My experiences at the SOA/WHINSEC demonstration were vastly different this year when I compare them to my previous trip to Ft. Benning. I was part of the guerrilla journalism class charged with creating a documentary much of which was based on the events at the demonstration. This placed me in what I would call an awkward limbo. As a supporter of SOA Watch I wanted to be a participant, but at the same time I was also supposed to be an impartial journalist. As a result, I felt very intrusive during many of the events. This was especially prevalent during the more reflective portions such as the funeral procession. While holding that camera I felt that I was intruding on and interrupting their time of remembrance. This bothered me quite a bit as I thought about the people we were there to remember and act in their honor.
There were also many opportunities as a part of the guerrilla journalism class that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. It gave me the chance to talk with some great people for our project. We eventually decided to focus our documentary on the war on drugs. We discussed the role of the U.S., the SOA and some of the effects it is having on Central and South America as well as the U.S. In order to make a quality documentary we had to learn about our topic and get out there to find people to help us tell the story. Our group met a lot of really amazing people working for solutions that are not only tangible, but also necessary. The most meaningful interview for me was with Jani, a Colombian campesino who has been directly affected by the war on drugs. She spoke with passion and determination despite all that she has experienced and all that she is risking by speaking out. She was a constant motivation throughout the production of the project because more than anything I didn’t want to let her down. It was these types of interviews that made the trip really enjoyable. In these more intimate interviews I no longer felt like the intrusive, detached journalist scanning the crowd for the next good shot. They reminded me that I was telling a story that needed to be told.
Another part of my whole SOA experience was a presentation for Seniors for Peace after we returned to Manchester. Activism is more than being there in the moment. This might be the journalist in me, but I think it’s just as important to tell the story with hopes of enticing action among a larger population. That is why I enjoyed the presentation at Timbercrest. It was an opportunity to share our experiences and continue our activism by spreading it to an interested audience. It was also inspiring to see the dedication among the group. They have been peace activists for longer than I have been alive, yet they push forward. I hope I am lucky enough to have that continued drive to keep fighting for social justice.
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