Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Tribute: Howard Zinn, The Grand-Dad of Citizen Media

In line with the previous post on Protest Poetry and the Power of Voice, listen to excerpts of Voices of A People's History of the United States on NPR to understand that as a tribute, Howard Zinn, deserves and would ask us to be brave about our past and our future, about our voice and intention.  The President's State of the Union Speech, reminded me why Zinn, was such a great influence in my life and will always be.

Most people remember Zinn, for his greatest contribution to humanityA People's History of the United States, it was published in 1980, and has sold over 2 million copies.  In many ways Zinn, paved the path for Citizen Media by providing a platform for stories to come to light, of those people rarely heard in mainstream histories.   At 87 years of age, Zinn, lifelong activist and educator, produced the film The People Speak, on the History Channel in collaboration with Matt Damon, where Hollywood celebrities read Indigenous, African-American, immigrant, women, laborers, and activist accounts of the history of the United States.

Zinn having fought in the Vietnam-American War, spoke out against the war in Vietnam, in Iraq, and in Afghanistan and he inspired youth to ask questions, be patriotic and fight back with disobedience for justice.  In one of his last appearances, he urges us in this YouTube video below, not to give up the social justice struggle because while we are in it, "we are already winning."

Listening tonight to the President's State of the Union Speech, I have to agree again with Zinn, "Watching great ideals settle into the compromise of legislation and governance is a sobering reminder that Obama is no longer a hopeful symbol for so many of us but someone with an incredibly difficult job before him." Your words of wisdom live on, Howard Zinn, but you may rest in peace.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Ciné Institute -- HAITI

Small miracles keep us going amidst the devastation left by Haiti's recent earthquake.

Along with reports of those who were pulled alive from the rubble, we can take heart in a story unfolding from Jacmel, where a group of aspiring young filmmakers survived the quake, dug up their video cameras from beneath the concrete, and began capturing their lives and communities (forever changed) from a much-needed Haitian perspective.

Pinchinat: Report by Keziah Jean from Ciné Institute on Vimeo.
Keziah Jean and her fellow video journalists are members of the Ciné Institute, a film education and media training center located in Haiti's cultural capital of Jacmel -- a city known for its natural beauty and thriving commerce in an otherwise poverty-stricken country. Now, like most of Haiti, Jacmel may never be the same.

A mere two weeks after the disaster, emergency aid remains the focus. But as we look towards Haiti's future, we encourage readers to share their thoughts on how to build a stronger nation in the wake of the disaster. (Note the New York Times' focus on potable water and Ciné Institute's field report from Jacmel, published on the same day...) How can we ensure that adequate health care, education, and economic growth rises from the rubble? And is it too early to ask how art, design, and social media can contribute to the effort?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Protest Poetry and the Power of Voice

"Our lives begin to end
the day we become silent
about things that matter."
Painting by Graffiti Artist: Dan23

January is International Creativity Month founded by Randall Munson, an IBM executive advocate turned global creative speaker, magician, author and teacher. According to Munson, "a single creative idea can have a greater impact on the success of an organization than hard work, overtime, and cash investment combined." Three events in DC this past weekend, highlighted the power of using speech, words, and voice creatively for social and environmental justice. The first one VOICES, is featured below. The other two events will be featured this week. Sign up for our feeds if you want to know what they are.

Voices (Voices Organizing for International Change, Empowerment and Support), a monthly awareness-building/fundraiser organized by activists, record producers, social entrepreneurs, and volunteers is a true representation of DC's new "socially responsible urban flavor." According to Magee McIlvaine, a core organizer of the event, "under the radar organizations doing amazing work on the ground in Africa, mostly through hip hop" take center stage at the intimate and edgy Hilyer Art Place. International Emcees, grassroots activists and academics rub shoulders, share stories and combine resources to support and empower youth through arts. As guests sip on wine, enjoy live-rhymes and authentic Maffe made by Senegalese "Chanteur" Baay Musa, Nomadic Wax educates with short engaging documentary films on the featured organization of the evening, and the lives that change for the better.

Listen to Ben Herson, (Nomadic Wax Founder), a supporter and collaborator talk about how VOICES keeps Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King's message real:

Both the Bavubuka Foundation in Uguanda and Magamba, The Cultural Activist Network out of Zimbabwe have been featured thus far in the VOICES series. They both use music, art, and spoken word to transform the lives of youth and unify diverse communities. These grassroots organizations work in their own distinct countries rich in culture and potential yet, devastated socially and economically, due to prolonged conflict. The hope is that their example will help others worldwide.

Briggs Bomba, from Africa Action - DC, a fellow Zimbabwean, and long time supporter of Magamba, elaborates on their logo "Our Word is Our Weapon" and links it to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King's belief in the everlasting triumph of "unarmed truth."

Watch an international freestyle session at VOICES on YouTube to get inspired for next month and remember to sign up to the Citizen Inspired Blog Feed to hear about other people, organizations and events linking creativity + communication for global change.

You want to Contact, Collaborate, Donate?
VOICES-DC core organizer; Magee McIlvaine;
Founder of the Bavubuka Foundation: Babaluku Smith (Sila);
Head of Magamba, The Cultural Activist Network: Comrade Fatso;

In honor of the greatest orator of US history, Civil Rights Leader, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and his struggle to end racial prejudice in the United States. May this serve as proof that youth around the world continue the struggle for fair living with "dignity and discipline."

Half The Sky

Welcome to Citizen Inspired! Angela and I are thrilled to provide a creative forum for people around the world who are passionate about human rights, environmental sustainability, and global progress.

We decided to launch our blog on Martin Luther King Day because we believe in Dr. King’s peaceful and incredibly courageous fight for justice. The spirit of the civil rights movement doesn’t lie dormant in history. It’s today. It’s the here and now. It is, in a word, imperative.

That being said, I couldn’t think of a better inaugural post than one about the new book Half The Sky, by New York Times reporter Nicholas Kristof and his colleague (and wife) Sheryl WuDunn. Both Pulitzer Prize-winning international journalists, they met in China while covering Tiananmen Square, and have since spent most of their careers traveling around the globe, reporting from some of the world’s most vulnerable regions.

Over the years, they’ve met dozens of women and girls who have suffered – and continue to suffer -- unimaginable abuse because of cultural and political systems that deny women basic human rights. Bearing witness to stunningly brave real-life characters, the book is an unsentimental yet passionate call-to-arms; its theme -- that the fight for women must be treated with the same urgency and persistence as the fight to abolish slavery. And when you read the stories in Half The Sky, you’ll agree.

The irony here is that although women in the international development community have been fighting these systems for over twenty years, it took a celebrity journalist – who also happens to be a white guy from Oregon – to put it on the mainstream radar. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who got people to listen; it just matters that they are.

The bottom line is this: when women can’t get access to health care or education; when they die unnecessarily during childbirth or from preventable diseases; when they are not afforded the same economic opportunities as men; when they are sold into slavery, entire nations suffer. The world suffers. Dr. Martin Luther King understood this fundamental truth.
Buy the book, join the movement, and learn how you can help by visiting the official website. You can also read an excerpt from the book, check out relevant articles, and watch some multimedia presentations in this special issue of the New York Times Magazine.

“Women hold up half the sky.” -- Chinese Proverb

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

BLOG Will launch on MLK Day January 18th, 2010

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