When 15 year old John Wojnowski was sexually molested by a Catholic priest in Italy, in 1958, the experience was so traumatizing that he repressed it for many years.
39 years later, at the age of 54, news of a Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal in Texas started the recovery of his memory and an awareness of the damage that had been done.
After becoming aware of the damage, Wojnowski wrote to the Vatican Embassy. When they ignored his letter he began, 1998, a one man protest in front of the Vatican Embassy, across from the Vice President's House on Massachusetts Avenue in NW Washington DC.
Which was when I first observed and sometimes photographed him since as an independent contractor associated with Occasions Caterers I often catered for Tipper and Al Gore.
Unlike many of my colleaques who dismissed him as a lunatic the fact that I took the time photograph or acknowledging him when reporting to work at the Vice President's House represented a statement of solidarity. And support. Or, at least, empathy.
As would be the case when in November 2002 and 2003 that in the process of documenting the Soulforce Protest at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) that I also captured John Wojnowski.
While I was not abused by priests, as a 53 year old black male, I do know a great deal about institutionalized racism. And hearing the same colleagues who for many years dismissed Wojnowski, at the same time, also dismiss me and my very vocal protests against their racism against me.
And in the same exact way that they dismissed Wojnowsi as 'a lunatic' they also 'dissed me'.
So, each time that I see Wojnowski, I reflect on the many government agents inclduing one who was a priest whose right to do drugs were projected onto me. It was during this time and, in fact, beginning in 1988, that many a white crack addict had been positioned around me. And when ever they came around me, they affected my life, my home and my work. So, my experiences when catering for the Gores was rooted in a form of racism that I will never recover from.
A racism that, as a 53 year old black male, I am still confronting today.
So, when photographing John Wojnowski on the Red Line on Thursday evening, 12 July 2007, it was statement of solidarity. From the perspective a 53 year old black man ...