Jul 7, 2017

Meet the Voices of Radio Silence

by: Laura Kochman

Launching on July 30 with a live radio play-style performance, Radio Silence has been in the works for years. Iraqi–American artist Michael Rakowitz brought together members of the Iraqi refugee community and Iraq war veterans, meeting in living rooms, library basements, high school sports fields, and Dunkin Donuts storefronts in Northeast Philly, recording conversations along the way. Rakowitz worked specifically with local organization Warrior Writers, which uses creative techniques to support emotional wellness within the veteran community. Jawad Al Amiri and Lawrence Davidson are two Radio Silence participants, profiled here alongside transcribed recordings that will appear in the special radio event on WPPM PhillyCAM Radio 106.5 FM following the live performance on Independence Mall.

Jawad Al Amiri at a Radio Silence dinner, May 25, 2017. Amasi Restaurant, 1731 Cecil B. Moore Avenue. Photo by Steve Weinik.

Jawad Al Amiri emigrated from Iraq in 1980, fleeing the country after threats to himself and his family for their resistance to the Baath party. During that time, Al Amiri lost two brothers and a sister to the regime. He moved to Philadelphia after attending the University of Pittsburgh, and now owns Ameri Motors, a car dealership in North Philly. Almost 40 years after leaving Iraq, he lives in North Wales with his wife and four children.

One of the big things that I miss is the call for prayer. When I visit the Middle East, whether it’s Syria, Jordan, the Arab Emirates, Iraq, the beauty of the call to prayer in the morning…it’s amazing. During the mid-day in some countries, they put some verses of the Koran before the prayer…one time I was walking in one of the cities in the Middle East and I heard that voice…I stood on the side in a little garden and I kept listening to that beautiful reading of the Koran until he finished, and I waited for the prayer to be called. It was the most beautiful—I still remember those verses. I still remember that event when I stood in that place. This was almost 30 years ago. That beauty of connection is silent in this country, but it has still affected my heart, my spirit and my ears.


Lawrence Davidson (second from right) at a Radio Silence dinner, May 25, 2017. Amasi Restaurant, 1731 Cecil B. Moore Avenue. Photo by Steve Weinik.

A husband and father of two children, Lawrence Davidson is a US Army veteran who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Since leaving the military in 2008, he’s directed his personal, professional, and academic pursuits toward understanding, serving, and building the veteran community. He has worked with Warrior Writers for five years, and conducted a qualitative exploration of participation in Warrior Writers for his Masters of Social Work capstone research. Davidson recently started a writing group at the Chester County Prison for incarcerated veterans, using Warrior Writers materials and methods.

If I join, I am a killer, a mindless sheep, without options, a mongerer of war / If I voice protest, I am weak, soft, lacking the guts required, embodying the soft underbelly of a privileged society / If I seek to help, aid, educate, I am a prophet of the White Man’s Burden, lacking nuance / If I build walls, I am shortsighted, simple, a bigot / Just get comfy avoiding the burden of the fray, watch the birds game, Netflix, Hulu / Head to the shore.


Major support for Radio Silence has been provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, with additional support from The National Endowment for the Arts, and the Hummingbird Foundation. Project collaborators and partners include a host of agencies and nonprofits that work on refugee and veteran issues, as well as independent community-driven media nonprofits.

Last updated: Aug 4, 2017

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