JACK O’DELL, PRESENTE!

By Jim Campbell

Jack O’Dell died peacefully at 11:30 PM Pacific Time, Vancouver, BC, Canada, October 31, 2019 in the company of his family.

Jack was one of a ‘central cadre’ of Movement activists whose role and function were quiet but essential, vital and invaluable. His recent book CLIMBIN’ JACOB’S LADDER edited by Nikhil Pal Singh is witness to his centrality.

Jack’s lifetime of Civil Rights activism had its roots in the 1940’s beginning in the Merchant Marines followed by community activism in Florida, Louisiana, and Alabama. With the emergence of the Montgomery Movement and the student-led Sit-ins, his base of participation shifted to New York City. This was during the late 1950’s and the earliest modern-day organizing of the March on Washington under the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Jack was privy to the birth of FREEDOMWAYS, Dr. WEB DuBois’ last project before departing this country for Ghana. Jack wrote anonymously, mostly, throughout the magazine’s twenty-five year lifetime. He was a Professor at the Antioch Putney Center in Washington, DC; an Adviser to both “Presidential Campaigns of Jesse Jackson; and, recently, author of The Democracy Charter the latest framework for Movement Activists to discuss and organize around in their struggle for a substantive democracy in this country. To all intents and purposes, this is Jack’s challenging legacy agenda to ‘The Movement’ and all who are active in this patriotic endeavor.

On a personal note, Jack was a close Comrade in our long span of reading, studying and discussing from one campaign to the next over a sixty-year period. In essence, his wisdom and broader world experiences were an educator in its root meaning: leader. His patience in organizing with attention to comprehensive details in conjunction with overall strategic goals broaden and deepen the effectiveness of all who worked with him. He was consistent in his lifetime study and application of the science of dialectical materialism and leaves that example for all of us.

On a very popular TV Program in the tri-state area of New York City during the 1960’s, Herbert Aptheker was asked to describe his relationship with Dr. DuBois. After a long pause, Herbert replied in a choked voice, ‘He was my father.’ With Jack’s death, I now fully understand what Herbert meant.

Jack was my political father.

Jack O’Dell, PRESENTE!”

More Than a Wall: 30 Years of Life Along the US-Mexico Border

Photos and text © 2019, by David Bacon
The Nation


Mexicali, Baja California – 1996
A worker is deported back into Mexico at the border gate, from a bus that has taken deportees from the detention center in El Centro in the Imperial Valley, on the other side of the fence.

Editors’ note: “If it happened yesterday, we’ve already forgotten.” – an anonymous Nation editor.

What we see and react to in the media conditions us to view the present as a series of immediate crises, and to ignore their roots in the past. For social justice movements, this can be deadly, cutting us off from an ability to weigh and learn from our own history, and to understand how that history shapes the ways we fight for justice today.

In this photo essay, David Bacon reaches into his photographic archive of 30 years, which are now part of the Special Collections of Stanford University’s Green Library. A Nation contributor and former union organizer, Bacon’s photographs and journalism have documented the courage of people struggling for social and economic justice in countries around the world.

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In 1971, Pat Nixon, wife of Republican President Richard Nixon, inaugurated Border Field State Park, where the border meets the Pacific Ocean just south of San Diego. The day she visited, she asked the Border Patrol to cut the barbed wire so she could greet the Mexicans who’d come to see her. She told them, “I hope there won’t be a fence here too much longer.”

Instead, a real fence was built in the early 1990s, made of metal sheets taken from decommissioned aircraft carrier landing platforms. The sheets had holes, so anyone could peek through to the other side. But for the first time, people coming from each side could no longer physically mix together or hug each other. This is how the wall looked when I began photographing it, over 30 years ago.

That old wall still exists in a few places on the Mexican side in Tijuana and elsewhere. But Operation Gatekeeper, the Clinton Administration border enforcement program, sought to push border crossers out of urban areas like San Ysidro, into remote desert regions where crossing was much more difficult and dangerous. To do that, the government had contractors build a series of walls that were harder to cross.

That’s partly how the US-Mexico border became more than mere geography-how it became instead a passage of fire, an ordeal that must be survived in order to send money from work in the US back to a hungry family, to find children and relatives from whom they have been separated by earlier journeys, or to flee an environment that has become too dangerous to bear.

Some do not survive, dying as they try to cross the desert or swim the Rio Bravo. To them the border region has become a land of death. Every year at least 3-400 people die trying to cross, and are buried, often without names, in places like the graveyard in Holtville, in the Imperial Valley.

But the photographs I’ve taken over 30 years also show that the US/Mexico border is a land of the living. Millions of people live and work on Mexico’s side of the border: There are the child laborers who pick the tomatoes and strawberries in Mexicali Valley that line the shelves of grocery stores in the US; there are the workers from across Mexico who staff the massive maquiladoras in Tijuana; And there are thousands who have been deported to Mexico, and who must now somehow survive this passage of fire as well.

View Complete Essay

Street Scenes in Manila

Photographs all © 2019, by David Bacon

MANILA, PHILIPPINES (8-31-19) – Street scene in Manila.

These photographs were taken on the streets of Manila in Ermita, Intramuros and around Rizal Park. People live in the street in Manila much more than in the U.S. – it’s more like a city in Mexico, for instance. Some images show the recruitment of sailors in a shape up next to the park – Filipinos make up a larger percentage of ocean-going sailors than any other nationality. Others show workers laying bricks, or driving jeepneys and pedicabs. People go to church, which is sometimes in the street as well.

MANILA, PHILIPPINES (8-31-19) – Recruiters sign up sailors at an open-air shape up near Rizal Park in Manila.
MANILA, PHILIPPINES (8-31-19) – Street scene in Manila.
MANILA, PHILIPPINES (8-31-19) – Street scene in Manila.

For a full selection of photographs: Click Here