Repression, imprisonment, torture, execution: You find these four words, almost always together, wherever you find written or photographic documentation of human rights abuses. We don't have to imagine a place where these acts are a part of daily life. We have to imagine a world without them. Maureen Doallas, Writing without Paper
I am home. Back in Canada. Back where I belong.
After a two hour delay my flight left New York and I finally caught a connecting flight to Calgary later than anticipated -- but I caught it none the less. No mishap. No turning back. No unexpected passport delays. Whew!
I had lots of time to meditate, to reflect on my week, in particular the conference I was just at, Performing the World -- can performance change the world?
Aside from the opportunity to present, the most fascinating part of the trip was meeting and being surrounded by hundreds of people doing so many things to change the world.
Like Sanjay Kumar, a professor of English Literature at New Delhi University who spends his 'other' time working with the 'platform children' of India. His passion, commitment, and care are contagious. In his presentation he asked the audience to give him input on what else they can do, what other ideas did we have that would help him make a bigger impact.
Speaking out. Getting the subject into global conversations -- perhaps that is all you can do differently, I suggested.
But how do I stop this abuse? he asked. How do I get the Indian government to recognize that young boys, aged 6 and up, are being abused like this?
He talked about the work India has done in the past few years to protect young girls and women.
But the boys, he bemoaned. In the eyes of the government, boys are not being raped and sodomized. Boys are not being abused and so, they write no laws.
Keep speaking out was all any of us could reply.
The women and men at this conference were amazing. They came from all over the world to connect with others, to share their hope and their experiences, to share their brilliance.
And brilliant they were.
Frederique Lecomte is a Belgium actor/activist who devotes her energies to working with victims of torture and their torturers in Africa. Being given an opportunity to perform has changed prisoners' lives, she said. And then she told the story of bringing a man who was tortured together with his torturer. She didn't know what would happen, she just knew that in the power of story and performance, there would be healing. And there was.
We are all human and in our humanity we must find the grace to connect through our pain and the promise of what can be when we shift our perspectives and give voice to our stories.
Judith Rosenberg and Elly Litvak were fellow Canadians at the conference. Because of the challenges faced by her son with mental health issues, Judith started "Spark of Brilliance". Elly works as the facilitator of the program gently guiding 'story-tellers' through a minefield of memories to a nurturing place where transformation exists. At their presentation, five individuals told their stories of healing -- there wasn't a dry eye in the place or a heart that wasn't opened.
Miquel E. Cortes Vazquez came with seven of his 'hip-hop' team to show how rap is helping heal the wounds of youth in Juarez, a city of 1.3 million situated on the US/Mexico border. To date, in 2010, over 3,700 people have been murdered in Juarez. In the past 5 years, 38,000 have fallen to the drug trade.
How do we keep our youth from falling prey to the drug cartels? How do we keep our youth alive, he asked?
They rap. They perform in streets. They keep hope alive amidst horrendous odds. The sobering thought... Every single person in North America who uses drugs is in some way feeding the murderous cycle of death in Juarez.
The only way Miquel and his team can combat drugs and the call of 'the life' is through performance.
Why do you stay? someone in the audience asked.
Because I must, he replied.
It was a week of inspiration, of hope coming alive, of people standing up to speak out for a better world, to speak against oppression and abuse and any form of action that nullifies the wondrous gift of life in which we all share.
Patch Adams, who also presented at the conference, said that he knew when he was 19 what he wanted to do in the world. Love People. Love Life. With that intention firmly planted, he set about putting it into action."
Love people. Love life.
I invite you today to do as Maureen Doallas suggests and imagine a world without human rights violations, without murder, without abuse, without discrimination and intolerance.
Now be it!