News & Updates
June 4, 2013
A number of years ago, I was introduced to the book “God Has A Dream”. The concept of Ubuntu resonated with me. Ubuntu embodied the essence of a Divine or “Christ’ spirit; an all-loving, all-acknowledging; all-accepting intention of the magnificence of God. The effect has been profound and instrumental in my life since then — truly understanding that our humanity is affirmed by acknowledging the humanity of others.
April 11, 2013
Following the tragic rape and murder of the Delhi Gang Rape Victim, Jyoti Singh Pandey, The Pixel Project dedicated our Valentine 2013 YouTube Cover Carnival contest to honour Ms. Pandey’s courage and strength in fighting for her life until the bitter end.
Ms. Pandey’s death is a tipping point that triggered a major backlash against Violence Against Women in India and worldwide and we hope this collective musical tribute will be a positive way of keeping the momentum of the activism going.
The Pixel Project is a global, virtual, volunteer-led 501(c)3 nonprofit working to raise awareness, funds and volunteer power for the cause to end Violence Against Women using the power of the internet, social media, new technologies and popular culture/the Arts.
We are joined and supported by an all-star panel of judges including:
- AHMIR (also The Pixel Project’s YouTube Music Ambassador)
- Ali Brustofski
- J Rice
- Lisa Lavie
Our YouTube Cover Carnival Contest is open to all up-and-coming YouTube artistes. Contestants have a choice of 2 songs to cover:
“Little Things” by One Direction
“Greatest Love of All” by Whitney Houston
Music For Pixels Music Campaign
YouTube Cover Carnival Contest:
inf2013 YouTube Cover Carnival contest
The Pixel Project – It’s time to stop violence against women. Together.
Buy Pixels, Reveal Our Mystery Men, Change Lives http://bit.ly/buypixels
Check us out at http://www.thepixelproject.net
February 26, 2013
Folklore is the foundation of a culture. It is the sum total of the stories, experiences, art and beliefs of the people living in that culture. But much of it is hidden, and it is the task of the folklorist to discover a people’s heritage and communicate it to others. In a world frequently torn by ethnic and sectarian conflict, the role of the folklorist has expanded to that of peacemaker. The artistic, human and material expressions of culture unearthed by the folklorist offer a way forward for validating all the cultural traditions that comprise our modern societies.
Kiran Singh Sirah is a modern day folklorist. He began his career as an artist and teacher. This led him to establish a number of award winning peace and conflict resolution programs in museums and cultural centers in the UK, focused on sectarian, ethnic and religious conflict, poverty, and gang violence.
He went on to develop arts-led projects exploring modern slavery violations, war, and issues facing socially marginalized peoples. He is now a Rotary Peace Fellow and a folklorist interested in the power of human creativity, arts and social justice to build a truly multicultural society, based on understanding and peace.
Kiran’s new toolkit, Telling Stories That Matter, is a “How To” for prospective folklorists. He created this easy to use guide with support for its production by the Partners for Democratic Change, Laina Reynolds Levy, Editor.
Download the free toolkit here and find specific guidance from storytelling to theater production to slam poetry.
Additional folklorist resources:
- http://citylore.org/ – City Lore (New York City)
- http://www.folkloreproject.org/ – Philadelphia Folklore Project
- http://www.folklife.si.edu – Smithsonian Folklife and Heritage Center
Photo credits for this post and the video include:
- Cover: acknowledgement to Mike Snyder (link is: http://interdependentpictures.org/about/)
- P. 9 Melani Douglass: acknowledgement to Kirandeep Singh Sirah (link is: http://rotarypeacecenternc.org/peace-fellow-profiles/current-fellows/class-10/)
- P. 13 ‘Capturing the Unexpected—young boy’s face’: acknowledgement to Mike Snyder ((link is: http://interdependentpictures.org/about/)
- P. 19 ‘A conversation with Annie Johnson’: acknowledgement to Kirandeep Singh Sirah (link is: http://rotarypeacecenternc.org/peace-fellow-profiles/current-fellows/class-10/)
- P. 32 ‘J at the Shelter’: acknowledgement to Kirandeep Singh Sirah (link is: http://rotarypeacecenternc.org/peace-fellow-profiles/current-fellows/class-10/)
February 18, 2013
Frederick Douglass was a man who continually reinvented himself and would, in time, create the modern American civil rights movement and reshape American politics.
The son of a slave woman and an unknown white man, “Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey” was born in February of 1818 on Maryland’s eastern shore. He spent his early years with his grandparents and with an aunt, seeing his mother only four or five times before her death when he was seven. While growing up, he was witnessed the degradations of slavery, seeing firsthand brutal whippings and spending much time cold and hungry. At the age of eight he was sent to Baltimore to live with a ship carpenter named Hugh Auld. It was there he learned to read and first heard the words abolition and abolitionists. “Going to live at Baltimore,” Douglass would later recall, “laid the foundation, and opened the gateway, to all my subsequent prosperity.”
Douglass enjoyed seven relatively comfortable years in Baltimore before being sent back to the country, where he was hired out to a farm run by a notoriously brutal “slavebreaker” named Edward Covey. And the treatment he received was indeed brutal. Whipped daily and barely fed, Douglass was “broken in body, soul, and spirit.” These events were to propel him to become an activist against slavery.
Frederick Douglass – Mini Bio
On January 1, 1836, he resolved that he would be free by the end of the year. He planned an escape. But early in April he was jailed after his plan was discovered. Two years later, while living in Baltimore and working at a shipyard, Douglass would finally realize his dream: he fled the city on September 3, 1838. Traveling by train, then steamboat, then train, he arrived in New York City the following day. Several weeks later he had settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts, living with his newlywed bride (whom he met in Baltimore and married in New York) under his new name, Frederick Douglass.
Douglass continued to educate himself and was an avid reader. In New Bedford, he attended Abolitionists’ meetings and subscribed to William Lloyd Garrison’s weekly journal, the Liberator. After meeting Garrison in 1841, Douglass was mentioned in the Liberator and a few days later gave a speech at the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society’s annual convention in Nantucket. It was reported that, “Flinty hearts were pierced, and cold ones melted by his eloquence.” Douglass became a lecturer for the Society for three years and his career as a speaker was launched.
Douglass was also an author and publisher. In 1945, despite fears that the information might endanger his freedom, he published his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written By Himself. Three years later, after a speaking tour of England, Ireland, and Scotland, Douglass published the first issue of the North Star, a four-page weekly, out of Rochester, New York.
During the Civil War, he conferred with Abraham Lincoln and helped the Union Army recruit northern blacks to fight in the conflict. Later he would go on to serve as U.S. minister to Haiti.
During his long life, he fought for the right not only of African Americans, but women and other oppressed minorities. Through his writing, speaking and political activities, he helped establish the modern American civil rights movement. He had an enduring vision of America achieving justice and equal rights for all its citizens. But first and foremost, he had a continually evolving vision of himself as someone who, despite his early years as a slave, deserved the freedom, dignity and respect he fought so diligently to obtain for others.
December 25, 2012
It was with numbing shock and great grief that, with my nine-month-old daughter clasped in my arms, I learned of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on December 14th. I followed the story with mute keenness and baffled interest for the next three days. The tragedy visited upon the small town of Newtown, CT, was unspeakable and the pain untold. As more information streamed in on the news, I just clutched my baby girl closer, transfixed in horror.
Fast rewind to December 5th: I was visiting with a friend and colleague in Wheeling, WV, when Father Bekeh suggested a visit to some of the kids at the school that he oversees as part of the Catholic establishment in Bentwood, WV. We visited almost all of the classes and found that the five-year-olds were the most fun. When we asked them how old they were, one piped up, “We all five!” And then one of them with an unusually deep voice for a five-year-old joined saying, “I’m almost five!” Some of them even went ahead to venture a guess at my age, coming up with the opinion that I was about sixty or sixty-one years-old, and one of them wanted to know if I was Father Bekeh’s dad! At that moment I realized that I was probably teaching the wrong age group in my current role as an Instructor at a University.
But the best part was when my colleagues and I went to the gym and found a few of the students on stage industriously preparing for a Christmas play. Since I’m a great music enthusiast, this was the most enlivening part of our impromptu tour. At one point, I was so enthused that I jumped in and learned the moves as the children danced along. Again I found myself thinking that I should probably stop teaching university kids and become an elementary teacher, and I shared this with my colleagues.
So, when news of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting broke, my mind naturally turned to the loveable little people that I had met just over a week before. In our brief interaction, the light of each little child’s unique character and personality shone through. With each one, I guessed to myself what she or he might grow up to be, thinking “This little child could grow up to be a great actor or this one will be a great leader someday, and this little one might be a famous sportscaster who will give Bob Costas a run for his money,” and I thought on about their potential futures, “…a winning NFL player, …a ballerina, …an opera singer….” Who would ever even hurt, much less murder in cold blood such little angels? What was the unjustifiable and dark “reason”? Why? Questions on top of hard questions without answers filled my mind.
Some of these questions, already asked about similar recent mass shootings, were under discussion on the Piers Morgan news commentary show for two or so consecutive days before the unimaginable, tragic event in Newtown, Connecticut. I am not a US citizen and do not even dare add my voice to what seems to be an intractable historical issue that is enshrined in the constitution. However, I tried to learn more about the “gun culture” in the U.S. that comes up each time one of these terrible incidents occurs. Besides covering the worrying statistics about how many guns there are in the U.S. (including that 70% of NFL football players carry guns), Piers Morgan’s interview of Bob Costas included the primary justification given by gun owners in the U.S. for having a gun (or more than one) in the home—their guns are used for hunting and the protection of home and family.
I laud President Barack Obama’s strongly worded speech in Newtown delivered at one of the saddest moments in U.S. national history, the memorial service for the 26 innocents who lost their lives: “We will have to change. We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change.” Obama promised to use whatever power available to him in the Office of the President to engage citizens, from law enforcement to mental health professionals to parents and educators, in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like Newtown, CT; Oak Creek, WI; Aurora, CO; and Tucson, AZ. Obama has lived up to this promise already by promptly setting up a task force (in less than a week) to work on proposals for the reform of firearm laws to be led by vice-president Joe Biden. This is a good start as talk, many words, and much debate about guns following mass shootings begin to be transformed into concrete and constructive legislative action.
Law reforms will go a long way to curb such gruesome events, but as the president said, no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world or prevent every senseless act of violence in society. That’s an infallible truth. But it is also true that Hollywood and gaming violence sells. Social militarization and regimentation of young people, even young children, is alive and well in our world today. Coincidentally, while writing this piece and listening to an assortment of oldies collected from YouTube, Gil Scott-Heron’s Work for Peace video started to play. The video illustrates my point. Some of the images that caught my eye in the last half of the video include a young Arab kid in military fatigues posing with a semi-automatic gun; two Caucasian kids with what looks like an AK-47; a girl who could be from Somalia holding a pistol above another girl’s head; an Asian kid adjusting something in a pistol; an Indian/Pakistani kid being helped by an adult to hold a revolver; Monk children admiring a pistol and so on. As children, we are taught that war is play: rat-a-tat-tat, children chase each other mocking the sounds of gunshots. War is accepted as normal human behavior as evidenced by the innocent children and adults struggling to escape a war-torn Syria.
So beyond disarming crazed and disturbed hands, we have to heal humanity’s collective psyche. This will mean a sociological and psychological revolution of sorts: a massive healing of the mind and soul. While this may be realistically and practically impossible, we can sow the seed today. If war is taught, why not teach our children about Peace and call it non-violent conflict resolution? Why not elevate mediation skills to the top of the curriculum starting early in elementary school? And why not build rewards into the study and practice of non-violence in all parts of life that are commensurate with the goal—non-violent conflict resolution in every family, every community, every country, and in the entire world. That is how we should demonstrate that we care for our children.
What Faith Can Do
We can disarm our neighborhoods with loving care and a warm sense of community and togetherness. For sorely needed words of comfort and inspiration, I suggest a song from Kutless entitled What Faith Can Do. My thoughts are with the parents who lost their children, people who lost loved ones, and Newtown, a small town that lost the intangible sense of safety in a hail of bullets from a legally purchased and registered, private citizen-owned firearm. To those whose grief is profound, to them I say you’re not alone.