Unspoken Film Festival and Conference
September 21st 2012 · 0 Comments
by Kevin Marken
The Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees presents the second annual UNSPOKEN Human Rights Festival in Utica, October 17th to 20th featuring a film festival, a national conference with the theme Create Space for Gender Peace™, art exhibits, and entertainment. This multi-faceted forum gives voice to uphold human rights for our world with local, national, and international perspectives providing a powerful, moving experience. Details are available at www.iamunspoken.com.
For over 30 years Utica, New York and the Mohawk Valley have welcomed refugees from across the globe, oftentimes fleeing the very worst human rights’ violations. In 2005, Utica was recognized by the United Nations High Commission on Refugees as “the town that loves refugees.” Over 14,000 refugees along with thousands of immigrants have resettled to Utica, built a life here, and become part of the fabric of this city. It is right and fitting that a human rights’ festival happens here, where so many residents understand firsthand the absence of human rights.
Best-selling author/refugee/Harvard graduate and Harvard Commencement speaker Mawi Asgedom, whose inspirational story has moved millions and earned him a spot on The Oprah Winfrey Show’s “One of the Twenty Best Moments of Oprah’s career,” was resettled to the United States as a young child. He will speak at the Uptown Theatre on Wednesday, October 17th at 7pm.
Mawi has written eight books that are used in thousands of classrooms across America, is a nationally recognized educator, and has spoken to over 1,000,000 students. His story of fleeing civil war in Ethiopia as a child, surviving years in a Sudanese refugee camp and being resettled in America is amazing in itself. And that was just the prologue. Once here he had to overcome poverty, language and culture barriers, and personal tragedy to achieve the American dream.
The 2012 UNSPOKEN International Film Festival will be held from October 18-20 at the Uptown Theatre in Utica. Compelling stories will be told through films selected from well over 100 entries from around the world. Viewing times have been added Sunday, October 21 due to the number of films that simply demand to be shown. Audiences will be treated to both shorts and feature-length films identifying actions that uphold human rights and exposing human rights violations from around the globe. Live talks and discussions with filmmakers accompany many of the UNSPOKEN festival films. Mike Patrei of the Ilion Film Company, one of the creators of the Unspoken Human Rights Festival and the filmmaker responsible for the award-winning documentary “Ballou,” will preside over the 2012 UNSPOKEN Film Festival.
UNSPOKEN also celebrates the beauty and meaning of shared diversity– human rights and human dignity through the arts. Artists, authors, poets, painters, photographers, dancers, and sculptors translate their human rights and cultural experiences in unique and inspired ways. One such exhibit is “The Last Supper” by Julie Green, which explores the last meals of inmates condemned to die on the death row. The Human Dignity Visual Arts Shows will open October 17th at The Other Side and continue throughout October at the Tramontane Café. Artists include Jeerasak Liewthosong, Stephen Perrone, Bernie Freytag, Julie Green, Claire Cella, Christopher Mellevold, and Blanka Homolova.
The 2012 UNSPOKEN Conference will be held on October 18-20 at the Radisson Hotel in Utica, and will focus on the gendered perspective of human rights. Violence against women and girls has been identified as one the most pressing global health concerns. It will also explore how consent, coercion and conflict affect our world, and how violence against women and girls affects individuals, families and communities. The conference will also consider the impacts of war, resettlement, social norms, economic systems, community and healing. Local, national and global perspectives will bridge the universal nature of gender violence and possibilities of Gender-Peace™ .
The conference will communicate through a variety of media to engage participants including photography, performance, participatory activities, and presentations. Presenters include:
Cheryl Hamilton has devoted her career to improving the lives of refugees. She managed the unexpected migration of 2,500 Somali refugees to her hometown in Maine, which garnered national attention in 2002. Cheryl’s presentation will showcase her organization, RefugePoint’s role in protecting the most vulnerable refugees, particularly women and girls. Her personal story “Checkered Floors” has been described as a brilliant performance illustrating immigrant needs, gender violence and justice.
Gannon Gillespie, Director of Strategic Development for Tostan International, will deliver a presentation modeling Tostan’s effective method of Community-Led Development. Utilizing this method Tostan International indicates that “…over 5,000 communities from eight countries have joined in abandoning both Female Genital Cutting (FGC) and child/forced marriage.”
Vidya Sri is the founder of Gangashakti.org a community advocacy organization that utilizes the framework of her own forced marriage to raise awareness. Gangashakti provides services to victims of forced marriage. Vidya has had a successful career working in leadership positions for Fortune 500 institutions., but has chosen to commit herself full-time to the issue, to raise awareness of foced marriage and thereby counter the lack of information available in the United States.
Lena Alhusseini, Executive Director of the Arab-American Family Support Center since 2006, served for a number of years as International Outreach Project Manager at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC). Before this, she worked for the Gateway Battered Women’s Shelter in Denver, Colorado where she developed the Shelter’s children’s program and worked with immigrant populations on issues of domestic violence. Ms. Alhusseini was honored in 2011 by the White House as a champion of change for her work with child protection, domestic violence and sex trafficking, and by the New York City Council for her contributions to the City of New York.
Loretta Pyles, Ph.D. is Associate Professor at the School of Social Welfare at the State University of New York at Albany, and a faculty affiliate in the Department of Women’s Studies. She is concerned with responses to poverty, violence and disasters at all levels of engagement, in a context of neoliberal globalization and social welfare retrenchment. She has conducted extensive community-based research in New Orleans after hurricane Katrina and in rural Haiti since the January 2010 earthquake, including research funded by the National Science Foundation.
Deirdre Gruendler is an experienced executive and leadership coach. She currently serves as Board President for Support1000 and is the Director of the CultureSync Academy. Deirdre will share the playful and values-based approach that Support1000 takes to affirming the dignity of women around the world.
Lisanne Divine is the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees Director for Community Integration and Coordinator for Family Peace program. Lisanne will focus on connecting local, national and international collaborators.
Dr. Cristina Bicchieri, the S. J. P. Harvie Professor of Social Thought and Comparative Ethics, Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Philosophy, Politics & Economics program at the University of Pennsylvania. A leader in the fields of rational choice and social norms, she has published six books and hundreds of articles showing how changing collective expectations radically changes behavior. UNICEF is adopting her work on social norms in its campaigns to eliminate practices that violate human rights.
Please join us at the UNSPOKEN Human Rights Festival October 17-20 to raise your voice for human rights and dignity. UNSPOKEN is presented by the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees and sponsored by numerous community and corporate organizations.
Please check our website www.iamunspoken.com, for more information.