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A catalyst for change

(For the last 16 months, I have been posting on this blog reviews of I Am Troy Davis from those most qualified to respond to the book–incarcerated men and women, many of them on death row. Here is a response to the book I received from a prisoner on Texas’s infamous death row.)

“I Am Troy Davis” is a rosebush replete with thorns. Reading it will leave your heart aching and tender; your spirit fragrant and fierce.

Against the backdrop of a black boy’s 22-year odyssey from his mother’s home in Savannah to Georgia’s notorious death house, Jen Marlowe peels back the gritty layers of injustice while revealing the fighting power of a praying family.
Like Ida B. Wells’ anti-lynching campaign of the 1930s, like the sit-ins of the Civil Rights Movement, like the shouts of “I Can’t Breathe” and “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,” ‘I Am Troy Davis’ is a catalyst for change. It shames us, and it propels us to question our level of civility as a country.
Howard Guidry
Innocent man on death row




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Towards justice, equality, and dignity

Dear friends and supporters,

Thank you so much for all you helped Donkeysaddle Projects accomplish in 2015.

This year, Donkeysaddle Projects celebrated the Ramadan Eid in Gaza with the Awajah family whose 9-year old son was killed and whose home was destroyed twice—once in the 2009 assault, and then again (after finally being rebuilt) in the 2014 assault.

We traveled to the West Bank village of Duma, standing with a family whose house was burned to the ground and whose neighbors (including an 18-month baby) were murdered when Israeli settlers firebombed their two houses.

We exposed the ongoing trauma at the one-year anniversary of the 2014 Gaza war and we filmed the steadfastness of the villagers of Susya, facing demolition of their South Hebron Hills village. We documented the risks taken by human rights defenders in Gaza, and the violations occurring with the arrests of Palestinian children by Israeli military and police.  We investigated the water and sanitation crisis in Gaza, and probed Israel’s practice of linking medical permits for patients from Gaza to intelligence gathering.

Ahmed house2

7-year old Ahmad Dawabsheh surveys the remains of his burnt house in the West Bank village of Duma

We brought attention to continuing repression in the small Gulf nation of Bahrain through screenings of our new documentary film Witness Bahrain. We began to connect dots between state violence and inequality in Israel/Palestine and in the U.S. through preparation for our the spring tour of our new play There Is A Field. We enabled children in Gaza to receive urgently needed medical care and Troy Davis’s nephew to continue his college education.

We were on the streets (and spent several hours in a NYC jail) continuing to demand justice and accountability for the police murders of Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Nicholas Heywood Jr., and so many more. We rejoiced with prisoner Reggie Clemons when the state of Missouri vacated his death sentence and his conviction. We continued to correspond with those who have been caged as part of the U.S.’s policy of mass incarceration, inviting their responses to the epidemic of police brutality and to the growing movement for Black lives.

All of this was made possible because of your generous support.

 As 2015 draws to a close, I hope you will choose to include Donkeysaddle Projects in your year-end giving, either through a one-time donation, or a monthly gift. (To contribute via check, please click here.)

building towers2

Pre-school children in Gaza build towers out of the rubble of their destroyed kindergarten

With your support, in 2016 Donkeysaddle Projects will continue to expose the human impact of inequality, state violence, occupation and other forms of oppression—and we will continue to highlight those resisting with humanity and dignity.

Towards justice, equality, and dignity for all,

 Jen Marlowe

Donkeysaddle Projects

PS–If you’d like to stay in closer touch, please follow me on Twitter, and/or my blog, View from the donkey’s saddle!

[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 and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.}

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Black Children Matter

MInutes ago, it was announced that the officer who murdered 12 year old Tamir Rice in Ohio last year would not face charges. At this moment–I have outrage, I have grief, I have disgust–but I have no new words to offer. Instead, I offer the words I wrote last month, at the one-year anniversary of Tamir’s killing. The essence of the piece: “Black children matter. Such a basic statement–but one that demands the entire restructuring of our society, a society which is built on the premise that only certain lives matter, and other lives are dispensable.”

View from the donkey's saddle

I didn’t know who Nicholas Heywood Jr was. Not really. I had heard his name raised up in demonstrations and marches for Mike Brown, Eric Garner. I had seen posters with his photograph and was saddened by the youthful, smiling face staring back at me, a smile that I understood had been brutally extinguished.

But I had never truly contemplated who Nicholas was, this boy who had been snatched from his family.  Exactly how, and exactly where, and exactly when, was Nicholas’s smile extinguished?

Tamir 12-year old Tamir Rice, murdered by police one year ago in Cleveland.

Yesterday, we marched. The march was for 12-year old Tamir Rice, to remember and demand accountability for what happened exactly one year ago, when Tamir was playing with a toy gun in a Cleveland, OH park and two police officers shot Tamir within two seconds of their arrival. The boy fell. No first aid…

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Set the Stage for Justice!

Dear friends and supporters,

You make possible all that we do at Donkeysaddle Projects—and we cannot thank you enough.

In 2015, you supported the premiere of our documentary film Witness Bahrain at the Seattle Transmedia & Independent Film Festival (where it won the Audience Award, with later screenings on Capitol Hill in DC and at Seattle’s Arab Festival); you helped us report from the ground in Palestine/Israel, producing several short videos and feature pieces in The Nation, AlJazeera America, TomDispatch, +972Mag, Mondoweiss, and Yes! Magazine; and you supported our ongoing efforts to expose the violence of the death penalty and its connection to all forms of state violence, including police killings.

Amer Jen Nada

Witness Bahrain won the Audience Award at the Seattle Transmedia & Independent Film Festival

The past year has brought into stark relief the interconnection between universal struggles for liberation and equality–in Palestine, in the U.S. and beyond. 

For that reason, we are asking your support to set the stage for justice in 2016, as we produce a college/university tour of our new documentary-style play, There Is A Field

Based on interviews and primary sources collected over fourteen years, There Is A Field is a story of how a Palestinian family journeys through grief after the Israeli police killed their teenage son, Aseel. While offering an intimate view into the racism and violence faced by Palestinian citizens of Israel, the play transcends any particular time or place to reflect on oppressions in Israel/Palestine, the United States, and around the world.

We are working with a growing coalition of organizations to steer the tour of the play; including Adalah, 50 Shades of Black, Students for Justice in Palestine, Dream Defenders, Jewish Voice for Peace, the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, and Code Pink.

The play emerges at a critical juncture of not only escalating state violence, but also unprecedented mobilization for the rights of Palestinians, for Black-Palestinian solidarity, and for transnational movement-building.

from ferguson to palestine

The story of Aseel’s life and murder accentuates the stark similarities between entrenched inequality and impunity, both in the State of Israel and in the U.S., and contributes to the vital and growing national conversation around the systematic devaluation of Black life in the United States. Through the performance and post-play discussions, audience members will grapple with unequal systems of justice, and together consider ways to strengthen intersectional movements for social transformation.

Your donation today will allow There Is A Field to travel to 20 universities in the United States this spring (including several Historically Black Colleges and Universities) and will enable us to end the tour with three days of performances and workshops in the St Louis area, culminating in a performance in Ferguson, MO.

Please support donkeysaddle projects with a contribution that feels meaningful to you this year. Just click here to make a tax-deductible one-time (or monthly) donation, or click here for information on sending a check!  

In doing so, you will be supporting a vision of the world in which every person’s humanity and rights is equally respected and equally protected.

Towards justice, freedom and equality,
Jen Marlowe & Amer Shurrab
Donkeysaddle Projects

derry, north of ireland1

Witness Bahrain won the Audience Award at the Seattle Transmedia & Independent Film Festival

[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 and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.}

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On human rights day: Kids Without Borders

Today is international human rights day. There’s much I could post to highlight the gross violations of human rights perpetrated in far too many countries, including the one in which I am a citizen.
Instead, I will post a video I made a few years ago of kids from all over the world asking each other questions. For me, it’s a reminder of the reason why we must continue to fight for a world where every child is treated as the precious little person that s/he is–and is able to grow up with dignity, freedom, protection, equality.

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Muppets and Jail and Joy and Justice

I had bizarre bookends to my day on Thursday. My day began with muppets. My day ended in jail.

Due to intermittent chronic insomnia (you can read more about how and why that started here), I woke up at 4:30am, unable to return to sleep–giving me a few pre-start-of-day hours to edit the Muppet Adele “Hello” video spoof I had been making with my housemate and her friend (Whose muppet, Lou, showed he has the chops it takes to become a *real* star.)

I admit that I sometimes get a bit carried away with these funny, little “side” projects of mine.  (Take, for example, the blog that “Flat Stanley” kept several years ago in Palestine/Israel, or the “Kids Without Borders”  video I made where 3-5 years old from around the world exchanged questions and answers with my 4-year old friend Jessica’s pre-school class.)

The joy I got from making the Lou-Muppet-Adele-video spoof, and the joy that I got seeing the pleasure it brought to others, stayed with me all day on Thursday. It was with me late that afternoon as I headed to Gracie Mansion (the NYC mayor’s residence) where I was joining activists organized by NYC Justice League to protest one year without justice for Eric Garner, who was killed in a police chokehold, as he said, 11 times, “I can’t breathe.”

Joy was still there at 5:45pm or so, as my fellow protestors and I locked arms and knelt down in the middle of East End drive, demanding that Daniel Pantaleo (the officer who murdered Eric Garner) be (at the very, very least) fired from the police force, where he still holds a desk job, collecting a salary and a pension. There was joy as we sang “I can hear my brother shouting ‘I can’t breathe, and now I’m in the struggle saying ‘I can’t leave.'”

choke hold on the city

One year and no justice for Eric Garner: Kneeling down to block off East End Drive in front of Gracie Mansion, chanting “I Still Can’t Breathe”

There was defiant joy as, one by one, the police instructed us to stand, cuffed our hands behind our backs, and led us to paddy wagons which took us to the 33rd precinct. The defiant joy increased exponentially as 23 of us were locked in jail cells together, continuing to sing and to chant.

The source of the joy, of course, had shifted. It was no longer amusement about Lou-the-Muppet and the video spoof. Now, the joy was springing from the energy of being surrounded by so many awe-inspiring activists, all of whom who had, time and again, put their bodies on the line to agitate for justice and for change. It was the deep joy of knowing that those who surrounded me understood that another world was possible–one where Black and Brown life was valued and protected–and in fact, were actively struggling to bring about that world.  And they were bringing it about with not only righteous anger, but with fierce, uncompromising love.

Joy and love was what I found myself reflecting on in the jail cell Thursday night, after my incredible cell-mates had been released, and I was waiting to be as well. Lou and the spoof Adele video we made flashed through my mind as I sat waiting, and I realized that the joy that I get (and hopefully spread) in creating these humorous side projects is part of what keeps me sane and grounded in the midst of the deep pain that my work (and therefore myself) is often immersed in.

But the reflection cut deeper than that. It went to the importance–the critical necessity–of joy and love in our work.  About the essential truth that, if we are trying to build a world where everyone experiences love and joy instead of fear and brutality and oppression–that this love and joy must be part of how we go about building that world.

A crowd was waiting for us, cheering, as one by one we were released and left the precinct, each with pink slips in our hands for charges of “disorderly conduct” or “refusal to disperse.”

We gathered in a circle, led by Carmen Perez, founder of NYC Justice League and Executive Director of The Gathering for Justice. The context was noted–that the only people who have served jail time related to the murder of Eric Garner is the young man who filmed the killing on his smartphone, and those who protested the killing, and those now protesting the lack of justice. But the circle we gathered in was not fueled by outrage alone–though outrage was there, and it was righteous. The circle was also fueled by joy, by the triumphant chant “I believe that we will win!” and by a strong feeling of being part of family who is in this struggle for the long haul, together.

It was best expressed in the Assata Shakur quote that was led in call-and-response:

“It is our duty to fight. It is our duty to win. We must love and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”


On the streets in NYC in Dec 2014, protesting the lack of accountability in the police killings of Mike Brown and Eric Garner





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Honoring a Warrior for Justice

December 1, 2015Image

Dear friends,

It was four years ago today that Martina Davis-Correia passed away from breast cancer. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about her.

There is so much that we, those fighting for human rights  and social justice in the world, owe to Martina.

Because of Martina’s tireless work to prove the innocence of her brother, Troy Davis,  Troy received remarkable international exposure, making both Troy and Martina galvanizing figures in the struggle to end the death penalty, and bringing us that much closer to the day that capital punishment will be abolished once and for all.

Because of Martina’s persistent encouragment, guidance and education, innumerable women in Savannah and country-wide got mammograms and/or life-saving treatment, and learned to take charge of their disease and live full lives.

Because of Martina, the world has the gift of her son De’Jaun, an incredible young man who has already touched the world profoundly.

A few hours before Troy’s execution on September 21, 2011, Martina spoke at a press conference at a church across the street from the prison in Jackson, GA.   “Our lives, and my son’s, my sisters’ and brother’s lives, and my niece’s life, has been richer for knowing Troy,” Martina told the press and supporters who packed the pews. “Anybody who’s met Troy has come away with an imprint of him on their soul.”

Martina’s words were true–but what is equally true is that all of us who had the enormous privilege of knowing Martina, working with her, being inspired by her, calling her our friend, came away with Martina’s imprint on our souls as well. Martina’s life, and the life of Troy, and their mother Virginia (who passed just months before Troy and Martina)–has left an imprint on the world.

Martina once told me that she wanted to live to see three things: her mother be able to enjoy her senior years, her brother to walk free, and her son to graduate from high school.
And, though I can’t say I know much of anything with certainty, this I do know:
Virginia is no longer forced to endure the unbearable pain of a son on death row and a daughter wracked with pain from cancer. Troy is no longer penned up in a cage awaiting the next, and then the next, execution date.

And three Davis family angel-warriors are proudly watching as De’Jaun thrives in his third year at Morehouse College, guiding him and encouraging him from above.

This, I know as well:
The world is a better place for Martina, Virginia and Troy having been in it, and having connected their family’s struggle to our universal struggle.
And I am a better person for having known them, and having had the tremendous honor of fighting alongside them.

I ask you, in Martina’s memory, to read the book that we co-authored, detailing her fight for her own life so that she could continue to fight to free her brother and raise her son. And I ask you to join her fight to abolish the death penalty.

Thank you, Martina, for so much. You will always be missed, but your imprint will never fade.

With love, always
Jen Marlowe

PS–Martina wanted nothing more than for her son to have the opportunities he deserves for his future. If you would like to contribute to De’Jaun’s college fund, please click here.

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