Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Another Great Idea...

The Guardian reports on a new website, Lots of Big Ideas, which aims to give torture survivors a place to share stories created as part of a writing program and counteract unfavorable press coverage of asylum seekers.

Some ... have had no education, while others have degrees and are accomplished writers, such as Hassan Bahri, a Syrian who was a political prisoner for more than eight years and now works as a translator. What they all have in common is a desire to move on from their past experiences.

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Dead Man Walking School Theatre Project

Sister Helen Prejean, author of Rights Readers selection Dead Man Walking, and Tim Robbins, director of the movie by the same name have created the Dead Man Walking School Theatre Project in an effort to promote order public discourse on the death penalty, are offering the stage version of Dead Man Walking for performance at colleges and universities. The project's website offers photos of student performances of the play, accounts of student research for their parts, including prison visits. There are many useful resources on the site, including a lists of films about the death penalty. Converting theater into action are accounts of student projects that go beyond the play: students at Elms College in Chicopee, MA marked the 1000th execution in the US since the death penalty was restored in 1974 by building a display of 1000 small wooden crosses. Hmmm, your Faithful Reader put together a similar display a few years ago. An ambitious project! We salute past and future college thespians and look forward to more accounts of student theater on the stage or in the street!

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Monday, August 28, 2006

The Laziest Man in the World

This beautifully designed Canadian website, Eritrean Print and Oral Culture, seeks to preserve Eritrean artifacts.  Browse the books (some are in English) or check out images of ceramics, basketry and clothing.  The folktales are especially fun.  Try Kulu Halif or the Laziest Man in the World.

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Sunday, August 27, 2006

Turkish Writers on Trial

Maureen Freely, Orhan Pamuk's (Snow) translator writes in the  New York Times about another Turkish author facing trial,
In [Elif Shafak's] sixth and most recent novel, “The Bastard of Istanbul,” which is already a best seller in Turkey and will be published in the United States by Viking next year, one character declares: “My father is Barsam Tchakhmakhchian, my great-uncle is Dikran Stamboulian, his father is Varvant Istanboluian, my name is Armanoush Tchakhmakhchian, all my family tree has been Something Somethingian, and I am the grandchild of genocide survivors who lost all their relatives in the hands of Turkish butchers in 1915, but I myself have been brainwashed to deny the genocide because I was raised by some Turk named Mustapha!” These are strong words in a country whose official historians maintain that the Armenian genocide at the hands of Turks is itself a fiction... In September, she spoke at a conference at Bilgi University in Istanbul — the first Turkish conference ever to challenge the official line on the Ottoman Armenians — and though she went on to state her own position clearly and unequivocally in several newspapers, the censors left her alone. But early last month, Shafak learned that she was to be prosecuted for, among other things, allowing a character of partly Armenian heritage in “The Bastard of Istanbul” to utter the forbidden G-word. Her trial is scheduled for Sept. 21.
Hey that's just in time for Banned Book Week!  PEN urges you to take action.

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Friday, August 25, 2006

Your Eritrean Soundtrack

On the look out for ways to make reading a long book (I Didn't Do It for You : How the World Betrayed a Small African Nation) easier, I found some samples for the Eritrean singer Faytinga. According to the National Geographic World Music site, the songstress,
bases her music on the traditional sounds of Eritrea's Kunama ethnic group, and her songs are a reflection of her nation's struggle for independence.
Wow! Great stuff from the first a capella sample to the more syncopated grooves! I want this album!

Now for the soundtrack that isn't... One of our Esteemed Readers recalled a previous Eritrean Prisoner of Conscience case that we had taken action on last year and I went sleuthing around to find the details. The case concerns the Christian singer, Helen Berhane, who has been detained incommunicado since May 13, 2004. She is one of many members of banned evangelical churches who have been detained without charge or trial on account of their religious beliefs. This Guardian article also provides some detail on fellow muscians campaigning on her behalf and this article from Freemuse adds a bit more on the shutting down of two music stores.

By the way, I was please to discover Freemuse, an independent international organization advocating freedom of expression for musicians and composers worldwide. Check it out!

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Intro to Eritrea

As a little incentive for our September book, Michela Wrong's, I Didn't Do It for You : How the World Betrayed a Small African Nation, I offer this gorgeous photoset by photographer Eric Lafforgue. Mostly portraits, some street scenes and a camel or three! For a preview look for the Flickr badge in the sidebar or go directly to a slideshow!

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Naomi Hirahara Recommends...

Last but not least, my final post on Naomi Hirahara, author of Summer of the Big Bachi.  Here is a link to an article where she suggests titles for further reading (many for children or youth) on the Japanese-American experience.

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Conservancy Walking Tours

Since this has come up a couple of times in our offline discussions, I wanted to put in a plug here for the Los Angeles Conservancy Walking Tours, including the tour of Little Tokyo, relevant to our recent discussion of Naomi Hirahara's, Summer of the Big Bachi. The tours are a great activity for out-of-town guests, especially the ones who whine about LA having no history!  Maybe a future Rights Readers outing...?  Here also is a link to some information and photos of public art in Little Tokyo, a noticeable feature of the district for any casual visitor.

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Remembering Nagasaki and Hiroshima

Another supplementary post on Naomi Hirahara's, Summer of the Big Bachi. Because last year was the 60th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, there are still some interesting virtual memorials to explore:

The Exploratorium has a photo exhibit, Remembering Nagasaki while Art for a Change, has an exhibit of paintings and drawings by atomic bomb survivors. Here is another exhibit, Portraits of the 70 Hibakusha. Check of this picture of Chizuko Hirahara. Finally, we shouldn't foget the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum.

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Estifanos Seyoum, Eritrean Prisoner of Conscience

Group 22 now has a webpage dedicated to our newly adopted Eritrean prisoner of conscience, Estifanos Seyoum.  Please stop by, learn about the case and take action.  The link has also been added to the sidebar of this blog.  New actions and updates will be posted from time to time, so check back frequently.  Consider this a warm-up for our September selection, Michela Wrong's I Didn't Do It for You : How the World Betrayed a Small African Nation.

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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Hirahara Family Interview

Here's an interview Weekend America did with Naomi Hirahara, (Summer of the Big Bachi), and her parents a year ago, focusing on their experience as survivors of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.  There's also a little gallery of pictures of the family.

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Monday, August 07, 2006

Our August Author: Naomi Hirahara

A quick introduction to our August author, Naomi Hirahara (Summer of the Big Bachi). She has her own website with a Q&A for reading groups that's worth a look and I also recommend browsing the nonfiction books section to get a feel for how grounded her work is in California history. She's written a book Green Makers: Japanese American Gardners in Southern California which gave me a flashback to an exhibition I saw a few years back at the Japanese American National Museum.

She also contributes to a group blog, Murderati, with a post each Wednesday. Language geeks take note that at the end of each post she explicates a Japanese word from one of her books, for example,


To complain or a complaint. Once upon a time in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo, there was a shoe store that sold T-shirts that read, "Monku, Monku, Monku." In this record-breaking heat in Southern California, monku is plentiful. But considering the unstable situation our world is in, a little heat is easy to bear.

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Saturday, August 05, 2006

Prison Art from M&Ms

I'm a bit late with this but I meant to recommend NPR's recent series on Life in Solitary Confinement. In addition to the audio series, much of it focusing on California's "supermax" prison at Pelican Bay, there are some "web extras" including an interview with Human Rights Watch's Jamie Fellner on the human rights implications of indefinite solitary confinement.

The art teacher in me was drawn to today's Los Angeles Times which tells us that a Pelican Bay inmate, Donny Johnson, who paints with dyes made from M&Ms, faces disciplinary action because he's been allowing his work to be sold to benefit a charity, Pelican Bay Prison Project, that supports children of prisoners. The New York Times has a profile of the artist, with a slideshow, also linked via this article. (A couple of images are also on view at CNN.) Very vibrant! So much for "melts in your mouth not in your hands!" Pelican Bay Prison Project's site also has some columns written by Donny.

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Finding the Humor in Hamdan

With our steady diet of human rights-related reading, we here at Rights Readers are always grateful for the chance to combine humor with the heavy topics we typically cover. Check out this interview of the attorney for the plaintiff in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, Neal Katyal, on Comedy Central's The Colbert Report.

On a more serious note, Amnesty has a page set up in response to the recent Supreme Court decision in the case and the subsequent Congressional fallout:
Hamdan v. Rumsfeld 2006 Denounce Torture Initiative. Keep checking back to find out how you can take action to ensure fair trials for Guantanmo detainees.

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Technology and Human Rights

I am pleased that my wish for greater coordination between Amnesty International - UK's "Irrepressible Info" campaign and Amnesty - USA's work on corporate responsibility and censorship in China has come true!  AIUSA has details on this page as well as AIUSA's latest report on the issue, Undermining Freedom of Expression in China.  I just wanted to point to an additional resource: Human Rights in China's latest issue of China Rights Forum is dedicated to the issue of technology and human rights.

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