Conscience Conversations are online learning forums that spotlight the work of one or more of the Coalition’s exemplary members. The bi-monthly sessions offer an opportunity for members of the Coalition to learn more about each other’s work and engage in cross-border, peer-to-peer exchange. During each interactive session, featured speakers share information on public programs at their Sites of Conscience that encourage civic engagement and action.
Below are recordings from our most recent conversations.
What Comes Next? On Truth and Reconciliation Commissions and Civic Action:
How can communities best move forward after the close of Truth and Reconciliation Commissions (TRC)? And how can Sites of Conscience support civil society initiatives that help survivors turn toward the future? This session explored the role of historic places after the conclusion of Truth and Reconciliation Commissions. It brought together Coalition members Joseph Dumbuya (Sierra Leone Peace Museum) and Farah Tanis (Museum of Women’s Resistance) to explore how TRC processes have shaped their institutions and how they continue the work of the Commissions long after they were “completed.”
Brown v. Board to Ferguson:
In July 2014, on the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan declared education “the civil rights issue of our time.” Sixty years after Brown v. Board of Education, which ended legal segregation in public schools, education equity remains elusive in the U.S., with minority students facing striking disadvantages such as being suspended and expelled at high rates. Some are even arrested on school grounds, referred to the juvenile justice system, and sent to correctional institutions – a trend so common it is known as the “school to prison pipeline.”
In October 2015, the Coalition launched From Brown v. Board to Ferguson: Fostering Dialogue on Education, Incarceration and Civil Rights, a three-year program that brings together eleven members from across the nation to create dynamic public programs focused on youth with the goal of fostering community dialogue on race, education equity and incarceration in the context of civil rights history. Funded with generous support from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services, participants are collaborating with local community partners to train and empower young people to establish their own civic engagement programs at museums.
Tatiana Kursina, a founding director of the Gulag Museum at Perm-36 – which has recently been taken over by Russian State representatives – was the featured speaker during this Conscience Conversations session. The webinar was part of a larger speaking tour that Tatiana Kursina made across the U.S. and Europe to raise awareness of the Russian government’s forceful and sustained crackdown on pro-democracy and human rights organizations.
Cultural Heritage Without Borders:
With financial support from the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, Cultural Heritage without Borders held a series of workshops to jumpstart the process of charting out a future for the former prison at Spaç in Albania. This Conscience Conversation walked participants through the workshops and methodology involved, bringing together stakeholders from local governments, national institutions, local residents, and former prisoners. The session focused on (1) understanding the prison, its history, and its place in the popular conception today; (2) envisioning a mission and a set of objectives for a future site of memory at Spaç; and (3) charting out a concrete set of actions to reach these goals.
Museum of International Folk Art:
In 2013, The Museum of International Folk Art’s Gallery of Conscience (GoC) in Santa Fe, New Mexico piloted a project with Youth Media Project (YMP) and N’MPower, an LGBTQ youth resource center. The resulting project, Youth Talk About This, harnessed the combined power of traditional arts and the media to address HIV/AIDS – a topic that all too often dwells in silence, fear and misunderstanding in northern New Mexico. In tandem with the GoC exhibition Let’s Talk About This: Folk Artists Respond to HIV/AIDS, youth participants interviewed traditional artists on the subject of HIV/AIDS and then crafted audio segments for YMP’s Audio Revolution radio program. This conversation focused on the opportunities and challenges that GoC encountered with this project, particularly as they related to community engagement.
African Youth Initiative Network (AYINET):
Nobel Peace Prize Nominee Victor Ochen discussed AYINET‘s work within the context of the rising wave of xenophobia and race-based assaults in South Africa, the tragic death of thousands of refugees in the Mediterranean Sea, and growing extremism and intolerance around the world. The session also addressed how memory can be a tool for reconciliation, empathy, and peace building; methodologies on historic reflection and youth engagement; and background on AYINET and its unique survivor-centric approach to transitional justice.
Amer Mahdi of Enab Baladi, a Syrian nonprofit media organization established in Darayya, Syria in 2011, discussed how to use multimedia and archival memorialization methods to further the cause of Sites of Conscience. He focused specifically on Syrian Prints Archive, a project initiated in early 2013 by Enab Baladi to preserve the memory and history of the Syrian conflict by collecting, categorizing, and archiving Syrian print-media publications regardless of their perspectives. To date, the project has archived more than 75,000 print-media pages from 270 newspapers and magazines. Also highlighted was The Syrian Oral History Project, developed by the Coalition and members Enab Baladi and The Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies in order to capture the voices of Syrian refugees – voices that are often excluded from mainstream discourse. The project gathered 58 oral histories and worked with graphic artist Anuj Shrestha to illustrate these powerful stories of heartache and loss.
In this conversation, Diana Carolina Sierra Becerra spoke about “Free2Choose,” a program that seeks to empower youth to be advocates for human rights. Created by Museo de la Palabra y la Imagen (San Salvador, El Salvador) and the Anne Frank House (Amsterdam, the Netherlands), the program allows students to select an ongoing human rights issue, create a short film and lead a debate about their chosen topic.
Afghanistan Human Rights and Democracy Organization (AHRDO):
Hadi Marifat and the team from AHRDO spoke about their Memory Box Initiative, a program aimed at promoting engagement through the arts. Through the initiative, survivors of Afghanistan’s recent conflicts preserve personal effects of their loved ones in specially designed boxes, which are then displayed publicly. The boxes provide a tangible link to the families’ pasts, thus challenging the culture of impunity enjoyed by perpetrators still in power, encouraging prosecution of perpetrators of mass atrocities and contributing to collective truth-telling.