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May 10, 2007

Art Despite Oppression


Wafaa Bilal began creating political abstract art as a student in Baghdad during Saddam Hussein's rule. When he began to fear for his life, Wafaa fled his homeland and ended up in a refugee camp in Saudia Arabia. Rather than losing hope, Wafaa continued painting, turning tents into canvases and paying drivers for supplies. Eventually, Wafaa made his way to the United States. Today, he teaches at the Art Institute of Chicago. 

Dick talks with Wafaa about his journey, and how it continues to affect his political art


When the phone rang at Jeannette Gregoire's home in Maine at the end of April, she thought it was a crank call.  The woman on the other end was asking for Joseph Robert Velmond Gregoire, and Jeannette's husband Val had died several years before. 

Then the caller, Kathy Bagen, explained that her husband had found a wallet with Val's birth certificate, his Navy ID card and some old pictures inside. It had been in the wall of a Boston theatre that was being gutted, and Kathy had spent the past two weeks trying to locate the owner.

But  it turned out that Jeannette had a story of her own to tell. 

On April 11, 1951, she had driven down to Boston to meet her sweetheart who had a day's shore leave. When they parted and Val was on the way back to his ship, he was mugged and knocked unconscious. He woke up minus his wallet...and his pants. It was a dicey - and chilly - trip back to the boat. 

Several years later Val got out of the Navy and married Jeannette. And the story of that day became part of their family legend.

It was 56 years later to the day, April 11, 2007 when Kathy Bagen's husband found the wallet in the wall.

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