Friday, April 29, 2016

Warsan Shire's "Home"

The Writing Life of a Young, Prolific Poet from The New Yorker

“Born in Kenya to parents from Somalia, Shire grew up in London, where she has always felt like an outsider, and embodies the kind of shape-shifting, culture-juggling spirit lurking in most people who can’t trace their ancestors to their country’s founding fathers, or whose ancestors look nothing like those fathers. In that limbo, Shire conjures up a new language for belonging and displacement.”

Beyonce's 'Lemonade' Turns a Somali Brit Poet Into a Global Star from NPR

"Shire's poetry was heard 'round the world last Saturday in Lemonade, Beyonce's latest album, dropped on HBO in the form of a 1-hour special — a sweeping series of songs and videos that look at romance, rage and redemption. Between the glossy cinematography and, of course, the music, Queen Bey recited excerpts of Shire's works, launching the artist into the global spotlight:

you can't make homes out of human beings
someone should have already told you that
and if he wants to leave
then let him leave"

Warsan Shire, The Woman Who Gave Poetry to Beyonce's Lemonade from The New York Times

"Ms. Shire has published chapbooks of poetry — including “Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth” in 2011 and “Her Blue Body” in 2015 — but much of her reputation was built online by publishing on Tumblr and using Twitter like an open notebook. In 2014, she was appointed the first Young Poet Laureate of London. Her first full poetry collection, “Extreme Girlhood,” is expected in the next year or so."

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well
your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.
no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.
you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough
go home blacks
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
n------ with their hands out
they smell strange
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off
or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
your legs
or the insults are easier
to swallow
than rubble
than bone
than your child body
in pieces.
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
be hunger
forget pride
your survival is more important
no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Prep Alumnus & the Refugee Crisis

St. John's Prep alumnus Michael Niconchuk is recording his experiences in a blog about his travels during his year as a Fulbright scholar. The English 4 blog Refugee Crisis: Poetry, Photography, and Society 2015-2016 has linked to Mike's blog. Members of the English 4 classes have read Mike's recent entry "Finding Sisyphus in Germany" to add to their understanding of the refugee crisis. Mike writes beautifully of his experiences and observations. English 4 students will comment directly on Mike's blog.

Michael Niconchuk

Name: Michael Niconchuk
Exchange Destination: UK - England
Award Name: Fulbright-UCL Award
Host Institution: University College London
Home Institution: Tufts University
Level Of Study: Postgraduate
Discipline: Psychology
Award Year: 2015-16

Michael Niconchuk is a graduate of Tufts University, where he studied International Relations. At Tufts, Michael was awarded the Presidential Award for Citizenship and Public Service, the Oliver Chapman Leadership and Community Service Award, and the Anne E. Borghesani Memorial Prize. In addition, Michael spent much of his time at Tufts developing a micro-enterprise model with former combatants in rural Guatemala. Since Tufts, Michael has spent years working with at-risk and displaced youth in Latin America and the Middle East, particularly with young men at risk of violence and conflict with the law. Most recently, Michael has worked in the Syria humanitarian response, spearheading the design of new programs for violence reduction among youth in Za’atri Refugee Camp in Jordan. As a Fulbright-UCL Award recipient, Michael will pursue an MSc in Social Cognition, with the hope of integrating cognition research and principles into his work with at-risk youth in conflict and post-conflict areas.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Pulitzer Prizes in Photography for The New York Times and Thomson Reuters--April 2016

Pulitzer Prize Winning Photographs from The New York Times

View the photographs from The New York Times as a slideshow. Read "Photography Pulitzer for Coverage of a Refugee Crisis" from The New York Times (April 18, 2016).

Photography Pulitzer for
 Coverage of Refugee Crisis
By David Gonzalez and James Estrin Apr. 18, 2016

The New York Times and Thomson Reuters shared the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography for coverage of Europe’s refugee crisis. The Times’s team was comprised of Mauricio Lima, Sergey Ponomarev, Tyler Hicks and Daniel Etter. This is the newspaper’s fourth photo Pulitzer in the past three years.
The prize for feature photography was awarded to Jessica Rinaldi of the Boston Globe “for the raw and revealing photographic story of a boy who strives to find his footing after abuse by those he trusted.”
At the heart of the Times’s entry were Mr. Ponomarev’s and Mr. Lima’s photographs of a Syrian refugee family’s trek from Greece to Sweden, where they applied for asylum. Mr. Ponomarev photographed the first part of the Majid family’s journey through Macedonia to Serbia, while Mr. Lima followed them from Belgrade, Serbia, to Trelleborg, Sweden. In total, the photographers accompanied them for 40 days by train, bus and boat, but most often on foot.
The Pulitzer Prize

A look back on prize winning Pulitzer coverage on Lens.
Michele McNally, an assistant managing editor and director of photography at the Times, said the award was a reaffirmation of the newspaper’s commitment to photography, especially on complicated and quick-moving global stories. “I’ve been a photo editor for a long time, and this story is important to me because it affects the entire world: America, Europe and the Middle East,” she said. “It affects everyone, including you and me.”
Photography Pulitzer: Thomson Reuters Coverage of Migrant Crisis
Yannis Behrakis/Reuters
David Furst, the Times’s international picture editor, assigned the photographers and shepherded the newspaper’s visual coverage. “What makes this entry so important is it really gives the full arc of mass migration and also shows the individual suffering,” he said. “These photographers deserve a tremendous amount of credit. They are talented photographers invested for significant periods of time making images that matter. We’re really proud of them.”
Ms. McNally added that the team Mr. Furst assembled was uniquely suited to cover a crisis that had dominated the news and attracted thousands of reporters. “There are so many interpretations of the refugee crisis,” she said. “The different backgrounds of the photographers, I think, contributed to the success of the coverage. We have a Russian, a Brazilian, an American and a German.”
Mr. Ponomarev, who is based in Moscow, spent five months on the migration story. He said the flood of humanity looked like a Biblical exodus. The effects of this migration, he said, will be felt for decades.
“The travel part is just the beginning,” he said. “I want to follow this to the end. I want to cover what comes next, the political and social changes that this exodus will cause.”
Mr. Lima had already started on that aspect: He was in the Swedish countryside with the Majid family, playing with the children — who have come to call him “Uncle” — when he got word of the prize. He broke down in tears, as he thought about the ordeal the Majids had endured.
“Theirs is probably the greatest experience of perseverance and commitment I’ve ever seen,” Mr. Lima, who is from Brazil, said. “They did the journey on their own from Syria to Sweden, crossing eight or nine borders at a time when there was no volunteer help for them. Jamila was pregnant but she never complained, and the children were very strong. Their spirit and their hospitality to have us among them really impressed me.”
Although Mr. Etter spent only two days on assignment, his image of a tearful man cradling a child as their packed rubber boat arrived in Greece was indelible. The photo soon went viral on social media.
“It was quite overwhelming to see their joy and the release of the fear they had been feeling,” Mr. Etter, who was born in Germany and lives in Barcelona, said. “You take so many photos and most pretty much go unnoticed,” he said. “The reaction this photo triggered was overwhelming.”
Mr. Hicks, a staff photographer for The Times, spent several weeks covering the refugees as they arrived in Lesbos. His long experience covering the conflicts in the countries that the refugees were fleeing gave him a keen appreciation of the desperation that fueled their journey, as well as the joy they felt to find safe haven.
“It says something about the fear and control they live under in those countries,” Mr. Hicks said. “It was emotional for me to see those people come, and to be able to identify with some of the trauma they lived.”
This is Mr. Hicks’s third Pulitzer: He won in 2014 for his photos of the terrorist attack on Nairobi’s Westgate Mall. Previously, he was among the New York Times staff members who shared the 2009 prize for International Reporting for coverage of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
“Tyler can shoot the most aesthetic, memorable and meaningful pictures in any situation,” Ms. McNally said. “Even under fire.”
Thomson Reuters chief photographer for Greece and Cyprus, Yannis Behrakis, led their coverage and contributed eight of the 17 photographs in the winning entry.
“We showed the world what was going on, and the world cared. It showed that humanity is still alive,” Behrakis said. “We made for these unfortunate people’s voice to be heard. Now with a Pulitzer, we feel that our work has been professionally recognized.”
Ms. Rinaldi’s story “The Life and Times of Strider Wolf,” was about a child whose life was marked by abuse and hardship, from beatings to eviction. In the paper’s submission letter for the prize, the Globe’s editor said “Strider had a simple and abiding wish: to be loved.” Ms. Rinaldi and reporter Sarah Schweitzer repeatedly visited the child and his relatives in Maine, spending days form dawn to dusk with them, gaining their trust. The story — with its hope to see if this child would break free of misfortune — struck a powerful chord with readers and led to donations and a trust fund for the family.

Pulitzer for Feature Photography, Jessica Rinaldi
Jessica Rinaldi/Boston Globe, via Associated Press
“This story is about more than one family,” the Globe wrote in its letter. “It is a devastating and uniquely revealing portrait of poverty and the power of trauma to transcend generations. It is also, ultimately, a beautiful, complex and painful story about the yearnings of the human spirit.” Ms. Rinaldi was also a finalist this year in the feature photography category for images of a heroin addict’s struggles in East Boston.
Ms. Rinaldi learned of her Pulitzer while driving a rental car in Atlanta after covering a practice of The Boston Celtics before tomorrow’s playoff game. She almost drove off the road when Bill Greene, the Globe’s director of photography, called with the news, she said. It was, to her, a validation of months of effort on a challenging story.
“I learned that if you tell a story with a lot of heart and subtlety in a way that can really grab people, that people will respond,” Ms. Rinaldi 36, said.

“Sometimes we can get discouraged about what the outcome of our work can be, but this proves that photography can make a difference.”

Refugee Crisis: Poetry, Photography, and Society 2015-2016