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Faces of Iraq
by Green Earth Al (May.05.2003)



Jim Whitlock
    Life was chaos. I was working around the clock on Democracy Rising's Peace on Earth week event and deleting as much email as possible without reading it; trying to catch up to my life. I was getting so much mail from Jim Whitlock that I began to get the sense that something must be going on. If you've been to a peace protest in Buffalo in the last 6 months you've probably seen Jim Whitlock. He's what you might call a tireless advocate for peace.

    A lot of the mail from Jim had 'Faces of Iraq' in the headline. Drawing once more on my incredible intuitive abilities, I began to realize that Faces of Iraq must not be just some newspaper article or forwarded link but an actual 'something'. So I clicked on it to see what it was.

    Apparently there was a traveling exhibit called the Faces of Iraq and Jim wanted to bring it to Buffalo and was soliciting suggestions on where it could be displayed (some brilliant person suggested the CEPA gallery) and how to staff it and help with the logistics. Everyone else seemed to be offering great suggestions (through the wny-discuss list on riseup.net) so I figured I could go see it when they brought it here and other than that it would all take care of itself.

    Then one day the Democracy Rising event had come and gone and I slowly began catching up on my EMail. There was lots more EMail about Faces of Iraq including mail inviting comments on the event flyer and invitations to be friends of the exhibit. It suddenly occured to me that I should be a friend of the exhibit so that I could get some literature at the event about this website and the other GBINet.info websites. I sent a quick email to Jim asking what I could do to become a friend and his answer was to just give him some literature and he would put it out on the tables for me. That didn't really sound like being much of a friend so I asked him if there was anything I could do to help the exhibit and he asked if I could show up Friday afternoon to help with final preparations.


Val from the Green Party reads some of the
photo captions from the exhibit


    I had never been to the CEPA gallery before. I have just recently become aware of what they've done with some of the great buildings on Main street in the theater district, but the CEPA gallery spaces are well beyond anything I was expecting. As an early arrival I got to spend a lot of time wandering around the exhibit alone. There were a lot of tables to move and banners to hang and a projector to help set up, but for the most part the CEPA staff had already finished everything. I had plenty of time to look around the exhibit and absorb some of the photos and admire all of the other CEPA galleries.

    The final preparations appeared to be finished so I put some GBINet literature out on the table and prepared to go home but just then other people that Jim invited to help set up began to arrive and they were people I knew so I got caught up in conversations with them. Bill Marx was there very early and he was setting up slides from his recent trip to Iraq on the projector.

    Then Jim arrived and there was a whole new opportunity to help with setting up the upstairs reception area. After that I felt sufficiently involved to call myself a friend of the exhibit. Lot's of other friends and sponsors of the exhibit showed up as it was getting close to the time for the exhibit to open. I could have stayed and talked forever but it was getting to be time for the lovely and talented Heather K to get home from work so all thoughts turned to getting home.

    A quick bike trip later I was asking her whether she wanted to add a few MORE things to the already overflowing list of things we had to do that night. There were literally 3 or more different activist functions going on at any given point in the night all night long. We decided on trying to do the whirlwind tour and just spend 20 minutes or so at each event. We would start with a trip back to Faces of Iraq and to be honest we didn't do very well at limiting ourselves to 20 minutes there.


Heather K views the exhibit
    As Heather began to move through the gallery carefully reading each caption and taking in the photos I began to realize that I had sort of missed the point with my haphazard random viewing of pictures. I started to go through more slowly and more carefully and read the photo captions and get a sense of who the people in the photos were. I came in with the sense that this exhibit is about showing that the people of Iraq are people just like us, and I figured I already knew that so I didn't really need to read everything. I began to realize that the people of Iraq aren't people like us, thery're people like themselves and if I read about them and studied the photos I could actually begin to get to know them.


Bill Marx delivers an
emotional appeal to tell
people about this exhibit.
    To date I have still not made it all the way through the exhibit and read every single caption... but I WILL. I made it through much of the gallery but then it was time for the opening ceremonies and what promised to be some good speaches. We all filed into the first floor atrium and were indeed fortunate to hear some great speaches.

    During final preparation the event organizers were thinking about whether there was anything more they could do to further depoliticize the exhibition. They felt it was important to extend an invitation to people all across the spectrum to see these photos. The speaker from Amnesty International had no such concern. This display was about rehumanizing the Iraqi people and her speach did just that. Finally it was Bill Marx's turn to speak. Bill has been doing great work organizing a local presense for Pax-Christi. He visited Iraq in person in February and now he spends a great deal of time telling the American people about the people he met there. His speach was an impassioned appeal to tell everyone you knew about the deeply moving photos that are on display in this exhibit. I resolved to come home and write this recap to add my own personal endorsement to his.

    The faces of Iraq exhibit will be on display until Saturday, May 10th. They are open every weekday until 5pm and will have special eventing hours this Wednesday May 7th (Open 6 to 9pm). I strongly encourage everyone to make it down to view this wonderful collection of art that many dedicated people have worked very hard to make available. It is well worth your time.

-gea



from Jim Whitlock:
if you have time and energy to so note, the BPP Organizers' Network really deserves the credit, I'm just the loud grunt doing a lot of the legwork. It was their money and the personal time investments of many of them that really made it happen. Marty Sawma, Teresa Maciocha, and Sandy Carrubba deserve special credit for their heavy investments in everything from getting flyers out to preparing and serving the opening reception refreshments.

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