Tuesday, May 6, 2008

PEN World Voices: News from the Hub

This was an event for the Internet website Witness.org, the international human-rights organization that uses video to expose human rights abuses. A section of the site for Witness.org called "The Hub" is for allowing people to post videos. They give video cameras to people "on the ground" so that they can post human rights violations. (I once went to the site and saw a Japanese reporter being kicked to death!) Anyway, as horrible as this may seem, getting images of human rights violations out to the world is the key to stopping these violations from happening.

The participants in the panel were Yousef Al-Mohaimeed (author of "Wolves of the Crescent Moon"), Thant Myint-U (author of "The River of Lost Footsteps: A Personal History of Burma"), Uzodinma Iweala (author of "Beasts of No Nation"), and Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland and member of the Elders, a group of political leaders gathered together by Nelson Mandela, Graça Machel, and Desmond Tutu to contribute their wisdom to world politics. It was exiting to see her at this event and a highlight of the PEN World Voices Festival. She was eloquent and added a touch of the power of possibilities that this festival can have to world politics. The moderator, Sameer Padania, is the webmaster for "The Hub." Each participant on the panel showed a video that they have on the "The Hub."

The video Yousef Al-Mohaimeed showed was of a woman in Saudi Arabia driving. What's the big deal you say? Women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia. The woman was driving on a back road on a special day. I personally don't know how to drive but that is MY CHOICE. We should work for the day when seeing a women drive in Saudi Arabia is as mundane as seeing one drive in other parts of the world.

Uzodinma Iweala should a video of people with HIV/AIDS in Africa. He said that he is using these interviews as a basis for his next book. He even went so far as to say that they are the ones writing his next book. It is a chance to "give people the opportunity to speak for themselves." He wasn't shy of speaking about sex in relation to HIV/AIDS. I thought that was refreshingly brave to say that people who are not letting people know their AIDS status is beacuse of the fear of loosing love and human contact. Who wants to loose that? It is deep and moving to think that he is spending time talking and speaking with these people. He is turning to a very interesting writer. He lets his insecurities hang off his sleeves and is never reluctant to let his audience know when he isn't sure about something. It quite refreshing.

Thant Myint-U redeemed himself from the Burma event with this event in my eyes. His video was of a Burmese Monk demonstration and crackdown. It was a video was taken by Al-Jazeera and was smuggled out. It was one of the very few images of the crackdown.

This was a powerful event and definitely one of my favorites of the festival. Visit the Hub. It is truly an amazing site.


Matisse @ WITNESS said...

Dear Jenn,
I work for WITNESS and helped coordinate the event with PEN that you attended last Saturday and blogged about here. Thanks so much for your thoughts on the panel and for encouraging your readers to visit the Hub- we truly hope people will visit and feel compelled to share their own stories. The site (http://hub.witness.org) is free and available to anyone, anywhere to upload video, audio, photos, etc. as well as for people to watch, share, comment on, discuss and most importantly take action on media related to human rights violations and injustice.

Thanks for inviting your community to check it out.

jenn said...

Thank you so very much for the event and your website!


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