Let them in!

June 26, 2018

Yesterday, the great Eisha Mason, who’s been fighting (nonviolently, of course) for justice probably from the day she was born, called a quick pop-up protest at Western & Wilshire in support of immigrant families. We were there!

And for the big demonstration, Los Angeles area folks, please be at City Hall at 11:00 AM on Saturday, June 30th to make it clear Families Belong Together!

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Inheriting Genocide: Part 3 – Surviving Survival

June 10, 2018

Continuing my thoughts after attending the conference:

Much of what I heard at the Inheriting Genocide symposium resonated with my own experiences working at PTV with men and women seeking asylum in the United States after escaping prison, torture, and the threat of death in their countries of origin. What happens once you think you’re safe?

The people I work with face, as Holocaust and Genocide survivors have faced before them, the challenge of “surviving survival”. After the dangers of war and violence and perilous journeys, your place of refuge turns out to be where you have no papers, no work, no roof over your head, a language you don’t speak, and constant worry or grief over family and friends dead or left behind.

Among all the losses, after much betrayal, abuse, and exploitation, you have lost the ability to trust.

Many asylum seekers here in California still live in fear. They fear ICE. They fear there are government spies living among other immigrants from their country. Political activists and members of the LGBTQ community, criminalized in their countries of origin, fear retaliation against their families back home if their identities become known. In a very profound way, many still remain in hiding.

And so, overcoming isolation and repairing social bonds is also a priority.

In Los Angeles, Holocaust survivors have their own social club, Café Europa. At PTV, I facilitate writing and arts workshops. People get to express themselves while at the same time, creative projects help them regain the compromised ability to focus and concentrate. But I think more meaningful has been the weekly Resilience group of conversation, storytelling, theater games, laughter and song. Our group offers more than peer support. Real friendships are forged. I am constantly inspired and amazed: people who’ve endured so much and have so little are unstinting in their generosity to one another.

At the same time, a frequent complaint is that it’s so hard to meet Americans. But when I take asylum seekers to social occasions or on field trips, they often freeze when white Americans try to engage them in conversation. They don’t want to talk about where they are from, what happened to them, and how and why they arrived in California. Someone hears an accent and asks “Where are you from?” and the question feels like a threat. So I try to prepare my brothers and sisters for a richer social life through roleplay. People practice telling only what they are comfortable saying. They learn to turn the questions back on the Americans and get them talking about themselves. For example: “I’m from Uganda. How about you? Have you always lived in California?”

There are often other barriers to social life. For Holocaust survivors who are now elderly and frail, it’s almost impossible to make it over to Café Europa. Home visits provide at least some contact with the outside world. Clinician Sheila Moore suggests using technology so that people can join programs without being physically present—an approach worth exploring for ImaginAction and other service providers as refugees and asylum seekers also face multiple obstacles to participation.

One of our PTV brothers was hospitalized, alone and afraid, after injuries sustained during torture took a turn for the worse. The hospital agreed to ignore the 2-visitors-at-a-time rule. The entire Resilience group showed up and we held our weekly gathering squeezed into his room, around his bed.

Our family suffered another blow this year. People were devastated when a transgender PTV sister who arrived in this country believing she would be safe was instead brutally murdered. We attended vigils for her and, for the PTV scrapbook in which family members create pages to represent their identities, dreams, and life philosophies, the group created a page to mourn for Viccky who had not had the chance to create her own.

All survivors need to mourn their losses.

Till the next installment,

Diane

The Human Dignity Awards Dinner

April 27, 2018

The theme was Women in Human Rights and Healing and it was amazing to be honored last night along with LA City Councilwoman Nury Martinez, who’s led the fight against the trafficking of women and girls, Lisa Fujimoto of the Change a Life Foundation, and the wonderful Amina Nakiyaga who shook everyone up with her speech. We got the celebrity photo treatment and the photos were then projected in the banquet hall throughout the program. Here I’m with Amina


and here with Rossana Perez, my brave and talented friend who survived the worst in El Salvador in the ’80’s (and brought the flowers).


We raised a lot of money for the Program for Torture Victims – but it’s never enough!

Inheriting Genocide: Part 2, Conspiracy of Silence

March 31, 2018

As I posted last month, much of what I learned at the symposium resonated with me, with the work I do at the Program for Torture Victims and with ImaginAction, a theater arts organization dedicated to community healing. So for those who remain interested in the topic, here’s the link to the next installment as posted at the ImaginAction website. #2: The Conspiracy of Silence.

http://imaginaction.org/intergenerational-transmission-trauma-part-2-conspiracy-silence

March for Our Lives!

March 25, 2018

Students, children, and youth were the vanguard of the Civil Rights Movement and the Chicano Movement. Now the young people lead again!

The March for Our Lives-LA demanded gun control and an end to gun violence, not only at school, but in our SoCal communities (from San Bernardino to Seal Beach), and an end to the police killing of Black and Brown youth.

Obviously, the goals of the first two movements I mentioned have not been fully achieved but…No turning back! No giving up!

Events Coming Up!

March 17, 2018

Sunday, May 6, 2018 at 7:00 PM I’ll be reading at the Ruskin Group Theater along with Garrett Saleen, Grace Singh Smith, and David Preizler, introduced by my fave Andrew Tonkovich, presented by Library Girl. The theater is at 3000 Airport Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90405. $10 at the door and free parking.

Thursday, April 26, 2018 at LA Cathedral: The theme of the Human Dignity Awards Dinner (to benefit the Program for Torture Victims) is “Celebrating Women in Human Rights and Healing” — and I’m one of them! along with LA City Councilmember Nury Martinez, Lisa Fujimoto of the Change a Life Foundation, and Channel 11 anchorwoman Marla Tellez. Tickets at ptvla.org/dinner

Inheriting Genocide

February 27, 2018

On February 7th, I attended a symposium at the Museum of Tolerance here in Los Angeles.

Much of what I heard from clinicians, researchers, and survivors seemed to apply to a wide range of survivors, including generations affected by historical trauma.

It resonated with me personally as well as what I’ve experienced working with asylum seekers at the Program for Torture Victims and through my artistic work with ImaginAction, an international organization dedicated to promoting social justice and community healing through the arts, especially through theater. I decided to write up some of my responses to the symposium for the ImaginAction website.

This may be of interest to some of you who follow this blog and so here’s a link to the first, introductory installment: Intergenerational Trauma.

In the months that follow, I’ll let you know when new installments are posted.

Part 2: Conspiracy of Silence.

Part 3: Surviving Survival .

Part 4: Theories of Transmission .

Part 5: Childhood Amnesia.

Resistance

January 20, 2018

This post is dedicated to Carol Hand who misses hearing from me. As I explained to her, problems with my eyesight mean I limit computer use, but I can share some images here.

The current regime causes so much outrage and heartache, but we also suffer when violence hits close to home. Last week, a member of our PTV family, Viccky Gutiérrez who came here from Honduras seeking safety, was murdered, her body burned. Last Friday, her friends held a vigil.

Saturday, I joined the Salvadoran community (and Haitians) threatened with termination of their protected status and with deportation. I’m sick of marches that seem to accomplish nothing, but it’s important to let threatened people know they have allies who love them.


For the same reason I participated in the Kingdom Day Parade, held annually to celebrate the life (and meaning of the life) of Dr. King. I walked along with members of STAND, dedicated to fighting against neighborhood oil drilling and for environmental justice. It’s an issue that brings together people of all backgrounds.

There are about 16,000 homeless African Americans in LA, and I can understand why some think that they are being ignored while immigrants get all the attention. Can solidarity and unity defeat Divide and Conquer?

Yesterday was a reminder of what another country—Guatemala—suffered for so many years. First, some signs as I walked down Fairfax, and a section of the Berlin Wall on Wilshire.

Then, in the sculpture garden of the LA County Museum of Art, Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa directed local performers in a staging of the piece that led to death threats against the director and the theater being burned to the ground when presented in Guatemala in the mid-70’s. You can see the indigenous prisoner trying to get free, the guerrilla who ran around the periphery, hiding behind trees and, held up to ridicule, the military, the Church, and the upper class.

Walking home. As Carol would advise: Take comfort in beauty.

Beauty and Resistance

August 29, 2017

“Beyond Words: Beauty and Resistance,” is what they’re calling our reading at Beyond Baroque, Sunday, September 17, 4:30 pm. “We” = me plus Richard Wirick, Zlatina Sandalska, and Andrew Tonkovich. I’ll be reading the opening of a novel I’ve been working on for a few years, now more topical than when I started.

If you’re not a Beyond Baroque member, admission is $10 and everyone gets a free copy of the new issue of the Santa Monica Review.

Beyond Baroque, 681 Venice Blvd., Venice, CA 90291. Free parking lot (turn right to enter just before you get to the building if you’re headed in direction of ocean) and also free street parking on Sunday.

Resist and Write on!

I stand with Planned Parenthood

February 12, 2017

About 50 people showed up at the Planned Parenthood health center in Van Nuys to demand the organization lose all federal funds. I was there too – with my own message.


planned-parenthood