home land security

home land security
Center for Cultural Exchange
Portland, ME

A community arts performance project created and directed by Marty Pottenger & commissioned by the Center for Cultural Exchange.

Artists: Rebecca Sockbeson, Ben Guiliani, Fred LaMontagne, Reverend Ken Lewis, Jill Duson, Billy Woolverton, Harun, Florence Martin, Heather Augustine, Rachel Talbot Ross, Ernestine, Beth Edmonds, Mike Johnson, Juan Gonzales, Verginia Marie Rincon, Oliver Albino, Lucien Matthieu, Dawud Ummah, Angus King, Micmacs Bear and Kieth Atwin, Greg Boardman.

Community Partners: Council of Indigenous N. Americans, Maine N.A.A.C.P., Tengo Voz, Jews Without Borders.

Visit www.centerforculturalexchange.org or call 207 761-1545 for reservations or for more information

September 11th The impact is felt in intimate conversations, increased surveillance, travel restrictions, soaring deficit and sweeping legislative changes. As time passes, the reverberations amplify. In Portland Maine, recent refugees have seen their homelands and religions negatively portrayed by the media, hidden in their homes in fear of their neighbor's intolerance, and feared most those with a badge and uniform. What can be done? In times of fear and danger, the possibility and promise that comes with difference and diversity can be turned instead into a border that separates and divides us. Isolation is perceived as security, rather than connection. And yet on a freezing winter day in Portland, when the immigrant and refugee communities were targeted in a surprise sweep by the Border Patrol, the city came together and organized a demonstration, a rally, demanding that the Governor sign an Executive Order offering what protection he could to the most vulnerable among us. "This is my home. This kind of thing does not happen here," said the soon-to-be-Mayor Duson. And yet, it did. Over two hundred people were approached and told they had to produce identification. Ten people were taken into custody --- off buses, out of ethnic grocery stores, and factory floors -- and deported. The reverberations have yet to die down. In the weeks after the raid, parents stopped sending their children to Portland schools. Pregnant women stopped seeking prenatal care at the Maine Medical clinic. Families refused to leave their homes to pick up weekly food boxes at Preble Street Resource Center. And everywhere, enforcement agencies saw a complete breakdown of the fragile trust they had worked years to build.

An unintended consequence of the raid has been to awaken the Portland community to the importance of building coalitions. "home land security" has become a part of that effort, starting with the over thirty 2 hour interviews, intentionally structured to give many of the community leaders the opportunity to reflect and assess where they've been and where they might like to be going. A project like "home land security" is able to make the transformative power of storytelling into a concrete tool that changes relationships, perspectives and policies. I have been able to foster connections between two of the most radical politically-left and politically-right individuals in the area. It is complicated, challenging work, but profoundly rewarding.The usefulness of being an 'outside voice' has been clear. Once I have established credibility and integrity, my status as a non-Mainer has allowed me to cross and recross many of the divisions that exist in any close-knit community. Significant long-standing disputes have been brought to my attention in an effort to apply fresh thinking to very old stalemates.

And as the project has become integrated into the life of the community, N.A.A.C.P. asked to include performance excerpts in their month-long celebration of democracy and dissent. The public library is going to come to all the performances to give out library cards to anyone who doesn't have one, as well as bring a radically diverse selection of books to lend right on the spot. One church asked if they can organize their parishioners into a group and get a discount. The Council of Indigenous N. Americans is writing two articles in their newsletter and school paper to let people know about the project. Clearly, from all the good work being documented around the world, community performances and civic dialogues can, when joined with strong community partners, play a decisive role in reenergizing collaborative engagement. At this point, due to both the relationships that CCE and Pottenger have built and the long term commitment that has been made, "home land security" is uniquely positioned to explore and deepen the possible relationship between art and policy-making.

Many of the issues - not only Maine - but almost every state in the union, directly reference the very ideas upon which the country was founded. Freedom of Speech. Freedom of Assembly, Freedom of the press. The freedom of library users identities to be held in confidence. Several articles linked at the top of this web page, offer a more specific look at the legislative challenges that Maine is having to consider. The goals of "home land security" include a performance in the state capital during a session of the State Legislature, the convening of civic dialogues across the state for people to discuss some of the dramatic changes that the Patriot Act and the Department of Homeland Security has brought to Maine. The stakes are high. Portland has a vibrant and growing population of refugees and immigrants from Somalia, the Sudan, Afghanistan, Russia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Rwanda and Bosnia. Portland harbor imports more oil than any other port in the U.S. The attacks and the need for vigilance is very real. And yet, as Fire Chief LaMontagne said "If I do my job right, people will feel like Portland is a home they can feel safe in, a place where they can do whatever they choose to with their lives. What that looks like is a decision we need all of our minds in on."

Rebecca Sockbeson is a Penobscot Indian who grew up on and off her tribe's Indian Island reservation in Maine. She is the Director of University of Southern Maine's MultiCultural Center.<br/><br/>"Security? We've been fighting terrorism since 1492. My husband's tribe in Canada was colonized only 200 years ago, so he is 200 years 'clearer' than I am. To us it's very real." Ben Giuliani is President of Maine's Migrant Workers Association. Born in El Paso, his mother crossed the border without permission when she was 6 months old. He has lived and worked in Maine for the past 25 years, successfully suing Wal-Mart and DeCoster Egg Company for racist employment policies.<br/><br/>"No one is illegal. I do not recognize any border between Mexico and the United States. This was our country for thousands of years before any Europeans left to 'discover' us. That may sound radical but to me it is only fair." Maine has a long history of refugees and immigration, beginning with a French settlement in 1604. This June 2005 marks the 400th anniversary of an English expedition's kidnapping of five Wawenoc Indians from Maine.<br/><br/>Taking them to England for several years, only two made it back, One of them was the famous Indian known as Squanto, who made it possible for the first Pilgrims to survive by teaching them how to plant and fertilize corn with fishmeal. Since the late 1970's, Southern Maine has become the home to Cambodian, Vietnamese, Mexican, El Salvadorian, Dominican, Bosnian, Sudanese, Somali, Afghan, Russian, Korean, and Rwandan communities. The events of Sept. 11 were a wake-up call for Fred LaMontagne, Fire Chief and Head of of the Maine's 'First Responders' a newly formed DHS Terrorism Preparedness Task Force<br/><br/>"Before the attacks, we thought we were capable of handling most anything thrown at us. The attacks have changed the focus of public safety officials as a whole. My job is completely different." In 1826 Portland's black community founded Maine's first black church. Reverend Ken Lewis has been the minister there for the last four years.<br/><br/>"I think we may be going into a hard time overall. No one can say for certain, but a church, well I'll speak for my church, is a place where we can come together and find commonality. I don't mean agreeing when you don't really agree. I mean working alongside one another until you get something about the other person's life, their experience, why they think what they think." Jill Duson became mayor in 2003. She is also the Director of Maine's Bureau of Rehabilitation Services and a mother of two.<br/><br/>"When the raid happened, we were all very shaken. How could this be happening in Portland? This was my home. This is where I was raising my son, a young black boy someday to be a man. This was my Portland. And, I didn't like what I was seeing. We cannot be afraid to push back the Federal government because we are afraid of the consequences." Billy Woolverton is a writer who has made Portland his home for the last seven years, living on the street or in the woods. He is a client at Preble Street Resource Center, the homeless center which was targeted in the Border Patrol's raid.<br/><br/>"What I love about Portland is the people. That's always what makes a place mean something. The people here are goodhearted. I don't mean all goody-goody. We've got our troublemakers, but all in all, especially speaking as someone who is homeless. People don't go out of their way to make your life harder than it already is. The police have completely changed how they do their jobs though. I understand it, but now they stop me I think I could say 'all the time' whereas they used to wave and let me go about my business." Somali drummer and recent refugee Harun owns The Nile, a restaurant on Congress Street in Portland. Harun joins fiddler/music director Greg Boardman and Bolivian guitarist Juan Condori, as the live stage band for "home land security." Both Portland and Lewiston have a significant Somali community. Over the last four years, many Somalis relocated from Atlanta Georgia, trading the harsh winters of Portland for what they felt were better schools, less crime and more of a sense of community. National attention was focused on Lewiston two years ago. With the city's resources near exhaustion, the Mayor wrote a public letter asking Somalis to stop choosing Lewiston.<br/><br/>"Here they sometimes don't know what to do with us, but they are trying. Portland is a place where we can feel we are safe and our children can learn. I went from Somalia at 14 to Kenya, to Amsterdam, to Rome, to here. It has been a hard journey. Many times I did not think I could make it." Florence Martin is a renowned French Acadian singer. Expelled from New Brunswick before the Declaration of Independence was written, French Acadians found refuge in Maine and Louisiana for the last 250 years. Over one-third of the one million Mainers are of French, French Canadian or Acadian heritage.<br/><br/>"I don't consider myself an American. I'm Acadian. Some people say they live in Lewiston Maine. I live in Acadia." Heather Augustine studies Nursing at USM and is President of Council of Indigenous North Americans. A proud member of the Micmac Nation, she is the daughter of an Indian Residential School Survivor.<br/><br/>"Everyday I think about the way things were, before the Europeans came and how my family's lives would have been different. Of course being of mixed heritage, I couldn't have been here to wonder about it. There is so much shame, so much that is hidden, we need to recognize what has been done and at the same time, take pride in how we have survived. I have fought to where I am today, fought with myself as much as anything else." Rachel Talbot Ross, President of the Maine chapter of the NAACP and Director of the City of Portland's Multicultural Division. Under her leadership the NAACP Chapter has succeeded in a multicultural membership drive. The first of it's kind in Portland.<br/><br/>"At this point, there is reason for tremendous hope and tremendous disappointment…frustration. The challenges are overwhelming, but what else can we do than keep doing the next thing and the thing after that? It's hard to focus on the successes. I am a tenth generation Mainer. I am raising a son who is an eleventh generation Mainer." Ernestine (no photo) is a part of a Rwandan refugee community in Portland.<br/><br/>"I escaped in a group of 3. The killers were after us. I was close to the Hutu militia. We had to cross a river, very deep. We just fled. I was only one to survive. I was only one who could swim. The Hutu militia was shooting at us, in the river. They killed the other two. After the genocide ended, when the Tutsi's took power, they asked us to show them who was the killer? Who were the killers? But if you say "It was them"…the people you identify will chase you again to kill you. Now, if you don't do that – identify the killers – the government says yourself you are an accomplice. For me I chose to leave my country. I came last year. It's a dilemma. If I stay I will be forced by the government to identify the killers and if I do that, I may be killed. I left my children and my husband. My sisters and family were all killed. I will accept this. I don't agree that "not all Hutu's were killers." In my village, all woman and children and men were killers (Portland backyard) I cannot say that not all…"Hutu's are not killers." State Senate President Beth Edmonds has strengths in coalition-building passing clean election legislation that has become the model for concerned citizens throughout the nation. When the Senate is not in session, she works as a librarian.<br/><br/>"The big picture! We're so besieged trying to keep track of the details, and they're critical…talking to you lets me think about the whole. The questions you are exploring…about Homeland Security, it's impact on the state, the relationship of the DHS to local governance and enforcement. We just introduced a bill that will fund a study to get a clearer sense of all this." Portland HS is the oldest high school in the United States. It's student body of 1200 students come from a total of 32 countries with a total of 51 different languages. Principal Mike Johnson was student council president there in 1976.<br/><br/>"When I reported for my first day as Principal I had no idea that September 11th was two weeks away. Within two days I met with all the Muslim students in our school and said "Anything…anything you need,let me know. I've got  your back. None of our lives have ever been the same." Juan Gonzales, came to Maine from the Dominican Republic in the mid-1990's. He owns La Bodega Latina, the restaurant, grocery store and gathering place that the Border Patrol targeted in the January 2004 raid. He joined the organizing effort to insure that Latino's with and without papers in Portland area received food and medical care in the aftermath.<br/><br/>"They stood outside the door stopping everyone who was coming in or going out. Asking them to produce proof of citizenship, asking them their names, where they were born, where they live now, who they live with, where they work. It's actually illegal to do that unless there is suspicion of a crime being committed, but who knew that and who could stand up to them and refuse to answer any questions, even if you knew it was your right?" Sudanese and Somali Meat Market targeted in the Border Patrol's raid Republic Reverend Virginia Marie Rincon is an Episcopalian priest with a street ministry for the last eight years with the Latino community in Portland. She started Tengo Voz to offer organizational support in both meeting basic needs - "food, housing, healthcare and art."<br/><br/>"Latinos represent one of the largest minority groups in Maine. U.S. Census figures show slightly fewer than 10,000 living in the state, but the Maine Chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens believes the number is closer to 20,000. Many of them are the most vulnerable population. Even if they are legally here, as most of them are, as Latinos they have relationships that cross that border of documented and undocumented. Families are made, connections woven that recognize each individual as a person, whatever their legal status. The fear, tension and suspicion remains a constant. That takes a toll on a community's health – physical, mental, economic and spiritual. I founded a street ministry which helps the Latinos, primarily the women who are the heart of the community, the family. The Border Patrol's raid is still felt daily in this community." Oliver Albino is the head of the Sudanese community in Maine. In his late 60's he is known as "Uncle" by everyone. He played a central role in trying to negotiate a 16 year old Sudanese girl's application for legal permission from Maine courts to leave her birth parents and move in with a foster mother. The reverberations from this case continue to rock the Sudanese community's efforts to establish a new home in Portland and at the same time continue the traditions they have brought with them.<br/><br/>"Coming here I found such freedom and that was a good thing. But I must ask myself, is freedom something there can be too much of? Where does the question of balance come in? Is a child free to leave their parents? Perhaps it is possible for there to be too much of some freedoms. We have traditions. They are no something to be tossed aside. They are a part of who we are as a people." According to the 1990 Census of the United States, of the roughly one million citizens of the state of Maine over the age of five, 336,000, or about one-third, are of French, French Canadian or Acadian origin. Of that number, approximately 80,000 use the French language on a daily basis.  Lucien Matthieu is a storyteller/fiddler.<br/><br/>"Oh I'll telll you right now, I don't like what's happening. Here in our country. I flew bombers, 35 missions, in World War Two and I'm not afraid to fight for what I believe in but something's wrong with this war in Iraq. What the hell are we doing over there? They had nothing to do with it. This war is not good for the working man. We're going to pay for it one way or another. Nothing's free. Not oil or lunch." African-American Dawud Ummah is an Imam of the Maine Association of Muslims.<br/><br/>"September 11th, September 11th. That's the day everything changed. And nobody was copping to it. Everybody was acting like they wanted to help, to make sure "we" were okay, but that wasn't all there was to it. Not at all. I can't speak for everyone, but I know my life has never been the same." Governor Angus King Governor of Maine (1995 to 2003). He was Governor on September 11th. We spoke at his home in St. George, Maine.<br/><br/>"I'll never forget it. Who could? When the second plane hit, then we knew it wasn't an accident and realized we had to evacuate the State Capital Building, relocate to a bunker that had been set up so we could stay in contact and run things from there. I remember that night, they brought in two cots and the trooper who was guarding me and I slept on them. He must've been over 6'8" and I have this vivid memory of his feet sticking way out over the edge of the cot. The game's changed. No doubt about it. Maine…I'm still  in touch with other Governors and their handling problems that had never even crossed their minds until 9/11. It's happening fast." Micmacs Bear Atwin and Keith Atwin came down to help me understand Border Patrol procedures, the impact of September 11th and history on Native people and border life between Canada and Maine. (Bear and Keith Atwin at Deering Oaks Park, Portland. Site of largest Indian/European battle in Northeastern US.A)<br/><br/>"The land remembers. They know we're here. Before September 11th, Indians would cross back and forth Canada to here, there was no border. Not for us. Now that's all changing. Even for me. I work for Canada's Border Patrol. Keith was a Mountie. You know, the funny coats and hats. We're the good guys. But we're dark or maybe you didn't notice. I'm darker but he looks more like an Indian." "home land security" Story circle at Center for Cultural Exchange. Music Director/ Fiddler Greg Boardman, with performers Lucien, Matthieu and Billy Woolverton

Our goal is to collaboratively create an artistic response to a continuing crisis and to address with intelligence, nuance and humanity, concerns that are shared in the national arena. These are not new questions, but our responses will determine the direction of the United States for generations to come. It only makes sense that art - with it's transformative power and imaginative reach - would be a part of keeping community leaders and ordinary citizens central.

Watch the full performance