Joan Liftin describes the Indivisible Project
Indivisible Project was funded by the
Pew Foundation for 12 photographers
and oral historians to do takes on 12
American communities across the country, Alaska, Florida, Texas... And the idea was during the year 2000 to show a cross section of American volunteerism which was communities that had
strong pushes from the people in the community themselves to do something of a
Liftin's chosen community was the Haitian enclave in Delray Beach, Florida.
Each of us was chosen for a different community because
perhaps there was some relationship beforehand or there was some particular
had worked previously for the UN and had been sent about 5 or 6 times to Haiti
so I was familiar with Haitian culture and I was also just personally very
sympathetic to it.
What is it about the Haitian culture that connected with you?
I love the Haitians. They're very dynamic. They're very creative. They're funny. In spite of such a terrible history of the country, I found
Haitians one of the most gentle people I've ever seen.
I'm very comfortable with them.
Liftin describes the life of Delray Beach.
It's a town that's in Palm
Beach county. It's right off the
interstate and it's just slightly north of Palm Beach and in the early 1990s,
Delray was an incredible drug town. Things
got so bad that about 3 or 4 years later, maybe about '94, the people of the
town began to really rise up in disgust. And a whole new police department, police chief were put into
power. And fortunately for Delray,
there was a real desire to change what had been going on. Town had been devastated. One of the things
they did - Delray is a town that basically has 3 kinds of populations. More than half the town is white. Some of whom are retired people.
about 20 percent or 25 percent are Haitians and about 25 percent are
African-Americans. Delray's also the community
that has the highest percentage of Haitian Americans in the country.
Liftin describes the special nature of the Haitian community.
The Haitian community comes from an island where they have been crushed basically. Just crushed by corrupt regimes
and often by the police themselves. So the Haitians had no interest in helping
the police.They distrusted authority,
they distrusted the police.
I got very interested in photographing the community. Which again had a difficulty because there's a certain number of Haitians in any community who are illegal. And Delray because of its placement near Miami but not too close, was a favorite debarkation point for smuggled boats from Haiti.
How did they begin the community police patrols?
The first effort was made with having volunteers, mostly white, give out parking tickets throughout the town. Everybody in a beach town is always parking in the wrong spot. And this helped the budget of Delray and it also freed up the police to do other things like start concentrating on drugs and violence in the community. Later, police patrols were organized by the police department. That was volunteer people who drove around watching for burglaries, arguments, fights, any kind of mayhem that was happening.
"Indivisible: Stories of American Community" is a project of the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University in partnership with the Center for Creative Photography, The University of Arizona, and is funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts."