20 years ago I lived with a Palestinian family when September 11th happened. It was at their dinner table of traditional food that laughter and sometimes tears would solidify our connection to our Indigenous struggles. It was at that very table where I was told the story of Faris Odeh, a young teenage boy who was immortalized in the pantheon of Palestinian martyrs alongside hundreds of thousands of others such as Muhammad Al-Durrah.
Fast forward to today and many movements under my belt later, I heard about a small Jewish group protesting the genocide in Gaza through a small sign on a wall along one of the busiest roads in Santa Fe. This particular route along the wall leads up to some of the most famous museums and galleries of Native “fine art” that Santa Fe is known for.
For almost 5 years this human rights group has had its sign defaced, destroyed and even cut into by the knives of local zionists that exist prominently in Santa Fe not realizing they also profit and live on stolen land here too. Cameras caught these brave apartheid advocates defacing images of Palestinian children under the cover of night attempting to erase the pleas for their basic human rights to exist in their homeland.
I understood long ago the task of a Movement Artist is to create the images that unite movements for the continuation of our culture and lifeways. It is my opinion that any Indigenous art or associated movements that amount to nothing more than a gimmick should be considered traitorous to the time and struggle of our own people especially those currently on the frontlines. These types of self-serving clout chasers have no place in our struggle other than being a capitalistic hurdle against our collective liberation.
For all the Santa Fean racists who took knives to the images of Indigenous children in these signs, it is clear these poisoned apples did not fall far from the proverbial hanging tree in terms of historical westward expansion. These actions are an extension of their own family’s colonial genocidal heritage and legacy on this continent.
The decision to intervene with virtually indestructible installations on adobe walls, which are similar to Palestinian walls, was an easy one. Street Art never has and never will ask for permission so these installations are in direct opposition to the city of Santa Fe and its homogenized upper-class institutions.
These wheatpaste installations of the Palestinian struggle and some of its martyrs was expanded to utilize the whole 150 ft long adobe wall instead of being relegated to the 4 ft sign space allocated by the city of Santa Fe. There are so many intersectional analogies in terms of the wall itself, the location and the shared Indigenous history so I wanted to make sure these stories were told in a real life-sized fashion.
This project required living with these images and their stories for weeks on end in order to shed light on this ongoing genocide of Palestinians. In some cases, this included taking grainy videos from 20 years ago and enhancing them through different programs so that the terror of the victim’s last moments could accurately be displayed. The city of Santa Fe and its local racist have continually tried to erase Indigenous stuggle in Palestine but its citizens needed to be educated about what is really happening in Bethlehem currently especially during the holiday season which is when this installaion was deployed.
It was during these weeks of creating this project that I learned more about Faris Odeh. The boy vs. tank. The David vs. Goliath. The images that never left my head. I always knew I would do something for him but I never knew what that would be until this opportunity came along.
Faris would skip school to target state-of-the-art U.S. tanks bought by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) to kill his people and destroy the homes in Gaza. His mother would plead with him to not skip school. Despite being locked in his room as punishment for doing so, he would escape through his window and climb down drains to be back out on the streets resisting – with his stones.
What resonated more than anything was when his mother recalled of Faris, “It wasn’t the fame he loved,” she said. “In fact, he’d run away from the cameras.” She begged, “Okay, you want to throw stones? Fine. But at least hide behind something! Why do you have to be at the very front, even farther up than the older kids?” And he told her, “I’m not afraid.”.
10 days after this famous photo was taken, it would be this very tank that would ultimately take his life when he was shot in the neck from it. He lay there bleeding out for over an hour with medics not being able to respond because the US tank stood over his body preventing help.
This was an emotion-filled project not only from Faris’s story but the many others during this project, especially when unrolling these life-size printed images for the first time and seeing Muhammad al-Durrah – the little boy crouched behind his father in what was his last moments on Earth.
He and his father were caught in the crossfire of IDF snipers who targeted both of them as they hid behind a concrete barrier. [Video Here]
As hard as this project was to complete emotionally this is nothing compared to what our Indigenous brothers and sisters go through in Gaza and other settlement prisons on a daily basis. I have the privilege and luxury of walking away from the computer screen, the art and that life. They do not get to walk away from anything. Therefore their stories and experiences should remain, never to be forgotten.
When the children of Palestine are caught on video resisting with stones or otherwise, like Fawzi al-Junaidi, the IDF will raid their homes and schools kicking down doors, literally snatching them from their loved ones at gunpoint. These children are disappeared into a system of cages to be interrogated and tortured just like what is happening along the southern U.S. and Mexico border. In fact, the high-tech wall technology that has been perfected against the Palestinian people is now being imported from Israel to the southern border.
What the average American does not understand is that Indigenous children in cages has been normalized on our continent since colonial contact. In order to secure gold Columbus separated families by keeping men and boys in cages as slaves to mine for gold quotas and our girls and women were trafficked as sex slaves for his crew.
Not much has changed for the Indigenous of Turtle Island in over 520+ years of continued genocide. However, we still exist and in the spirit of many Indigenous warriors like Faris, we still resist. He did what he did for the love of his people. He was not afraid and we shouldn’t be either.
This was for you Faris . As long I live, so will you because you are me and I am you.
It is not anti-semitic to advocate for basic human rights. You are on stolen land.