Jaden Smith, the first participant at HE WILL NOT DIVIDE US
Have you checked out Shia LaBeouf's project at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, NY?
It's called HE WILL NOT DIVIDE US and streams online via hewillnotdivide.us. The project involves a camera outside the museum that will record and live stream for the next 4 years (or as long as Trump is president). People are invited to come and stand before the camera and say, "He will not divide us."
I've randomly gone on to the site and I find it to be fascinating. In times of great political turmoil, artists, writers and musicians have always responded in their own way. As with all art that stimulates and engages people, this project has taken on a life of its own. Many Trump supporters have shown up and lamented and ranted into the camera. There have been poems and prepared speeches from anti-Trumpers. There was a man from Tennessee who shared about his struggles as a Muslim in a community that rejected him. There have been arguments and even a fight. A barrier was put up for safety.
In a strange way, it has become a direct reflection of the world we live in. Dividers. Anger. Hope. Love. Connection. Expression. And above all, a continual call to come back to unity, to remember that we are stronger together.
The other day I tuned in and saw someone that I now know frequents the spot. He is a rapper, and I didn't catch his whole name, but it has to do with Paper. I have watched him freestyle about the power and hope of a new day and about how self-love is the foundation of all love. I have seen him dance and get other people to do his dance to the chant, "He will not divide us."
It was early morning when my favorite Queens rapper came back to the project. He had just shown up and his friend Pan soon came after. They were talking when suddenly, off camera, someone asked him if he'd breakfast. He said no, and then the person offered him food they'd bought. Paper (I'm sorry if that's not his name) then comes back into the camera with the food, and I see the person who had gifted it to him walk by in the background. It was none other than one of New York's finest.
Paper's reaction to the cop's random act of kindness was one I couldn't stop watching. I rewound the video over and over to hear his since gratitude. I watched the cop walk by in the background. I felt the love. I felt the generosity. I felt what is the real spirit of humanity, and not the one that is trying to convince us we are not One.
Love is still out there. Police officers are doing random acts of kindness. A man with amazing bling is spittin' spontaneous raps about love. And Shia LaBeouf is reminding us that the heart and soul of art is something that gives people a space to express themselves. Hang on my friends. There is still good in the world. We will pull through. Below is Paper's words, along with a screen grab I took of the moment.
"Thank you so much officer. I appreciate that... wow... thank you so much... Wow... Yo, that's... that's like one of the nicest things someone has done for me. Shout out to Officer Chavez. He just asked me if I had breakfast and just gave me this sandwich. I'm literally trying not to cry because I'm so happy right now."
A selection from the poem inscribed on The Statue of Liberty:
"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Above: Malala Yousafz, Pakistani refugee who stood up to the Taliban in order to support a woman's right to an education. She won the Nobel Peace Prize.
When looking back on history, it's always easy to say what we should've done. It's easy to separate who was innocent from who was guilty. It's easy to say, "I would have supported the Jewish people trying to flee the horrors. I would have stood up to the majority and done the right thing."
However, at this time in history, we are again faced with the exact same scenario. Millions of refugees, who are fleeing because they don't support ISIS, not because they are ISIS, are trying to find a place, any place, where they can live beyond the ravages of war and terror. Banning refugees is detrimental to all seeking refuge, but even more so to women and children.
In 1938 (one year before WW2 started), 67% of American people supported keeping out all refugees.
In case you can't read the text below in the graphic, I've written it out. This poll was published in Fortune magazine in July 1938:
If you'd like to read a bit more on this, with a follow up poll that occurred a year later, here's an article from the Washington Post: What Americans thought of Jewish refugees on the eve of World War II