Oklahoma Contemporary

Station 5

Station 5 audio

CONTENT WARNING: Discussion of sexual and physical violence. Discretion advised.


In ghetto cities such as Gaza, “temporary” refugee camps have devolved into destitute slums housing nearly two million Palestinians, whose homes and neighborhoods are under threat, in constant danger of being bombed and destroyed. (As of March 2024, BBC News estimates that over 50 percent of all buildings in Gaza have been destroyed by the Israeli military, in retaliation to Hamas’s attack on October 7, 2023).


Narration transcripts

Mohammed (Arabic, translated)
Hello, my name is Mohammed; I’m from Syria. We had a very simple life there. I used to work in printing. I lived in Syria with my family.

I’m married and have two kids, a boy and a girl. We were comfortable (in Syria) and did not have as many responsibilities as we have currently. I did not know how it felt to have too many responsibilities until I immigrated. I lived my life normally; I would work and not pay attention to the news. We were happy, thanks to Allah, until all those problems started. We remained in this bad situation for about 10 or 11 months, and we couldn’t tell who was with us or against us anymore, even those closest to us, family and relatives. Nobody could tell how or where things were going to end up.

Suddenly one day when I arrived at work, I was told that I had to leave within 24 hours. Considering the nature of my position at work and the fact that I was close to the general intelligence department, my name was on the list. I moved accordingly; within twelve hours I was out of Syria, leaving everything behind. That first week felt like seven years, not seven days. It was very hard and difficult, for myself and my family. I moved by myself to Libya, then I started recalling memories with my family, how we were before, and what we had become. I wasn’t financially rich or poor—I was right in the middle—but I had everything I needed in Syria. Thank Allah, I had everything I needed. I had a house, and I had my family.

I stayed in Libya for 10 months, and I could not tolerate it anymore. My family couldn’t tolerate it either, so they first moved to Egypt in order to come to Libya. However, they could not get into Libya because the situation there was not stable either. After nine months, I sent my family (my wife, Abdulrahman, and Alaa) to Egypt and followed them the next month. We were together in Egypt, but it wasn’t like Syria. We were all scattered everywhere; we stayed in rental places—it was like a new life. Listening to the bad news daily, phone calls about people dying—that caused a lot of stress and anxiety.

We stayed in Egypt for one month, and then we moved to Jordan, to a secured house. I entered Jordan to visit, not to reside. I arrived on June 8, 2016 as a visitor and on the 9th the revolution started in Egypt. The border was closed, and I thought things would get better, because my intention was to go back to Libya, but it did not happen. I didn’t go back to Libya. It wasn’t only that the border was closed; I was trying to cross the border illegally. I stayed in Jordan for the first month, second month, and third month in the secured house, and I started to give up. There was no solution, then I considered the idea of traveling. I went to different embassies, and I wasn’t welcomed at their doors, all embassies said NO. We tried to talk to the United Nations Office that provided us with nutrition coupons about traveling, but they told us that they would call us if we were eligible. I stayed like this from 2013 to…four years in Jordan.

Carina Evangelista (Tagalog, translated)
Fleeing one’s native land is an equation that illustrates that fear, desperate need, and utter loss of hope is greater than whatever love for that land is pledged or deeply felt. The fear in what one is ready to abandon is greater than the fear of the unknown—even when one could not grasp fully what lies ahead, where one might land, whether one could mince and swallow all that is unknown because foreign—from language, way of life, culture, values to the taste of water, the cut of one’s shadow at dusk, the extreme cold or extreme heat wherever one landed.

As the Filipino poet Virgilio Almario wrote:
…it stings, the truth
How dark and vast the ocean,
As you lie still on the shore:
Blanketed in the moss of forgetting.

Zubaida (Arabic, translated)
Note: Zubaida sings the national anthem of Iraq, from a popular poem written by the Palestinian poet Ibrahim Touqan in 1934. As with most national anthems, this song is usually sung strongly, with spirit. Zubaida’s haunting version here is tender and sorrowful.


My homeland!
My homeland!
Glory and beauty,
Sublimity and splendor,
Grace and majesty
Are in your hills, in your hills

Life and deliverance,
Pleasure and hope
Are in your air, in your love

Shall I see you, will I see you
Safely comforted, blessed,
Victorious and honored
Shall I see you in your eminence?

Reaching to the stars,
Reaching the stars!
My homeland!
My homeland!

Karen Khanagov (English)
Problem with living is, it’s not like in the United States, you go to any city you want, you rent an apartment, buy a house—you could not do that in Soviet Union days. There’s no place for you. You are assigned for certain place of living. We had some relatives in Moscow, and they offered a place for us. It was a one-bedroom apartment, small little thing in Moscow. Like a workshop for my cousin’s husband. He’s a painter, and that’s where he worked. So he gave up his place, and we lived there for two years. We barely could live in Baku, because by then all the roads were patrolled by those, call them gangs maybe, or so? By the way we had friends of all kinds of nationalities; there was no question about are you a Jew, are you a Russian, are you an Azerbaijani—who cared? We didn’t. And one of those guys, who was Azerbaijani in fact, took all of us in his van and he drove us to the airport, and we were stopped on the way by patrol, you know, those gangs. But that guy had a very sweet kind of tongue, he could talk and make everybody laugh, and they didn’t check. It was our luck. So anyway, we got to the airport and what could we take? A couple suitcases, and we are happy that we are alive. So we didn’t have to go to any kind of camps, for that matter, refugee camps.

Maria Trejo (Spanish, translated)
My story is...well my childhood was a little difficult. I grew up with my grandparents in a town called Sonaguera, so at the same time I had everything and I had nothing, because my dad was in jail, my mom worked to be able to send some money to my grandparents, and from the age of seven I was an abused girl who suffered physical and psychological abuse. At the age of 13, it was time to go back to my parents; my dad had already been released, and my parents did not have money to give us an education.

My mother used to take me to work. Unfortunately, life in Honduras is a little poor and the lack of education, the lack of culture there...you work from a very, very young age, and my mother took me to houses to work, to take care of children, wash clothes, wash dishes. She worked, my dad worked, my other sisters worked, and there were many of us, there were about eight of us, among whom there were seven women.

At that time, any home we were going to I was touched, I was used, and I did not say anything because when it happened the first time in my childhood, it had already happened to my sister. When my sister told my grandmother, my grandmother put a knife to her tongue; she told her not to repeat that again nor ever tell anyone. So then when it happened to me my only option was to shut up, because I was afraid. They beat me every day, and when I went to those houses with my mom, working from house to house, I was touched, and I finally said to myself, “No more."

I left home; I ran away; I started working on my own. I tried to give myself an education. I finished junior high school, thank God, and in a span of that time of my life I got into the army, but I got out. I left because at that time I already had a baby girl. I got pregnant at 16, that girl is the product of a rape, and I had responsibilities.

Johnny Antonelli (Arapaho and English)
[speaking Arapaho] That means “My name is Mahta’sóomah, and I am Arapaho,” in my native tongue. So 1864, November 29th, early in the morning, this general or high-ranking army officer had amassed a force of militia men, and others—colonial individuals—to remove forcefully this peaceful encampment of Arapaho and Cheyenne that had capitulated and submitted and were being moved to Oklahoma. Early in the morning the camp crier came into the town, or to their camp I should say, and told all the women and children to run and hide underneath the roots of that bank, of that creek, because these white men are coming to kill you. So my grandmother’s name was Cheyenne Woman, she was Arapaho, and her father’s name was Arapaho Bull Bear. Bull Bear stayed to fight, and granted they were unarmed. Cheyenne Woman and Jabeen and Mixed Hair — this was my grandmother and her brother. Jabeen was 13 years of age, and her little brother was only nine years old. Their mother told them, “No matter what happens, you kids keep running.” About that time she was shot down, and Jabeen said she looked back and seen her mother fall, but she followed her words and kept running. They got to that creek. And there was an old medicine man there, and he told them, “Go under there, under those roots, and hide.” And there was a boy named George Bent, who had already been assimilated into the colonial boarding schools, and George Bent and Mixed Hair got scared. Instead of hiding they kept running. So for three days them two little boys ran up this creek, and when they got out their legs were all cut up real bad, and they had ran unto a Pueblo encampment. And these Pueblos took them in, doctored them up, fed them, took care of them for a few days, and then finally led them back to their people. Jabeen stayed under there for the duration of the battle, which lasted very long. And even after the battle they were mutilating the bodies, collecting genitalia. It was a horrific scene; it was one of the only federally recognized massacres to ever be imposed upon an Indigenous people. And an individual named Silas Soule was an abolitionist and Jay writer that had joined the armed forces, and he was staunchly opposed to the treatment of Native Americans, so he actually testified in court and did all this stuff in opposition of it. But after about nine to ten hours, Jabeen came up and that man who had told her to hide had been shot in the gut and was dying, but before he passed on, he taught Jabeen and was telling her how to help these people and to doctor folks. And so yeah, they came here, were allotted 160 acres in western Oklahoma, and several generations later we’re still here.

My grandmother Ida Mae—that was her great-grandmother, in colonial ways—she escaped boarding school four times. On the fourth time at 17, she said her and these three other girls had escaped, and she was used to running down the road, and every other time she got caught. They'd come looking for them. So she said, “Little John, I got off into the woods, into the bushes and those fields, and I walked. I had stickers and thorns and everything." Them other three girls ended up getting caught, and at 17 she made it here. She said, “That whole time I was walking I just drew on my grandmother’s strength, you know, Jabeen, knowing that she had been through all of that for us to be here.” That her journey wasn’t as hard as hers.

So that’s why I come every day in a good way, and I draw on that. You know, these women that came before me fought very hard for me to be here. That’s one of the main reasons I work in museums, is to afford people that look like me an opportunity, that we do belong in these places. Before the inception of colonialism, our art was never monetized. It was simply a means of cultural expression. So since everything is so heavily monetized now, we have a disenfranchisement, which is part of forceful assimilation. So I was kind of feeling down one day, and one of my elders told me, he said, “You know Johnny, you’re their worst nightmare. The fact that you're here, and you’ve learned to traverse these systems. You work in these museums, and you come in with honor, and carry your ways in a good way.” So that was something that really stood with me. And 14 years later, I’m still here.

But yeah, that is the story of Jabeen White Horse and the Sand Creek Massacre. I feel very honored when I am called on to speak on these atrocities and talk about these things. So, Aho! I appreciate it; that’s the tale.

Audio narrators:

Mohammed, originally from Syria, speaking Arabic. Recorded in Buffalo, New York.

Carina Evangelista, originally from Philippines, speaking Tagalog. Recorded in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Zubaida, originally from Iraq, speaking Arabic. Recorded in Buffalo, New York.

Karen Khanagov; Armenian, grew up in Soviet-occupied Azerbaijan; speaking English. Recorded in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Maria Trejo, originally from Honduras, speaking Spanish. Recorded in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Johnny Antonelli; Southern Arapaho, Cheyenne, Italian; speaking Arapaho and English. Recorded in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

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