26 December

Mawulidi’s Return

by Jon Katz
Mawulidi’s Return

And exciting today tomorrow.

Mawulidi Diodone Majaliwa returns to Bedlam Farm Wednesday, we will head over to Pompanuck Farm and pick up some more wood for  his carvings. He will also give me some more of his already quite popular wood carvings.

His chicken and four bird sold instantly, and there is a healthy waiting list of people who want to buy more of his work. We are working to figure out how he can sell this work independently but that might take a while.

He’s coming her along with Ali and the refugee soccer team – they are meeting a group of refugee kids from Rochester, N.Y., also mostly from Asia – who want to meet one another, and maybe do some sledding or snowball fights.

I can’t wait to see them together, I’ll be there. All of these pieces are sold, if anyone wishes to get on the waiting list, please e-mail Maria at [email protected].

23 December

Mawulidi’s Christmas Story. The Red Chicken.

by Jon Katz
The Light Stays On

If you want to keep Christ in Christmas, an author wrote, “feed the hungry, clothe the naked, forgive the guilty, welcome the unwanted, care for the ill, love your enemies, and do unto others as you would have done unto you.” I am not a Christian, but have been searching my whole life to know how to make Christmas meaningful for me, and I’m getting closer.

As an admirer of the real Jesus Christ, I believe his message is appropriate for people of good will and open heart of any faith.

Supporting Mawulidi Majailwa the carver is one good way, supporting the Mansion residents and other vulernable people on the edges of life is another.

I don’t really know of a much better Christmas story than the story of the Christmas Chicken, I’m drawn to tell it every day as the shopping frenzy cools down for a day. This story does not tire.

Mawulidi Diodone Majaliwa lived in the Congo nearly 25 years ago, before he fled the massacres there with his bother. The rest of his family perished there, and his brother died in the refugee camps, where Mawulidi a carver, spent 22 years of his life before the United States chose him to come to America, his dream.

He is a quiet, simple man of few words and great humility. He never imagined he would carve again when he came to America.

He had to leave the carving tools his grandfather left him behind when he boarded the plane,  he came to America last year with his wife and four children, two of whom are very young and still live at home, a tiny apartment near downtown Albany. He  spends hours on a public bus traveling to and from his job, he works as a baker in a bread bakery, and there the story ended until I met him at RISSE, the refugee and immigrant center in Albany.

I saw when I met him that he had no winter clothes, he spent his money on winter clothes for his children. He is grateful to be here, but his life is hard and spare.

His is the classic American refugee story, getting to America for a free and better life for his family.

When I heard the story of his tools, I swore to myself that Mawulidi, who came to America to find a better future for his children, would get his tools back, and thanks to the Army Of Good, he got them back and began carving again.

His eye for detail and color is striking.


Maria and I agreed to sell his works on our blogs until he can learn how to sell them on his own. For a man with no car, no computer,and few English words,  that is not easy right now.

We sold his first works in minutes, and gave him a check for $400. He is carving again, and made this orange chicken and four blue birds. They were all sold in seconds, there is a waiting list of more than 50 people that Maria is keeping, she has agreed to handle the sales of Mawulidi’s work until he can be independent, perhaps on a site like Etsy. We will stand with him all the way.

As his works become available, we will notify the people on the list, show them the new work and the price, and they can say yes or no.

I posted a photo of Mawulidi’s Christmas Chicken – that’s my name for her – a few days ago, and it was sold instantly for $200. Maria and I both think it is worth more, but we want to start low so that his work will be available to people.

He agreed with this,  we will raise his prices slowly over time. We both believe Mawulidi could make this his work one day, he is especially gifted.

The chicken has some magic to it, I think, I would love to have it, but his work is in so much demand I will get in line with everybody else. It seems wrong to me to snatch it up front. Next week, more carvings, an African Protection Mask and some other birds or creatures. I’m not sure.

Mawulidi is coming out here this coming Wednesday for more wood, all of his carvings come from wood cut at  Bedlam Farm and Pompanuck Farm, just down the road.

If you wish to put your name on the waiting list for Mawulidi’s work, you can e-mail Maria at [email protected]. He is quite prolific.

21 December

Mawulidi’s Birds

by Jon Katz
Mawulidi’s Birds

These are the five birds Mawulidi  Diodone Majaliwa sent to me today for Maria and I to sell for him. More than 50 people have written to Maria saying they wanted to purchase the next available carvings, so we will give them the first opportunity to buy these and the ten or so other pieces coming next week.

He is coming her on Wednesday to get more wood from Bedlam Farm and Pompanuck Farm in our town of Cambridge, N.Y.

At the moment, these are not for sale. Maria, who is handling the sales, plans to contact the people on the waiting list first to see if they still want to buy them.  She can’t get to that until sometime after Chrsistmas.

My guess is they are all sold, but we won’t know for sure for awhile. If you wish to get on the list, you can e-mail Maria at [email protected]. You might not get a replay right away.

We are committed to helping Mawulidi figure out how to sell his work independently. He cannot yet afford a car. He does this work in a tiny apartment which he shares with his wife and two  young children.

It may take awhile for him to figure out how to sell his work himself.  He is learning English and has yet to work with a computer.

This is a Christmas story, and I am excited and grateful to be a part of it, along with the increasingly formidable Army Of Good. We do good rather than argue about what good is.

21 December

More Wood Carvings From Mawulidi Diodone Majaliwa

by Jon Katz
The Carvings Of Mawulidi Diodone Majaliwa

Mawulidi,a refugee from the Congo and a member of the RISSE, refugee and immigrant support center in Albany, sent us five more of his remarkable wood carvings today. He has asked us to sell them for him, he speaks no English and has no computer.

Mawulidi, who entered the United States last year after 22 years in a U.N. refugee camp had been a wood-carver in his native country before the civil wars and genocide there. He was not permitted to bring his carving tools, handed down from his grandfather, into the U.S.

He takes a long bus ride back and forth to the Albany bakery where he bakes bread every day.

I met him at RISSE several months ago and offered to help him once I heard his story.

The Army of Good raised enough money to replace Mawulidi’s carving tools, and it seems it was money well spent. Mawulidi came to get wood from Bedlam Farm and also Pompanuck Farm nearby, owned by Scott and Lisa Carrino.

He is coming her again next Wednesday for more wood. His first works – a crane and several birds, sold immediately and there is now a waiting list for his work. He has another ten pieces to bring us next week, they need painting.

Today, he sent  this beautifully detailed chicken and four blue birds. We haven’t settled on a price yet, I proposed to Maria that she charge $250 for the chicken, it is quite unique.

She’s mulling it, it’s her decision. The shipping and bookkeeping and e-mailing is taking up much more of our time than we anticipated, we we have decided to take a commission of $25 per piece, this will go to Maria. The shipping  and packaging alone is quite extensive and complex, and Mawulidi’s work has drawn a great deal of interest online.

Mawulidi is relieved we are taking something, he was uncomfortable that we were not taking anything.

My friend Ali, a teacher and driver at RISSE and coach for the RISSE soccer team, drove the new pieces down to me.

Sometime over the holidays – not right away –  Maria, who is handling the sales of Mawulidi’s work, will contact the people on the list and ask them if they still want to buy these pieces.

We think all of the pieces are sold, but if not, we will go down the list and if any become available, we’ll post them for sale on our blogs.

For now, they are not  for sale. If you wish to get on Maria’s waiting list for Mawulidi’s work you can e-mail her at [email protected]. I’ll post the blue birds shortly. This is a wonderful Christmas story, we are very happy to be a part of it.

Many thanks for your incredible support for the winter clothing drive we launched two weeks ago for the refugees, many of whom have no clothes to get them through what is already a tough winter. Dozens of people have shopped sweaters, jackets, snow pants, wool hats, winter socks, jackets, gloves, winter boots and scarves.

The need is great and continuing, a number of refugees from Afghanistan and Asia have arrived recently. Your are helping them navigate their first harsh winter. New and used clothing is very welcome, you donate directly to RISSE or send new and used clothes in good condition to RISSE, 715 Morris Street, Albany, N.Y., 12208. Thanks.

They are a bit in shock, they were not prepared for the focus and energy of the Army Of Good, the clothes keep coming. But they are very grateful. And the need is very deep.

I am proud of Mawulidi and proud to be helping him return to his life’s work and his destiny. I believe America is a welcoming place that opens its hearts to the vulnerable and oppressed of the world.

Clearly, many others agree.

Maria and I are committed to supporting him until he is able to sell his work on his own and navigate the mechanics of selling on the Internet. That will take a while, and he is hard at work producing  more wonderful work.

This is a miracle, really, he had given up on ever carving again, but this is just the beginning, I think, more good news to come for him. We will stand with him.

He has a special gift.

6 December

Brighter Days: Mawulidi Diodone Majaliwa And The Black Past

by Jon Katz

I was a reporter a good while and heard many amazing stories, but few of them like Mawulidi Diodone Majaliwa’s. It is an epic tale of survival, determination and courage. Congo, often called the “rape capitol of the world,” has been torn by vicious conflicts and civil war for decades, they call it the Black Past.

Mawulidi made it out of the Congo, his family perished except for him and his brother. His brother died in the refugee camp where Mawulidi and his wife were to spend the next 20 years of his life.

A carver by trade, Mawulidi lost all of his  carving tools on the way to America. He now has the tools he need, and has begun producing some remarkable art. I wanted to take a portrait that tried to capture his sweet, soft, demeanor and also his fierce determination to give rebirth to his art (see the posts below). I will it will be another great chapter in his remarkable life.

Bedlam Farm