Tuesday, April 20, 2010

flash mobs, social commentary at this weekend's human rights festival

I first heard about this weekend's Amnesty International Human Rights Art Festival in October, and I didn't write about it then because, well, April just seemed so far away. As I've learned more about the event in the intervening months, I've had trouble just wrapping my head around it, finally coming to the realization that this is a big effing deal.

Let's look at the numbers: 400 artists. 200 arts & advocacy groups. 40 venues throughout Downtown Silver Spring. Three days. All of this has been organized by local artist Tom Block and a host committee that includes local, state and federal leaders. Not to mention, of course, executive producer Norman Lear. You might know him for directing a popular sitcom that dealt with issues of race and class. (That's right, I'm talking about 704 Hauser Street.)

Expression Live! Festival on Ellsworth
The Human Rights Art Festival will be like this, but much bigger.

And the jont is free. Pessimists might point out that with all of this stuff going on, and at such a low price, Downtown Silver Spring will be ridiculously congested this weekend. I mean, people are coming in from out of town for this, and we don't mean Bethesda. Is this bigger than the Jazz Festival? Most likely.

Here's an e-mail we got from Kathy Parrent about the festival (emphasis mine):

. . . The springtime festival will include art exhibits, film, theater, dance, music, poetry, photography, digital arts and a sculpture garden as well as dozens of workshops, book readings, performance art, a flash-mob dance, Yoga, and activities for children. The entire festival is free.

The goal of the festival is to raise awareness about the wide range of human rights abuses worldwide and to challenge, inspire and entertain the public while encouraging festival goers to consider these themes.

Many exhibits and performances will overlap or be held simultaneously so it’s best to plan ahead. For the complete schedule with descriptions, locations and a map, see www.humanrightsartfestival.com. Become a Facebook fan to check daily updates about the festival, or follow us on Twitter.

Here are just a few of the festival’s highlights:

- Peace Kissing Booth engages passers-by to kiss for peace and be photographed holding placards signifying surrogacy with a country with ongoing violence. (Andrea Collins, Regional Center Plaza.)

- “Sour Milk and Honey,” a documentary film about a young man of both Muslim and Jewish descent who makes his own personal pilgrimage to understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, showing Saturday at City Place Theater II (top level) at 1:15 pm.

- A flash mob dance led by the Liz Lerman Dance Company with Dance Metro DC, Sunday at 3:30 pm (20 minutes) Ellsworth Plaza.

- “Project Renew,” 20 drawings by Vietnamese children living in areas where land mines and bombs are still unexploded, Montgomery College.

- A panel discussion on “Theater as a Tool for Social Transformation” by theater critics including Nelson Montgomery of the Washington Post at Montgomery College PAC 203 on Saturday at 11:30 am.

- Portraits by festival producer and artist Tom Block of Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, Nigerian human rights activist Sowore Omoyele and Chinese dissident Wei Jing Sheng (who was imprisoned for 18 years) at Pyramid Atlantic Art Center.

Amnesty International seeks freedom for all "prisoners of conscience" – people who have been detained for their political, religious or other beliefs or their national or ethnic origin, color, sex or other status. It also works to ensure fair, prompt trials for political prisoners; to abolish torture and mistreatment of incarcerated persons and to end political killings and "disappearances." Amnesty International hopes the festival will raise awareness about human rights and prompt people to support the organization and sign up as members.

The Skater Mob, Ellsworth Drive
A flash mob? I wonder how flash mob creator Bill Wasik would feel about one being planned out months in advance. (I also hope that our flash mob doesn't turn out like Philadelphia's flash mobs.)

But either way, it looks like we've got quite a weekend ahead of us, whether you're planning on going to the festival or will just be around anyway. Here's hoping the festival is a success, puts Silver Spring on the map in a good way, and gets welcomed back next year.


Terry in Silver Spring said...

"- Peace Kissing Booth engages passers-by to kiss for peace and be photographed holding placards signifying surrogacy with a country with ongoing violence."

Then mail those pictures to the country in question's dictator. I'm sure he'll stop what he's doing right away.

Giulia said...

Glad you're publicizing it...we need the help. Especially with Terry in SSp's snarky, unhelpful attitude. Most of us, Terry, have no delusions/illusions. Especially those of us who have actually been in harm's way in other countries.


Terry in Silver Spring said...

My attitude is fine. The kissing booth is silly.

I'm glad you have no delusions. Wearing that button on your backpack won't change conditions in another country (or this one for matter). It just makes you feel good that you "did" something. It'd be nice if people put effort in things that go beyond empty gestures. Amnesty International DOES good work. That kissing booth is a silly thing unworthy of association with their efforts.