Some days I wish I had been blogging a year ago while I was in Cambodia, telling the stories that so often come to mind now when they were fresh (though, considering I only managed a handful of email updates in six months, this is probably wishful thinking).
Yesterday was the anniversary of one of my favorite of these stories. My "job" in Cambodia was to assist different organizations working to help poor communities threatened with forced eviction. The endangered community I spent the most time in was Dey Krahorm, a poor neighborhood on a bit of highly-valued real estate in downtown Phnom Penh who had resisted illegal attempts by the government and powerful business interests to bulldoze their community for several years.
In early October of last year, men hired by the company claiming (falsely) to own the land started hanging around outside Dey Krahorm's small community center, where many of the children took art classes, threatening to tear it down. So Dey Krahorm invited their neighbors and friends to a Musical Resistance Concert to be held the next day on the foundation of the community center, whether the building was standing or not.
And what a concert it was, featuring the traditional Cambodian music Dey Krahorm is famous for (it started as an artists’ colony), singing by members of a group of garment factory workers, and (by the far the most popular act), a performance by one of Cambodia's best breakdancing groups
The community center stayed standing, but Dey Krahorm's story does not have a happy ending. On January 24, 2009, the community was forcibly evicted to make way for a shopping center. Still, I can't help returning to the story.What a powerful example of resistance. In the face of violence and injustice, they threw a party.