52/52:14

On a typical night on the corner of Maynard and King, while a swarm of twenty individuals in dark hoodies and soiled jeans aimlessly stumble back and forth along dirty sidewalks, an arguing couple ducks into an empty doorway to light up a glass pipe, exhaling odorless smoke, and exchanging kisses and sips from cans of malt liquor. Every afternoon, drug pushers, drug users, prostitutes, and transients descend upon my neighborhood, littering the streets until the late hours of the evening. Everyday I see the same individuals. Everyday I see the same stained jackets. Everyday I hear the same threats. And everyday I fear it only gets worse. Seattle's Chinatown neighborhood primarily consists of an elderly immigrant population, of which very few speak English, and whose culture has taught them to look away and keep to themselves. As a result, these activities are allowed to continue unchallenged, and even emboldens these individuals to display this behavior in plain sight. For two years, Richard Huie, the Neighborhood Safety Coordinator at the SCIDpda (Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority) has fought to combat this phenomenon that is largely unique to the neighborhood. This past August, Huie began the Chinatown Neighborhood Watch that aims to empower the community by watching out for one another, and educating the many residents and business owners to call the police. Unlike other Seattle neighborhoods composed of single-family houses, Chinatown's sixteen square blocks are dominated by large apartment buildings that often span an entire block. In reaction to these conditions, Huie modified the national Neighborhood Watch model by creating Block Watch. Now, every Tuesday and Thurday evening a group of 20 to 30 volunteers, mostly elderly, congregate at Hing Hay Park. During these 60 minutes, two groups of residents patrol the streets in a slow walk through darkened alleyways and along main streets armed with nothing more than a megaphone and blue vests announcing their presence. though occasionally met with hostility, Huie engages the transient population through friendly dialogue, with an amplified greeting, and an invitation to join the walk.

Huie's efforts have gained success, and much-needed momentum to improve the public safety situation facing the neighborhood. Inspired by the positive energy generated by Block Watch, Huie tackles these challenging issues with help from a determined community now united in a common goal: to take back their streets.

Whether a resident of Chinatown or not, I encourage you, and challenge you to participate in Block Watch at least once to help make the change that Richard Huie has accomplished as just one person. If you walk, I'll walk with you. Here is the schedule:

Where: Hing Hay Park Maynard Avenue S. & King Street S.

When: Tuesday and Thursdays 6:30-7:30 pm

This image was taken on a Canon EOS 5D and a Canon 24-105mm f/4.0L lens.

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52/52:13

Hello from the road! I write to you from I-90, headed West, en route to Williams Bay, Wisconsin to visit Mark Duran--one of a handful of veterans who shared their story of recovery from TBI, part of the Slow Healing project. For the past week I have traversed, for the first time, parts of the American South, just below the Mason-Dixon from Texas to North Carolina, and now northerly through Ohio and the American Midwest. This week's image comes from Virginia, along the Northern edge of the Bible Belt.

Not unlike places along the I-5 corridor in Washington State, it's not surprising to see, amongst the rolling hills of the Appalachians, clusters of small crosses, dominated by a 50-meter stark white cross proclaiming salvation and the coming of Christ. Though unlike Washington state with the highest percentage of non-religious people, the Bible Belt states, consisting of the Southern states of the midwest and the entire South, are dominated by the socially conservative evangelical Protestants. The region, where Christianity pervades the local culture and politics, is home to the religous right and Christian Warrior bootcamps such as the Bob Jones University. I cannot speak of any personal experiences, or observations to confirm this phenomenon, however while filling up at a gas station I did come across what appeared to be six orange safety lights lashed to the grill of a Ford F-150 in the shape of a cross.

This image was taken on a Canon EOS 5D and a Canon 24-105mm f/4.0L lens.

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52:52/12

Last week I began 52/52 with the story of Virgilio (Gil) Besabe who immigrated to the United States more than 15 years ago under the Immigration Act of 1990. As a World War II Filipino veteran, he served as a First Sergeant in the Commonwealth Army for three years to fight against the Japanese following the bombing of Manila. Losing many close friends to the war, he made his way to the US to reunite with his first family already living in Washington and California thanks to the tremendous financial support he provided for his children's American educations. Three years ago, with the arrival in Seattle of his second wife Anita, together they now share a small apartment in Seattle's First Hill neighborhood.  

Nearing his 86th birthday, Gil remains active, dividing his time every week between visits to Chinatown's Legacy House for their Adult Day Services on Mondays and Wednesdays, socializing at the Filipino Community Center on Thursdays, and a visit to the International Drop-in Center in Renton where he advises the local Filipino Veterans Association. Suffering from many debilitating diseases including diabetes, and arthritis, he takes a variety of 26 drugs in the mornings and evenings to alleviate these ailments, and prevent another massive heart failure. Following his doctor's orders, he always appears to dance, teetering in place from left to right with a cane in his hand, his name taped on its side. Move. 'Just move,' his doctor instructs him. Between labored breaths, and boistrous laughter, Gil poetically explains his acceptance of life's mortality. His four bibles from his Catholic upbringing, and his carefree attitude and determination to "take it easy" in his later years may guarantee his hope to reach 100.

One early morning in his warm apartment, I listened as he confessed between tears his wish to return to his children, to home sweet home, to the place they call the roots. There he built his retirement, his home where tilapia swim in ponds within the courtyard, and the grass he planted now grows to the height of his hip. Sometimes he cries because he's happy. Though the philosophy he believes is, "if you weep, you weep alone. If you laugh, the world laughs with you." So he laughs, he laughs at the ailments he cannot dispose of and he laughs at life that one day will come to an end when he has fulfilled his purpose. Though until this moment arrives, Gil will keep dancing in small steps, left to right, left to right.

These images were taken on a Canon EOS 5D and a Canon 24-105mm f/4.0L lens.

Check back again next week Wednesday for the 52/52 picture of the week!

52/52:10

My apologies for the late publish of 52/52 this week. Yesterday I had the pleasure of exhibiting some of the new work from "16 Stories from 16 Square Blocks" alongside many very talented visual and performing artists at the Seattle Office of Arts & Cultural Affair's Ethnic Arts Connection exhibition at the Seattle Center's Fisher Pavilion. Many connections were made during the all-day event, some old, and many new. As the first public showing of the project, the work was very well received and is beginning to pick up momentum and publicity.

This week's image comes from one of the featured stories from "16 Stories from 16 Square Blocks" about Bill Lee. For 25 years, Bill Lee has dedicated his life to Seattleís Chinatown community in one form or another, whether it be receiving parking tickets from patrons at the International Community Health Services (ICHS) garage, or volunteering on the International Special Review District board. Today he serves the neighborhood as one of three CIDBIA (Chinatown International District Business Improvement Area) street cleaners who patrol these sixteen square blocks in the early hours of the morning on the lookout for public safety issues, graffiti, littered alleys, and illegal dumping. With early mornings and strenuous work, he finds inspiration to return day after day, and year after year, in the tiny steps to building a community, such as providing clean streets for its residents.

This image was taken on a Canon EOS 5D and a Canon 24-105mm f/4.0L lens.

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52/52:09

We are all aware of the devastating 8.8-magnitude earthquake that struck 75 miles off the coast of the city of Concepcion, Chile on Saturday, February 27. Following the earthquake I received numerous messages from friends worried about my family in Hawaii, and concerned about the well-being of the fishing village of Pisagua along the northern coast of Chile's Region I. With only two hours until the projected arrival on Hawaii's shores of the tsunami wave, and numerous frantic phone calls unanswered, my parents finally returned my call to calmly inform me that, "We're walking to the farmer's market." Three days later, the phone line to Pisagua finally cleared and I was able to confirm that the wave surge that devastated the Southern coastal town of Talcahuano never arrived at Pisagua. This was my personal account with this catastrophic event, however the tragedy and humanitarian situation now facing Chile extends far beyond this seemingly trivial experience.

Last November, 2-months prior to the second round of presidential elections in Chile, I stumbled upon a workshop in Iquique printing and manufacturing flags and banners for the senatorial campaign of Julio Lagos. Belonging to the center-right liberal conservative political party, Renovacion Nacional (RN), the same party as the President-elect Sebastian Pinera, Lagos later lost his bid for a seat in the Chilean Senate. A little more than 6 weeks after the election of Sebastian Pinera, the strongest earthquake in recent history shook the physical, social, political, and economic fabric of Chile. With less than 8 days remaining in the presidency of Michelle Bachelet, Pinera will inheret a much-altered Chile facing a humanitarian crisis beyond anything he could have ever imagined when he was proclaimed the presidential candidate for the RN party a little more than 6 months ago.

There are many agencies supporting the rescue and aide of both crises facing the Chilean and Haitian populations. You can help by donating to any of these agencies, or to the American Red Cross by texting "Chile" to 90999 to donate $10 to the preliminary appeal of $6.4 million in emergency aide to Chile. Thank you for reading 52/52 this week. Let's hope for the best for those in Chile and Haiti.

This image was taken on a Canon EOS 5D and a Canon 24-105mm f/4.0L lens.

Check back again next week Wednesday for the 52/52 picture of the week!

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