Mbizo Chirasha Interviews Thomas Block, Founder of International Human Rights Art Festival (IHRAF); IHRAF Call for Entries, Creators of Justice Literary Awards
“The International Human Rights Art Festival (IHRAF) is an iconic art for human rights platform, A haven of freedom voices. This global Human Rights and Arts Culture Activism brand is endowed with creative excellence, artistic diversity, versatility, and organizational prowess. On the 23 April 2020, before this beloved Earth got dressed in night gowns and before owls began to announce their deathly anthems, I sat with Artistic Curator and Producer Thomas Block of IHRAF beside the digital bonfire, somewhere near the fontanel of the internet jungle. Thomas Block brought with him ripe IHRAF berries, a jug of fermented literary gin and an artistic lantern. Mbizo Chirasha wielded a pen, a green-leaf writing pad and of course a poetry waxed voice box. It is encouraging to discuss and archive excellence. Thank you, Thomas Block and the IHRAF Team for the good work and for affording us this great opportunity to enjoy the succulent IHRAF berries.” Mbizo Chirasha, Editor, Brave Voices Press and IHRAF 2019 Fellow
1.) MBIZO CHIRASHA: GIVE US AN OVERVIEW OF THE INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS ART FESTIVAL.
THOMAS BLOCK: The International Human Rights Art Festival (IHRAF.ORG) provides a forum to international artists whose voices can be overlooked, underrepresented and, in some cases, actively repressed. We offer live performances in all media, a literary magazine, an award, a recording platform, and a yearly International Fellowship. These represent the most important voices safeguarding the ideals of human rights and social justice: those whose only weapon is their passion, commitment and beauty.
The IHRAF not only provides these artists visibility, but it highlights the most important issues facing our societies: how to safeguard and expand human rights, social justice, democracy and equality, in all countries around the world. We are especially drawn to artists around the world who promote these ideals through their dedication to truth and beauty.
We use the energy of this art to engage with stakeholders at all levels, including politicians, social leaders, NGOs and activists on the frontline of the struggle for truth and justice.
We have worked with artists and activists from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Morocco, Iran, Uganda, Burundi, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Gambia, Zambia, Tanzania, South Africa, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Israel, Palestine, Turkey, South Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan, China, Haiti, Martinique, Brazil, Costa Rica, Mexico, Columbia, Venezuela, Italy, Germany, France, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, England, Australia, Sioux Nation, as well as most of the United States.
The IHRAF has presented more than 500 artists in twenty interim events and three week-long Festivals, all in New York City. Additionally, IHRAF has published more than fifty writers on the IHRAF Publishes literary platform. The organization has been covered more than thirty times in press outlets, including the New York Times, NBC TV Live!, Fox 5 Good Morning, Metro-NY, Huffington Post, Crain’s NY Business, New York Observer, Voice of America: Mandarin, AM and many others.
2.) MBIZO CHIRASHA: WHAT DIFFERENTIATES IHRAF FROM OTHER HUMAN RIGHTS, ARTS ACTIVISM, AND FESTIVAL PROJECTS?
THOMAS BLOCK: Founded in 2017 at Dixon Place Theater in New York, the IHRAF is already the largest human rights art festival in the world. While there are nearly fifty human rights film festivals, very few art-activist organizations focus in an ongoing manner on performance of all types, including dance, theatre, music, spoken word, circus and any other method of bringing art and soul to a live audience.
Additionally, we separate ourselves from other arts-activism projects by our engagement with decision makers, from our honorary co-sponsors in the political realm (many United States Senators and Congresspersons), to our work with governmental agencies such as the NYC Commission on Human Rights.
We have also developed and implemented a number of other year-round, international manners of using art in the struggle for human rights and justice. Our “IHRAF Publishes” platform publishes weekly art-activist literary work. Our “Creators of Justice Literary Award” will highlight the best activist writing from around the globe. Our “International Fellow” program highlights the work of a single art-activist every year, as well as introducing the IHRAF to their audience. Lastly, through our Direct Action component, we help artists-at-risk, whose activities have put them in harm’s way with their own, often repressive governments.
Taken together, we offer a unique manner of bringing artists’ voice and social change together. And as we expand our programming, visibility and outreach, we will spread these voices of truth, beauty, sincerity and engagement ever-wider.
3.) MBIZO CHIRASHA: IHRAF PUBLISHS IS FAST GROWING AND SIGNIFICANTLY INFLUENCING THE GROWTH OF ARTS ACTIVITIES. WHAT ARE THE FUTURE PROSPECTS OF IHRAF LITERARY PUBLISHING?
THOMAS BLOCK: This is a very exciting aspect of our work — and we have published more than fifty pieces from around the world. We currently publish work — poetry, essays and short stories — on a weekly basis, as well as inaugurating the Creators of Justice Literary Award, which will offer monetary awards and publishing opportunities to the winners.
We are also working on two anthologies: an online anthology of the best youth writing (under twenty-one), edited and produced by our Youth Fellow, Uma Menon, as well a print anthology of some of the best writing that we have published, from what will then be nearly 100 pieces to choose from.
The literary arts are central to the struggle for human rights, as well as reaching diverse and far-flung audiences. We are excited about the growth of IHRAF Publishes and look forward to offering more initiatives under its banner in the future.
Video: Buwaso Ibrahim Razack – Dear God – Old folk for new poets; Music by Fernando Fidanza for International Human Rights Art Festival
4.) MBIZO CHIRASHA: SUMMARIZE THE IMPORTANCE OF THE CREATORS OF JUSTICE LITERARY AWARD
THOMAS BLOCK: The Creators of Justice Literary Award highlights the best activist literary work from around the world. We look for work based in our signature values of beauty, sincerity, vulnerability and engagement. Words spoken from the mouth never get past the ears, but words spoke from the heart, enter the heart. We provide a voice and transparency for writers who are underrepresented, repressed and sometimes in personal danger due to their unflinching commitment to using their word to support and further Truth. We are honored by the work we have received, and as the Award submission period remains open until June 1, we hope to receive many more beautiful submissions!
© 2020, Mbizo Chirasha, Brave Voices Press
CALLS FOR ENTRIES
IHRAF CREATORS OF JUSTICE LITERARY AWARD
THERE IS NO ENTRY FEE FOR PARTICIPATION.
Deadline: June 1, 2020
Please send submissions to: email@example.com with the subject line: “Creators of Justice Literary Award”
The International Human Rights Art Festival announces the creation of this new literary award, celebrating poetry, short stories and essays which use the written word to celebrate justice.
This ideal may be imagined in any manner in which the writer sees fit, however, it must be based in our signature values of beauty, sincerity, vulnerability and engagement. We do not publish work or engage with artists whose work is based in anger, or stems from an “us v. them” mentality. We feel strongly that all human conflict is representative of human spiritual immaturity — and no group of people, ethnicity or religion are immune from human spiritual immaturity.
There are three monetary prizes in each category: Poetry, Short Story and Essay. Each writer may make one submission in each category (total of 3 submission per writer). Awards are as follows:
- First Prize: $150
- Second Prize: $100
- Third Prize: $50
- Honorable Mention: 5 writers will have their work published on IHRAF Publishes
All winners and honorable mention writers will be considered for our IHRAF Publishes Anthology 2019-2020, which will be collected and published in summer 2021.
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