THAW is an international network of theater artists responding to the United States' ongoing "War on Terror," aggressive and unilateral foreign policies, and escalating attacks on civil liberties in the US and throughout the world.
Click here to read An Open Letter signed by Amnesty International USA, The Center for Constitutional Rights, and the Council on American Islamic Relations-NY about Fahad's case
AS SENTENCE IS PRONOUNCED, FAHAD SPEAKS
A chapter closed this week in the case of Syed Fahad Hashmi. As supporters packed the courtroom and two overflow rooms at 500 Pearl Street, Judge Loretta Preska pronounced a sentence of 15 years, the maximum allowed for under the plea bargain accepted by Fahad after nearly 3 years in severe solitary confinement. Referring to Fahad’s “violent ideology” and suggesting the need for a strong “public deterrent”, the judge accepted and reinforced the prosecution’s assertion that Fahad had spent years developing a dangerous ideology and was only waiting for the moment to act on it- a notion rendered absurd when considering that this action the prosecution is referring to consisted of allowing an acquaintance to stay at his apartment and having some knowledge of what this acquaintance planned to do with a bag of waterproof socks and ponchos.
Prior to the sentencing Fahad addressed the court and his supporters, making his first public statement since being arrested in 2006. As he began his statement, Judge Preska stopped him abruptly, asking him to go slower so he could be understood and so that the court stenographer could take down his words. In apologizing for his rapid speech, Fahad explained that because of the Special Administrative Measures he has been under, he had not really spoken very much to people for the past 3 years. As he continued, it was clear that despite the harrowing treatment Fahad has endured, he was still the student his former professor Jeanne Theoharis often makes reference to, alive if not well, searching to engage others with intellect and reason.
He provided an account of what had happened from his perspective, cited numerous hadiths from the Quran, and explained to the court how he has come to understand his situation in regards to Islamic law. Speaking in terms of a “covenant” Fahad conceded that he made a mistake in allowing Junaid Babar to stay with him at his London apartment, and that as a Muslim citizen of the US, by taking certain actions, he broke a covenant with the state. But he also alleged that the government had violated its covenant with him and other Muslim citizens, using the opportunity to set the record straight concerning the various lies the government has told about him over the course of his incarceration, as well as pointing to the broader pattern of abuse of Muslim prisoners. Assistant US Attorney Brendon McGuire and Judge Preska (not to mention Attorney General Eric Holder) would do well to think about their own role in the latter, though it is doubtful they will anytime soon
Fahad also thanked all his supporters, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, and asked for forgiveness from all those he had caused pain. During these statements, tears were shed by Fahad and by many in the gallery. In a rare and spontaneous recognition of Fahad’s humanity, one of the judge’s clerks brought a box of tissues first to Fahad, and then later to some of his family. Unfortunately, this sort of recognition had little room to breathe in the courtroom, and moments later prosecutors were once again “othering” Fahad as a dangerous terrorist, providing Judge Preska with a warm-up act for her coldly rendered decision.
Fahad now faces a new chapter in his incarceration, one that will bring with it new challenges and abuses— spiritual, psychological, and Constitutional. There is a good chance he will be sentenced to the ADX Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado where he will remain in solitary confinement. And there is still the issue of the Special Administrative Measures, which are still in place, further restricting Fahad’s contact with family, his ability to pray with fellow Muslims, as well as his access to information. As violations of Fahad’s rights as a citizen and human being persist, revealing a larger systemic problem of how the US treats prisoners, vigils outside the Metropolitan Correction Center in lower Manhattan will continue until Fahad is transferred elsewhere.
LATEST ON FAHAD'S CASE AND THE NEXT THAW VIGIL (JUNE 7, 2010)
Fahad Hashmi's sentencing hearing will be held on Wednesday, June 9 at 3:30 pm in Judge Loretta Preska's courtroom (500 Pearl Street - Room 12A). This hearing it is open to the public. Please come out! The civil rights and human rights issues that Fahad’s case has raised remain as urgent as ever - in his case and many others like Fahad's. The government’s use of Special Administrative Measures and the attacks on due process in “terrorism” cases like Fahad’s continue and cast a pall on the US justice system. For that reason, on Monday, June 7, Theaters Against War will hold our 20th vigil outside the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) to bear witness against the violations of human rights and the inhumane conditions of detention that people are being held under inside the MCC. We hope you will spread the word and join us.
COME TO THAW'S NEXT VIGIL ON MONDAY, JUNE 7, 2010, FROM 6-7 PM,
TO HELP CONTINUE TO BEAR WITNESS
WHERE: The vigils take place directly outside the Metropolitan Correctional Center, 150 Park Row (at the corner Pearl Street), in lower Manhattan.
DIRECTIONS: Take the 4/5/6 train to Brooklyn Bridge – walk north on Centre Street to Pearl Street which is located between the two major federal courthouses on Foley Square. Walk down Pearl Street until it dead-ends on Park Row. We’ll be there.
On Tuesday April 27, 2010, Fahad Hashmi took a government plea bargain. He pleaded guilty to 1 count of conspiracy for allowing an acquaintance to store waterproof socks, ponchos and raincoats in his apartment. The government dropped the other 3 charges. Fahad made this decision after having served 3 long years in solitary confinement and one day after Judge Preska approved the government’s recent request for an anonymous jury with extra security measures. In addition to the use of secret evidence and indefinite solitary confinement in Fahad’s case, the move to have an anonymous jury raised already heightened concerns as to whether a fair trial was even possible. With sentencing to happen on June 7, Fahad faces a maximum of 15 years, as opposed to the 70 years he might have faced if he had been convicted on all 4 counts. With time already served (4 years total) and considerations for good behavior, Fahad could be out in less than 10 years. It is of note that on the eve of the trial the government was willing to shave 55 years off the potential sentence.
The April 27th decision does not in any way detract from the importance of the work we’ve been doing and the civil rights and human rights issues that Fahad’s case has raised. The government’s use of Special Administrative Measures and the attacks on due process in “terrorism” cases like Fahad’s continue and cast a pall on the US justice system. For that reason, we plan to hold our usual vigil on Monday, May 3rd outside the Metropolitan Correctional Center. We hope you will spread the word and join us.
We will be posting further thoughts and analysis on Fahad’s case and the attendant issues in the coming week.
Theaters Against War
Educators for Civil Liberties
CUNY 4 Fahad
Selected video from MLK Day 1/18/10 Vigil for Fahad with over 200 participants:
Radio Free Fahad
A weekly vigil/performance for Fahad Hashmi hosted by Theaters Against War
continues through January 2010!!
Since Monday, October 19, Theaters Against War has been holding weekly Monday night vigils outside of the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in lower Manhattan on behalf of Fahad Hashmi, a 29-year old Muslim American who has been held for nearly two and half years in severe solitary confinement at the MCC awaiting his federal trial.
You can check out highlights from past vigils in this five-minute video featuring Broadway luminaries Wallace Shawn, Kathleen Chalfant, Bill Irwin and others who have taken part in the THAW vigils.
Held under Special Administrative Measures (SAMs), Fahad, who is a US citizen and Brooklyn College graduate who grew up in Flushing, Queens, has been allowed no contact with anyone except his lawyers and one immediate family member every other week; no calls, no letters, no radio, no newspapers until they are 30 days old and censored by his jailers; no contact with other prisoners; no group prayer or worship; and for more than 29 months now, no fresh air or sunlight. His cell is electronically monitored inside and out, so he showers and goes to the bathroom in view of the camera. He is allowed only one hour "out" of his cell but must exercise alone in a solitary cage. Under the Classified Information Procedures Act but in direct contradiction to basic due process, the U.S. government has not allowed Fahad to review all of the evidence against him. Fahad is charged with four counts of “material support of terrorism.” The "centerpiece" of the U.S. government's case against Fahad is that for two weeks he allowed an acquaintance who had a suitcase full of waterproof socks and ponchos to stay in his apartment. This acquaintance allegedly delivered this suitcase to a member of Al Qaeda and used Fahad's cell phone to call co-conspirators. The weekly vigils are aimed at drawing attention to violations of due process and the inhumane conditions faced by Fahad and other “terror” suspects being held across the country in federal detention centers. The THAW vigils feature Broadway and off-Broadway performers and include short dramatic readings, live music, and a weekly update from Fahad’s lawyers and family members.
Please come out and join us as we bear witness to the "Guantanamo at Home" happening right here in the US...in New York City. The conditions of Fahad's confinement are not aberrational and are similar to the conditions faced by other “war on terror” suspects being held across the United States. But Fahad is in New York City and people of conscience in New York can help to make other Americans aware of what is happening NOW!
WHERE AND WHEN: The vigils take place every Monday night from 6-7PM directly outside the Metropolitan Correctional Center, 150 Park Row (at the corner Pearl Street), in lower Manhattan.
DIRECTIONS: Take the 4/5/6 train to Brooklyn Bridge – walk north on Centre Street to Pearl Street which is located between the two major federal courthouses on Foley Square. Walk down Pearl Street until it dead-ends on Park Row. We’ll be there.
A video of our first vigil on October 19 starring Wallace Shawn, Kathleen Chalfant and Mahina Movement is below!
Watch the full video from the October 19 Radio Free Fahad vigil with Wallace Shawn and Kathleen Chalfant.
A NEW THAW INITIATIVE!
NO GUANTANAMOS AT HOME OR ABROAD
JOIN US ON MONDAY, OCTOBER 19 FROM 6-7 PM AND EVERY MONDAY NIGHT FROM 6-7PM THEREAFTER IN LOWER MANHATTAN A call to artists, activists, educators, students, lawyers, clergy, prison abolitionists, and all people of conscience:
Theaters Against War (THAW) is on the verge of beginning what we think is a crucial new initiative to expose the current effects of the “war on terror” in eroding human rights and civil liberties here in the US and we are calling on artists, activists and people of conscience to join with us.
The Disturbing Detention of Syed Fahad Hashmi
In April 2009, The Nation published a harrowing article about the arrest and detention of Syed Fahad Hashmi, or Fahad as he is known to friends and family. The fundamentals of the indictment against Fahad are: for two weeks, he allowed an acquaintance to stay in his apartment who had a suitcase full of waterproof socks and rain ponchos that is alleged to have been delivered to a member of Al Qaeda and this same acquaintance allegedly used Fahad’s cell phone to call co-conspirators. From THAW's perspective, the most insidious aspect of the Hashmi case is actually not this spurious indictment – Fahad is facing four charges of material support to Al Qaeda – but the severe and inhumane detention that he has faced for more than two years at the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in lower Manhattan. A US citizen and Brooklyn College graduate who grew up in Flushing, Queens, Fahad has been held for more than two years in severe solitary confinement at the MCC, a federal penitentiary that has been mirroring many of the abusive practices detainees face at Guantanamo upon actual American citizens. The conditions of his detention threaten his mental health and his ability to participate in his own defense.
Fahad’s constitutional rights have been denied in the following ways: no contact with anyone except his lawyer and his parents; no calls, no letters, no radio, no newspapers until they are 30 days old and censored by his jailers; no contact with other prisoners; no group prayer or worship; and for more than 28 months now, no fresh air or sunlight. His cell is electronically monitored inside and out, so he showers and goes to the bathroom in constant view of the camera. He is allowed only one hour "out" of his cell a day to “exercise” in a solitary cage that is directly attached to his cell room – a right which he is often denied by prison guards. Additionally, under the claim of “national security”, much of the evidence against Fahad has been labeled “classified” which means – in a horrifying desecration of due process, one of the most basic elements of fair trial rules respected universally – Fahad won't be allowed to see the evidence against him. A fair trial under these circumstances seems impossible and we all wonder how this could be happening in the United States.
The THAW Vigil Idea
As theater people who believe in the power of our medium, we want to bring attention to the injustices that an American citizen is facing in a detention center less than 40 blocks from the heart of the American theater world, Broadway. One of the only things that Fahad has going for him is that rather than being held in a remote prison somewhere in the Midwest, he is in New York City – a city of 9 million people who can protest visibly against what is happening. During the initial phase of his detention, Fahad had a radio. However, one day, as part of the arbitrary rules of his detention, this radio was taken away from him. And so, THAW has conceived of an idea to bring Fahad his own “personal radio program” beneath the windows of the Metropolitan Correctional Center. The “radio programs” we create will have individual segments that draw attention to some of the more absurdly arbitrary elements of Fahad’s detention – for example, we will have a “30-day-old news” segment with all the major news headlines….from one month ago. This “radio vigil” will be a two-fold performance – it will allow us to bear witness to the inhumanity of the conditions of Fahad’s detention as well as use public performance to draw attention to the compromise of civil rights of American citizens and other detainees that is taking place. And every week will include special Broadway or off-Broadway stars taking part in planned performances.
Time, Place and More Information
Beginning on Monday October 19 from 6-7pm, we will hold weekly vigilsevery Monday evening from 6-7pm outside the Metropolitan CorrectionalCenter at 150 Park Row (at Pearl Street) in lower Manhattan in order to raise awareness about Fahad’s case. The conditions of Fahad's confinement are not aberrational and are similar to the conditions faced by other “war on terror” suspects being held across the United States. But Fahad is in New York City and people of conscience in New York can help to make other Americans aware of what is happening NOW!
Let’s show Fahad and fellow Americans that we won’t allow this case to go to trial without a large public outcry. Come stand with us and also help THAW to spread the word to your own networks. For more information, you can email THAW, or call and leave a message for THAW at 206-312-2201 and someone will get back to you shortly.
THAW Out for Justice!
THAW Out for Peace!
Rwanda Mon Amour
THAW, in collaboration with RAPSIDA and Gallery 138, presents two short performance pieces in conjunction with Rwanda Mon Amour, a trans-media exhibition featuring drawings and sculptural installations by Brookie Maxwell, and video work by Jesse Hawkes, director of the Rwandan theater-based program, RAPSIDA (Rwandans Allied for Peace and Progress (http://www.rapsida.blogspot.com). RAPSIDA uses theater to provide education, empowerment and hope, to prevent the recurrence of genocide, and to prevent a concomitant genocide through the spread of HIV/AIDS. RAPSIDA is one of the 2007 THAW Scholarship Awards.
Thursday, April 30, 2009
at 4:30 and 6:30 p.m.
at Gallery 138 138 West 17th Street, 5th Floor
(between 6th/7th Aves.)
New York, NY, 10011 (212) 633-0324 firstname.lastname@example.org
This year marks the 15th anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide. Inspired by the courage of the Rwandan people to heal and progress, Rwanda Mon Amour addresses the roots, repercussions and reparations of genocide. The event on April 30 includes:
Artist Brookie Maxwell presents a tour of Rwanda Mon Amour.
Ishuri Ryacu, an excerpt of a radio play by 2007 THAW Scholarship winner RAPSIDA, regarding the politics of HIV/AIDS in Rwanda
Due Diligence: Texts from Rwandan genocidaires and some of the international corporations involved chart the path of genocide.
Talk-back on genocide prevention, the larger view.
Theatre pieces are performed by:
Candice Fortin, Dean Conroy, Robert Hieger and Joy Kelly
Directed by Joanie Fritz Zosike in collaboration with Brookie Maxwell.
RAPSIDA was a recipient of one of two THAW Scholarships awarded in 2007. Ishuri Ryacu was first presented at the THAW Scholarship Benefit at The Living Theatre in Fall 2008. RAPSIDA is an HIV and anti-discrimination program using innovative drama and music, peer education and conscientious business to spread knowledge about HIV/AIDS and to counteract emotional barriers to change, enabling people to put knowledge into practice, prevent the spread of HIV and stop discrimination against those living with HIV/AIDS. Program Director, Jesse Hawkes, email@example.com.
Audience contributions will be donated to the continued work of RAPSIDA in Kigali, Rwanda.
Join THAW on March 16, 2009
In memory of Rachel Corrie and the children of Gaza,
Theaters Against War and Rachel's Words
invite you to the first New York reading of:
Seven Jewish Children
by Caryl Churchill
Featuring Kathleen Chalfant, Brian Jones, Daren Kelly, Ellen McLaughlin, Una Aya Osato & Brian Pickett.
March 16, 8pm Brecht Forum 451 West Street (between Bank & Bethune Streets) New York, NY
The evening is free of charge and will include readings from Rachel
Corrie's writings and video from Gaza (January 2009). A collection for
Medical Aid to Palestine will be taken up at the end of the evening in lieu of an entrance fee.
"Caryl Churchill's 10-minute play was written in response to the recent
tragic events in Gaza. It...confirms theatre's ability to react more
rapidly than any other art form to global politics....[and] suggests that
Israeli children are subject to a barrage of contradictory information
about past and present...What she captures, in remarkably condensed poetic
form, is the transition that has overtaken Israel, to the point where
security has become the pretext for indiscriminate slaughter. Avoiding
overt didacticism, her play becomes a heartfelt lamentation for the future
generations who will themselves become victims of the attempted military
suppression of Hamas." -- Michael Billington, The Guardian (February 11, 2009)
Come see OPERATION LYSISTRATA on March 19, 2009
To mark the unfortunate 6th anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq, the Peace Action for Diplomacy chapter of Peace Action New York State invites you to the thought-provoking award-winning film,
This inspiring (and THAW-inspired) film of a theatrical protest that took place in March of 2003, before a single bomb was dropped: The Lysistrata Project, the simultaneous readings of the play Lysistrata (in which the women of Athens organize a sex strike to stop a war) as a protest of the then-approaching war in Iraq. The brainchild of two New York actresses who began with a simple idea of organized protest, news of the Lysistrata Project blossomed until March 3, 2003, when Lysistrata was performed over 1,000 times in all 50 states and 59 countries around the world on one single extraordinary day—a true demonstration of how ordinary people can make an extraordinary difference in the world—featuring F. Murray Abraham, Kathleen Chalfant, Keir Dullea & Mia Dillon, Judith Malina, Ellen McLaughlin, Viggo Mortensen, and more!
The International Youth Hostel 891 Amsterdam Ave. @ 103 Street
NY, NY 10025
When: Thursday, March 19, 2009
6:00 PM—9:00 PM
$10 asking donation,no one will be turned away
Film starts at 6:30
You will laugh, cry, and be inspired all at the same time!
Come at 6:00 for some food and drink and stay after the film for a discussion of the peace movement, with invited guests, of where we are headed with this new administration.
PLEASE DONATE TO THE THEATERS AGAINST WAR
In late 2006, the THAW Scholarship Fund began. Using funds that remained from our 2004 OBIE award money, THAW decided to create a monetary scholarship for international theatre artists or groups who were creating theatre in areas of conflict. In 2007 THAW awarded two Scholarships: $1,000 to Al-Harrah, a theatre company in Beit Jala, Palestine that promotes the use of a theatre arts curriculum in Palestinian schools and facilitates training workshops in drama for youth organizers and social workers from around the West Bank; and $500 to RAPSIDA, an educational theatre organization in Kigali, Rwanda that uses innovative drama and music, the visual arts, and peer education to spread knowledge about HIV/AIDS to change the way people think about those living with the disease.
NOW WE URGENTLY NEED TO RAISE FUND FOR
THE 2008 AWARDS!
We believe the THAW Scholarship is a unique initiative that has not been undertaken by any other group that we know of. Supporting our international colleagues in areas of conflict speaks boldly to a different policy than that of our government—one that fosters growth as well as heartens psyches. It is a privilege to offer our active support to such artists and groups whose vision compels them to create in the most adverse conditions. Our 2007 Scholarship recipients have stressed how affirming THAW’s recognition has been on an emotional level, and how significant the scholarship awards were in practical terms of furthering their work.
WHAT WE NEED:
(1) We will once again be calling for nominations of artists and groups for consideration. Nomination forms will soon be available on this website.
(2) Looking towards the 2008 awards, we currently have approximately $1300 in our bank account, thanks to monies raised at a THAW Scholarship benefit in May 2008 at The Living Theatre. However, we are hoping to increase the size of the scholarships this year, and so we are urgently asking for donations to build the 2008 THAW Scholarship Fund.
Donating takes two steps:
(A) Write a check! Checks UNDER $50 should be made out to Theaters Against War. Checks OVER $50 should be made out to our new fiscal sponsor:
The A.J. Muste Memorial Institute (please write: “THAW SCHOLARSHHIP FUND 2008” in the memo portion of your check)
PLEASE NOTE: Checks UNDER $50 ARE NOT TAX-DEDUCTIBLE but checks OVER $50 ARE!
(B) Please mail your donation to:
Theaters Against War
c/o Carmelina Cartei The Women and Gender Studies Program
Room 1738 Hunter West
695 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10021
THANKS TO ALL THOSE WHO CAME OUT TO THE THEATERS AGAINST WAR BENEFIT EVENING FOR THE THAW SCHOLARSHIP FUND!
A huge thank-you to all those who came out to THAW's benefit evening on May 20, 2008 at The Living Theatre to raise funds for the THAW 2008Scholarships. THAW Scholarships are awarded to an artist or group of artists making theater in conflict or “post-conflict” areas. In 2007, we received nominations for theaters from Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Uganda, Rwanda, El Salvador, and Lebanon, among other places. The benefit night paid tribute to the 2007's inaugural Scholarship recipients, AL-HARAH(Palestine) and RAPSIDA (Rwanda) - see below for more information about both theaters - and raised money for this year's awards which will be given at the end of 2008. Please stay tuned for our Autumn Scholarship Gala and for information about how and when you can submit nominations for the 2008 awards!
BENEFIT EVENING FOR THEATERS AGAINST WAR'S SCHOLARSHIP FUND AT THE LIVING THEATRE HONORING ARTISTS CREATING THEATER IN CONFLICT AND POST-CONFLICT AREAS
On Tuesday, May 20, THEATERS AGAINST WAR (THAW) will be hosting a benefit evening at The Living Theatre to raise funds for the THAW2008Scholarships. THAW Scholarships are awarded to an artist or group of artists making theater in conflict or “post-conflict” areas. In 2007, we received nominations for theaters from Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Uganda, Rwanda, El Salvador, and Lebanon. The benefit night will honor the 2007's inaugural Scholarship recipients, AL-HARAH (Palestine) and RAPSIDA (Rwanda) - see below for more information about both theaters.
The benefit night will feature live performances and video, including scenes from "The Wall" by 2007 scholarship winner Al-Harah Theater (Palestine) with actress/playwright Betty Shamieh and Brian Pickett, directed by Kareem Fahmy and scenes from "Ishuri Ryach" by 2007 scholarship winner RAPSIDA (Rwanda), performed by Okwui Okpokwasili, Candice Fortin, and Lorenzo Scott, directed by Joanie Fritz Zosike. The night will also feature a tribute to Hanon Reznikov, co-director of The Living Theatre and ardent THAW supporter, who passed away on May 3 of this year.
The THAW benefit evening takes place on Tuesday, May 20 from 8pm-10pm at The Living Theatre located at 21 Clinton Street between Houston and Stanton Street on the Lower East Side in Manhattan.
Suggested contribution is $10-$20, with a pay what you can/no one turned away policy.
The Living Theatre is accessible to people with disabilities: ring The Living Theatre at street level for elevator assistance.
Please come out and support THAW, and these courageous international artists who are working to keep art alive in war-torn and post-conflict areas of the world.
THAW Scholarships Awarded
and Appeal for 2008 Scholarship Fund
Starting this year, Theaters Against War has created two annual THAW “scholarships” -- one in the amount of $1,000 and another for $500 -- awarded to an artist or group of artists making theatre in conflict or “post-conflict”. Nominations can be made from anywhere in the world where there is a conflict, be it military, racial, economic, etc. For 2007, we received nominations for theater artists working in Afghanistan, El Salvador, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Rwanda, and Uganda, as well as on behalf of theater artists working with immigrant day laborers in California and with a women's theater located in an economically depressed area of northern England. All of this year's nominees are extremely courageous and incredibly creative theater artists working in some of the world's most dangerous places, dealing with some of the most dire situations in an attempt to create art and exploring some of the most urgent issues facing humanity: war, military occupation, HIV/AIDS, forced exile, immigration, the forced military conscription of children, and economic injustice.
It is truly an honor for THAW to award the $1,000 grant to the Al-Harah Theater Company based in Beit Jala, in the occupied West Bank of Palestine and the $500 award to RAPSIDA based in Kigali, Rwanda.
Al Harah, which means “the neighborhood,” is a group of actors, playwrights and directors who came together in 2005 to create theatre in the dire conditions created by military occupation. In addition to producing theatre “that has the potential to change the lives of the people who make it and the people who watch it,” it is also the group’s goal to establish the very first theatre college in Palestine. To this end, Al Harah promotes the use of a theatre arts curriculum in Palestinian schools and facilitates training workshops in drama for youth organizers and social workers from around the West Bank.
In submitting Al Harah for the THAW scholarship, nominator Suzana Berger wrote, “Al Harah’s dedication to supporting Palestinian youth who are growing up in an environment of terrible uncertainty is unwavering and inspiring. They created the piece I saw them perform [in Beit Jala] at the request of educators who contacted them saying that students were coming to school traumatized and needed some kind of outlet to help them cope with the violence around them…In the face of relentless political turmoil, oppression, and bloodshed, the artists of Al Harah Theater remain generous, imaginative and focused on creating theatre that speaks to their community.”
Part of a growing movement of community-based theatre artists in Palestine, Al Harah sees their work in a larger socio-political context: “by promoting theater arts in Palestine we assist in building a civil society that emphasizes human rights, democracy and pluralism.”
You can read more about Al Harah and see photos of their work atwww.alharah.org
RAPSIDA (Rwandans and Americans in Partnership Contre le SIDA) is based in Kigali, Rwanda. War in Africa comes in many forms, and yet there is a reluctance on the part of the Western world to get involved in the struggles of African nations torn by war. Witness Rwanda, Darfur, Liberia, the Sudan. HIV/AIDS in Rwanda, as in much of Sub-Saharan Africa, remains a tragic byproduct of war, and a critical challenge. Infection rates increased as a result of the 1994 Genocide and preceding civil war, and specifically with the use of sexual violence, including rape, as a method of the genocide. Yet, the fight against HIV is, ironically, also an opportunity. Rwandans are now working together to fight back against the spread of this disease and to support people living with HIV/AIDS, and, in the process, creating a more harmonious and healthy society.
RAPSIDA is the HIV Prevention and Anti-Discrimination program of Rwandans & Americans in Partnership (RAP). RAPSIDA uses innovative drama and music, the visual arts, and peer education to spread knowledge about HIV/AIDS and change the way people think about the disease. RAPSIDA aims to counteract emotional barriers to change, enabling people to put knowledge into practice, prevent the spread of HIV and stop discrimination against those living with HIV/AIDS. One of RAPSIDA's core programs is engaging youth in prevention activities through theatre clubs in secondary schools. To develop the idea of a play, students interview members of the community who are living with HIV/AIDS. Then, the plays are used as a platform to highlight the humanity and productivity of people living with HIV/AIDS in a variety of ways, including employing them as actors, seamstresses, cooks (for the special meals used to reward the actors for their hard work).
"The THAW grant is such an honor for us to receive, knowing who is giving it and the brave efforts of theatre artists in struggling nations throughout the world. The THAW scholarship couldn't come at a better time, as we have donors who give us restricted money. We have school fees to pay for some of our theatre club members who are from the associations of people living with HIV, and this will help build our capacity to do that. So many thanks for your support!" --Jesse Hawkes, Program Director
SPECIAL NOTE: Sadly and frustratingly, we were unable to make contact with the two Iraqi theater nominations – the Baghdad National Theater and Fadhil Abbas, the Director of the Hibako Allah Center. As a matter of urgency, for next year's 2008 award, we would be grateful for the help of any of you who might be working with Iraqi theater artists, as our ability to communicate with theater artists in Iraq has proven to be so very daunting.
Please consider making an end-of-the-year holiday contribution to next year's 2008 scholarship fund. Even a very small Holiday Gift will be a great help and will be earmarked specifically for the THAW 2008 theater scholarships. To donate, please make a check out to Theaters Against War and mail to:
Theaters Against War
c/o Carmelina Cartei
The Women and Gender Studies Program
Room 1738 Hunter West
Hunter College (CUNY)
695 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10021
An Open Letter Concerning the Recent Occurrences of Censorship
Last month a group of public high school students in Wilton, Connecticut were told by their principal that they could not perform “Voices in Conflict,” a play they wrote based on the words of soldiers serving in Iraq because it could be construed as “anti-war” and might upset the audience. Principal Timothy Canty went on to suggest that the students didn’t “know enough” and didn’t have the right to speak about the war. Within the same month at John Jay High School in Lewisboro, New York, three student actors were suspended because they dared to use the word 'vagina' in their reading of the critically acclaimed play, "The Vagina Monologues." Their principal, Richard Leprine, said the girls were punished because they had “disobeyed orders” in speaking the word. More recently, recalling the controversy of last year at the New York Theater Workshop, the board of the Mosiac Theatre in Miami has announced that the scheduled production of “My Name is Rachel Corrie” will be pulled from their season, despite a committed artistic team and seeming popular support. A subsequent press release from the theater cited objections from an impassioned, vocal minority in the community. Isolated, these occurrences might reflect local discomfort about a particular issue. But viewed as part of the political landscape of today’s America, these cancellations cease to be isolated events. Rather, they highlight a frightening reality- that in today’s climate of atrophied public discourse, artists are increasingly subject to censorship based on the content of their work. James Presson, a 16 year old actor in “Voices of Conflict” told the New York Times, “Our school is all about censorship. People don’t talk about the things that matter.” Sadly, this problem goes well beyond the walls of a Connecticut high school. Indeed, this silence on “things that matter” has pervaded even the most respected of cultural and educational institutions. That an artist of any age or medium is under pressure to create work devoid of critical questioning about the most important of issues is not only alarming for the artist but indeed for society as a whole. Noted U.S. Historian Howard Zinn has said this of the relationship between the artist and society: “It is the job of the artist to think outside the boundaries of permissible thought and dare say things that no one else will say.” Many celebrated artists have dared to do just this, just as many artists today continue to pursue work that challenges the social and political workings of our time. We recognize this as bright light in a dark age. But that vital political artwork can so easily be canceled by an uneasy administration or board of directors is of great concern. Of course, what Principal Canty and others may not realize is that in trying to silence his students, he may have had the opposite effect. Indeed we hope so. But while these instances of censorship may serve to galvanize some to speak even louder, the restrictive thinking behind the censorship persists and if not challenged, threatens to take firmer hold in our society. As we face the possibility of censorship in our own work, let us remember the importance of the oppositional voice in the arts- robbed of this, the artist risks becoming a mere jester, a mouth piece for an oppressive dominant culture. We recognize that certain powers will always have an eye on the artist, wanting to keep her confined to a corner, safely removed and politically benign. We recognize this and we resist this. We stand by our fellow artists and arts producers who, be they high school students or seasoned veterans, exhibit great courage in creating bold political work that challenges the way we think and operate. And we challenge those who have not been so courageous to be so now.
CONTACT US TO BE ADDED TO THE LETTER: firstname.lastname@example.org
Listings of anti-war/pro-peace shows currently running
in New York City click the Community tab above!
DYING CITY @ Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center
IN DARFUR @ The Public Theater • THE GREEN GAME @ Theater 3 1918: A HOUSE DIVIDED @ Theater for the New City
BENGAL TIGER AT THE BAGHDAD ZOO @ The Lark Theater
Sunday, December 28th @ 11:00am
WBAI 99.5 FM
Pacifica Radio in New York City
RING OUT THE HOLIDAYS as THAW takes to the air on THE NEXT HOUR, hosted by Janet Coleman
and organized by THAW.
This wholly unobservant program includes Mark Twain’s The War Prayer; sprinklings of music including THAW spiritual mentor Paul Robeson; How the Secular Humanist Grinch Didn’t Steal Christmas; How the Grinch Stole Christmas; Maura “Shoshin” O’Halloran’s Pure Heart, Enlightened Mind, performed by Claire Lebowitz, and a live-wire performance by DADAnewyork, featuring Mort Kroos, Be La Roe, Robert Hieger, and Joanie Fritz Zosike, and directed by Joanie Fritz Zosike.merzifon and Tom Walker.
THAW VOICES The HARLEM and BROOKLYN VOICES events were enormous successes with community youth sharing the words of Asata Shakur, Bob Dylan, Public Enemy, Rachel Corrie and many others. More details to come, with the other boroughs to follow!