Wednesday, September 28, 2011

CANCELLED!! A Children's View of Gaza

September 21, 2011 Hilmon Sorey Chair, Board of Directors Museum of Children’s Art 538 Ninth Street, Suite 210 Oakland, CA 94607

Dear Mr. Sorey, I am writing on behalf of the Executive Board of the Oakland Education Association to express our deep disappointment over your decision to cancel “A Child’s View from Gaza” and deny the children of Gaza the right to share their experiences through artwork. As a long-time elementary teacher and current President of the OEA, I am well aware of the positive impact MOCHA has had in fostering creativity and artistic expression through children’s art. I have attended MOCHA trainings for teachers, worked with MOCHA in my own classroom, and observed your work in many other classrooms. Teachers have always been highly appreciative of the work that you do, especially in an era where test scores have unfortunately become a substitute for genuine learning and the creative arts are too often absent from our neediest students’ school experience. Especially in an urban district such as Oakland, it is critical that art continue to play a central role in allowing students to express their deepest fears, joys, and hopes for a different future. MOCHA has always been a place where all subjects are open to artistic expression. That is why it was logical that MOCHA would serve as the venue for the exhibition from Gaza. As past artwork has included many examples of the violence in children’s lives, the only conclusion we can draw to explain your decision to engage in such obvious censorship is the pressure being exerted by powerful organizations and individuals seeking to silence the voices of the Palestinian people. We are well aware of such pressure, having received our share of it when we condemned the murderous Israeli assault on Gaza several years ago. But we refused to allow that pressure to force a change in our core values, which include unreserved support for education around the issues facing children throughout the world. MOCHA has long been a place where the art of all children is valued and shared, not a place where some is censored. We urge you to abide by your own core values and mission. As stated in your Open Letter to the MOCHA Community of September 12, 2011, “The Museum of Children’s Art (MOCHA) was founded as a place where children from all backgrounds could come together to make and celebrate art. MOCHA provides a safe place for children to express themselves through art, and produces programs that are intended to foster insight and understanding.” That you have chosen not to allow a safe place for the often-ignored children of Gaza to share their art is a decision that will unfortunately scar your reputation and remain a deep disappointment to the many teachers who have supported you throughout your existence.

Sincerely and with deep regret,
Betty Olson-Jones President,
Oakland Education Association

Cc: Middle East Children’s Alliance
Mayor Jean Quan
Dean Vogel, CTA President
OEA Executive Board