“The exhibit gives us an opportunity to view the horrors of war and know that we must do everything in our power to prevent future wars.”
-from the Commentary Book
We had a successful exhibit launch in Santa Fe. The Santa Fe VFP chapter turned out in force to set the exhibit up in the Museo El Centro in the Railyard district. One of the local papers sent a photographer to shoot the set up and featured the exhibit on the front page in the morning. We had a steady stream of participants over the long weekend.
The exhibit invited heartfelt engagement with the attending VFP members. Most people didn’t just cruise through; they took time to read the panels. Many built collages. Most wanted to tell their stories. In the Commentary Book that travels with the exhibit, participants took time to share thoughts, feelings, experiences including this comment:
“As a 17 year old I sailed up the Saigon River on a merchant ship in August, 1976. The banks of the river were defoliated by Agent Orange for a mile or two on either side. The legacy of America’s Vietnam War will continue for generations.
In 1970 I gave up my college student deferment, submitted to and refused induction in the Army. I was tried and convicted in federal court a year later, but was sentenced to two years probation! Resistance is necessary then as it is now. Witness to what has passed – the My Lai Exhibit — reminds us that witness is always necessary — then, now, and in the future.”
I was moved by the openness and the depth of the conversations that were stimulated by the exhibit experience, and the connections that participants made with each other. I was also grateful to the VFP members who worked patiently as a team with me as we dealt with all the challenges involved in setting the exhibit up for the first time. Our initiation in Santa Fe was a wonderful beginning for our West Coast tour.
Our Indiegogo campaign ended on November 5. More than 127 backers now have raised 72% of our $27,000 campaign goal – enough to ensure that the exhibit will be begin touring in March 2017.
The breakdown: 59% directly through Indiegogo contributions and 13% through our matching donor, our website and direct donations. We are confident now that additional donors and the organizations that are hosting the traveling Memorial Exhibit will pitch in to help us meet the last 28% of our goal.
The campaign will continue on our My Lai Memorial Exhibit website – visit to keep track of our tour schedule and our progress. Watch for exhibit updates in our newsletter.
Breaking News – We are waiting for an OK from a cutting-edge Chicago business to announce a major in-kind rental donation that will provide the technology needed for the exhibit’s Sharing Wall.
On behalf of the team at Chicago Veterans for Peace, we want to thank all of our backers for their sterling support,
On a hot Sunday afternoon in late September, South Siders for Peace gathered for a picnic in Blue Island, Illinois and in small groups spent some quiet time to experience some of the My Lai Memorial Exhibit panels. A number of members built sculptural collages and engaged in dialogue with each other and with the artist Mac MacDevitt.
Remembering the atrocity at My Lai and having an opportunity to artistically express the complex tangle of thought and feelings when mixing the image of the victims and the image of our flag, seems to open each participant to being able to translate their collage into heartfelt dialogue. It was a honor to share that experience.
At the First Unitarian Church of Chicago Rev. David Schwartz highlighted the interactive art process at the heart of the My Lai Memorial Exhibit in his sermon on The Varieties of Social Justice Experience
“The wooden blocks are 4 inches long, 2 inches square, some thinner: 1 by 2. There are about two dozen of them, one printed with an American Flag, to form a sort of stacking puzzle so that when you put the blocks together just right, stands the flag upright. On a second set of blocks is a photograph of women and children in Vietnam, moments before being killed in the My Lai massacre.
“This is social justice work. It is an artistic experience that leads to heart-change.”
This is a collaborative art experience: participants sit at a table with the blocks in front of them to assemble the sculptural collage. They put together the flag and the photo of the women and children in their own arrangement.
They build and then they talk about what came up for them, what the flag means, what the massacre means. Putting this sculptural collage together, they talk about how they put their country together in its contradictions today.
The artist who made it is one of our own members: Mac MacDevitt, who brings it to schools and events and begins conversations as part of his work with Veterans for Peace.
Mac writes,” I was looking for a way for myself and other individuals to give voice to the complex feelings that arose when mixing images and symbols normally separated into compartments in the mainstream media. I am interested how collaborative art projects can deepen and share empathy and understanding. When I first saw the photograph on the cover of LIFE magazine of women and children being lined up just before they were shot by American soldiers in Vietnam, I felt as if I had been punched in the stomach. Now when I really look at an American flag, I am aware of a tangled complex of feelings and images, and this image is always in the mix. ”
This is social justice work. Just as much as marching in the street or writing a letter to your senator. This is social justice work. It is an artistic experience that leads to heart-change.
We are working with the Hugh Thompson Chapter of Veterans for Peace to host the Memorial Exhibit in San Diego on March 16 next year to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the My Lai Massacre. This will be a key event on our first tour through the southwest and up the west coast in the winter and spring of 2018. We are also working with VFP chapters in Santa Fe and San Francisco to host the exhibit on this tour.If you are interested in hosting the My Lai Memorial Exhibit check out our website. LINK.
Hugh C. Thompson, Jr. (April 15, 1943 – January 6, 2006) was a helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War. He is chiefly known for his role in stopping the My Lai Massacre, where more than 500 Vietnamese civilians were killed by US soldiers during a four hour period.
Hugh Thompson was flying a reconnaissance mission. When he witnessed the killing of civilians at My Lai, Hugh Thompson landed his helicopter. He placed his two men between the soldiers and the ditch. He instructed his two crew members to open fire on their American comrades if they attempted to kill one more villager. Hugh Thompson then went about convincing ten terrified villagers to come out of a small earthen bunker that they were hiding in. He also discovered an 8 year old boy in the ditch. He was alive and was clinging to his dead mother.
Thompson called for additional helicopter support and they transported these few remaining villagers to a hospital and saved their lives. His radio transmissions caused the senior officers watching the massacre unfold from above the village, to send instructions to the officers below to stop the killing. Commanding officers then initiated a extensive cover up that kept the news of the massacre secret for 18 months.
Our Indiegogo campaign keeps rolling along. As of Oct. 30, 106 backers have raised 56 percent of our campaign goal.
NOW we have a donor who will match your donation through November 6 – effectively doubling your contribution.
PLUS, for a $45 donation you can choose to receive our NEW My Lai Memorial Exhibit T Shirt.
To make your donation today go to www.igg.me/at/my-lai-exhibit.
You can also share our campaign on your social media channels. Getting the word out has garnered nearly 10 percent of our donations by people like you sharing with their networks. Simply copy this link — www.igg.me/at/my-lai-exhibit — and write a Facebook update saying how you donated to our exhibit!