in its message) about Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Berta Caceres and her courageous colleagues in Honduruas, the Pulse massacre vicitims, all of the victims of all of the attacks.

Each of them, a world.

View from the donkey's saddle

7:34pm

We were sitting at Lincoln Park in West Seattle, with a handful of friends who had gathered for a picnic potluck, awaiting others who would be joining us shortly.

A Facebook message came through on my Smartphone from my friend Yousef Munayyer.

Hey Jen, just saw some news about a young man from the Shurrab family in khan yunis being the latest victim, Name is Tayseer. Have you heard from Amer recently?

Amer Shurrab was, as a matter of fact, sitting across the picnic table from me at that very moment.  He  had come for a few day visit from Monterrey, where he is finishing his MBA. Though we had planned the visit weeks before the shit hit the fan in Gaza, the timing of it felt oddly right. I think it felt somewhat comforting to Amer to be surrounded by people who had some notion of what he…

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Celebrating Eid in Gaza amidst the rubble of war

I spent the Eid last year in Gaza, with families who experienced unimagineable horrors during the successive Gaza assaults. Today is 2 years since the 2014 Gaza war began. I re-post here what I wrote about Eid in Gaza last year for +972mag, holding in my mind and in my heart all who have been brutalized (in Gaza, in Minneapolis, in Baton Rouge, in Orlando, in Baghdad, in Istanbul, and in so many other places.)

Excerpt below:

Wafaa Awajah’s family had scarcely taken their seats in a circle of plastic chairs when her brother hitched up his pants to show me the scars on his leg from where he had been injured by an Israeli soldier. Another brother had also sustained injuries from the army; he, too, showed me his wounds. As Wafaa passed around a tray of chilled soft drinks and bowls of nuts and sweets (as is customary during the Eid celebration) a third brother told me of how years ago a settler had hit him with his car–intentionally, he believed–as he was riding his bike on the side of road. A fourth brother had been imprisoned on two occasions, not by the Israeli army, but by Hamas. “For speaking too much,” he told me with a grin, when I asked him why.

Read the rest HERE

Awajah kids on horse back

The Awajah children enjoying a horse and buggy ride during 2015 Eid in Gaza

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