Guantanamo Public Memory Project opens at Tulane

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Daniel Fitzpatrick, Staff Reporter

Few locations on the planet have raised as many social and legal questions as Guantanamo Bay. The area is only 45 square miles, but the questions raised there are pertinent all over the globe. 

The Guantanamo Public Memory Project exhibit and lecture series are designed to explore the answers to these questions.

Three speakers spoke about current issues related to Guantanamo on Sept. 18. The presentation, titled “Guantanamo Post-9/11: Human Rights and Constitutional Law in Modern America,” was one of three lectures that coincide with the on-campus exhibit. 

“The intent of the exhibit is to raise questions,” history professor Jana Lipman said. “I think that these are very important questions. What is the role of law in the 21st century in the United States? What is the role of the United States in the world? What is the balance between national security and civil liberties?” 

The exhibit is currently housed on the second floor of the Joseph Merrick Jones building. It will be on Tulane’s campus until Oct. 30. It is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every weekday and it admission is free. 

The exhibit has travelled to campuses across the country for the last two years. The Guantanamo Bay Memory Project debuted at New York University in 2012. 

“The idea was that rather than having one group of people make this exhibit, it would be much better if students in classes across the country were collectively involved,” Lipman said. “So there was an educational project about both public history, memory and the questions that are raised by Guantanamo Bay.”

Colleges across the country were tasked with creating panels for the exhibit. Each participating school had a class where the students researched an aspect of Guantanamo Bay and worked on creating a panel for the project. 

“I went to the exhibit as sort of an informal advisor,” Lipman said. “I worked with the students on the content of some of the panels. I saw it and I thought that it was a remarkable exhibit and that it raised these very important questions and that I wanted to bring it to Tulane.” 

Last semester, a methods class about primary sources called “U.S., Latin America and the Cold War”  found books and other types of printed works that were pertinent to the history of Guantanamo Bay. Those books can also be seen on display in the exhibit. 

“It was a way for Tulane students to be actively involved in the exhibit,” Lipman said. 

The three speakers at “Guantanamo Post-9/11: Human Rights and Constitutional Law in Modern America” were James Yee, Denny LeBoeuf and Jess Bravin. 

Yee was a military chaplain in Guantanamo during the early post-Sept. 11 era. He is the author of “For God and Country: Faith and Patriotism Under Fire.” Yee spent 76 days in solitary confinement for “being too sympathetic” to prisoners. The charges were eventually dropped and Yee received an honorable discharge from the United States military. 

LeBoeuf is a graduate of Tulane University Law School. She currently serves as the Director of the John Adams Project as part of the American Civil Liberties Union. She works to aid and guide the defense attorneys for detainees at Guantanamo who are charged with capital crimes. 

“I for one am always aware of the history there,” LeBoeuf said about her visits to Guantanamo as a non-governmental observer. 

Bravin is a Wall Street Journal reporter who wrote a 2013 book titled “Terror Courts: Rough Justice at Guantanamo Bay.” He has followed the military commissions in Guantanamo since its opening as a detainment camp post-9/11 and discusses how the legal manners have been handled there. 

The exhibit is interactive. Questions are posted around the exhibit and visitors can respond by texting their answers. 

The next lecture is titled “Angola and Guantanamo: Art and Incarceration.” It will feature three artists and one scholar. It will be held in the Joseph Merrick Jones building on Oct. 16. 

The final event, “Guantanamo: Cuban and Haitian Refugee Stories,” will occur on Oct. 30.