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



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.


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.


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


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




Deadline: June 1, 2020

Please send submissions to: ihrafpublishes@gmail.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.

Jamie Dedes:

Your donation HERE helps to fund the ongoing mission of The Poet by Day in support of poets and writers, freedom of artistic expression, and human rights.

Poetry rocks the world!


For Peace, Sustainability, Social Justice

Maintain the movement.

“Democracy is not a spectator sport.” Bernie Sanders

“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton

The Sun Has Left His Blackness, the eighth poem in Linda Chown’s Ten-Part William Blake Series

The title  page of America a Prophecy, copy A (printed 1795), collection the Morgan Library
/ Public Domain

He was the loom’s loom,
spinning the fiber of revelation;
offering songs of social injustice,
the sexual potency of nature,
and the blessedness of the lamb.
Patti Smith

Like in a rocking chair on the edge of time,
this painting an overture to freedom, a ladle of love,
a luminous nest of linking ladders. Each level going up united.
It’s for to cherish this visual calmness as Blake’s visionary glory.
While his poetic prophecy may seethe with crackling doubt and dissent,
revolutionary odes, contentious acts of history and deceit,
This, the first painting with his name spelled out.
Blake fondly calls these sweet colors “illuminated paintings”
where he lays out his revolutionary love in peopled play.

It’s as though we’re inside an urban subway station
looking up. With Blake, it’s always some kind of looking.
People and how they do what matter in Blake’s sight.
Here, people spread about touching everywhere
in the kind of gentle that cooperation brings.
Fallen warriors in medieval garb, nude woman pointing to this poem.
Women reading, consoling, kinding.
This poetic prophecy one of Blake’s cosmic mythologies:
Orc’s refulgent passion grazes Urizen’s linearity.
Blake charts a new course for mental liberation.
The newspaper-like headline compels because it hearkens
a linking, a jumping up above and caring down below.
The prophetic poem contains fierce strife among nations and type.
But this sweeping image unfolds sweet closeness.
A new, all American revolutionary delight.

As Blake writes: “the fair Moon rejoices
in the clear & cloudless night.” And what a new light!
How lovely the people together democratic,
concentrating in peace, as though Thomas Paine bathed them
in common sense, and faith, hope, and charity.
Aware of the novelty of cultural freedom, Blake affirms,
“Let the inchained soul shut up in darkness and in sighing,
Rise and look out, his chains are loose, his dungeon doors are open.
Like Walt Whitman, for Blake, the sacred “loom’s loom,” the center sphere,
this image affirms a new vision of democracy, of human affairs:
a belief that “For everything that lives is holy, life delights in life.”

© 2019, Linda Chown

The other poems in Linda’s ongoing Blake-poem series:

  1. Refections into William Blake’s “Brutus and Caesar’s Ghost,” Linda Chown
  2. Cohering Clashes: Wiliam Blake’s “The Red Dragon and The Woman Clothed in the Sun,” Linda Chown
  3. This New Ending of the Beginning: William Blake’s “The Body of Abel Found by Adam and Eve,” Linda Chown
  4. Looking Up High: “The Wood of the Self-Murderers: The Harpies, and The Suicides,”Linda Chown
  5. Double Trouble: Lamech and His Two Wives, Linda Chown
  6. The Sun in His Wrath, Linda Chown
  7. Touching Without Holding, Linda Chown

I am delighted to let you know that Linda Chown’s Narrative Authority and Homeostasis in the Novels of Doris Lessing and Carmen Martín Gaite (Routledge Library Editions: Modern Fiction) is now available through Amazon in hardcover and Kindle. Linda tells me a budget-wise paperback edition will be available in six-to-eight months.

This study, originally published in 1990, assesses a shift in the presentation of self-consciousness in two pairs of novels by Doris Lessing and Carmen Martín Gaite: 1) Lessing’s The Summer Before the Dark(1973) and Martín Gaite’s Retahílas (1974) and 2) Lessing’s The Memoirs of a Survivor (1974) and Martín Gaite’s The Back Room (1978). Three major structural divisions facilitate examining implications of the novels for 1) feminism 2) literary narrative and 3) the lives of people-at-large. / J.D.

Linda’s Amazon Page is HERE.

Jamie Dedes. I’m a freelance writer, poet, content editor, and blogger. I also manage The BeZine and its associated activities and The Poet by Day jamiededes.com, an info hub for writers meant to encourage good but lesser-known poets, women and minority poets, outsider artists, and artists just finding their voices in maturity. The Poet by Day is dedicated to supporting freedom of artistic expression and human rights and encourages activist poetry.  Email thepoetbyday@gmail.com for permissions, commissions, or assignments.

About / Testimonials / Disclosure / Facebook / Medium

Recent and Upcoming in Digital Publications: Jamie Dedes, Versifier of Truth, Womawords Literary Press, November 19, How 100,000 Poets Are Fostering Peace, Justice, and Sustainability, YOPP! * The Damask Garden, In a Woman’s Voice, August 11, 2019 / This short story is dedicated to all refugees. That would be one in every 113 people. * Five poems, Spirit of Nature, Opa Anthology of Poetry, 2019 * From the Small Beginning, Entropy Magazine (Enclave, #Final Poems), July 2019 * Over His Morning Coffee, Front Porch Review, July 2019 * Three poems, Our Poetry Archive, September 2019

“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton

SOLIDARITY: 100,000 Poets (and Artists/Musicians/Friends) for Change, for Raising the Collective Consciousness

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.” Elie Wiesel

In 2011, The Bardo Group Beguines (The BeZine and Beguine Again) collected poems and other works that addressed the need for, the desire for, and prospective paths toward peace. We were inspired by a global movement that was founded by poets Michael Rothenberg and Terri Carrion called 100,000 Poets for Change.

The following year we connected with that global movement and hosted a virtual 100,000 Poets for Change so that folks from anywhere in the world could participate in this extraordinary event even if they were homebound or if there was no event being hosted in their area. It wasn’t long before drummers, mimes, musicians, artists and clergy joined this global initiative.  Followers and supporters included people who aren’t in the arts but appreciate the power of the arts to raise the collective consciousness and to foster sensible and compassionate action and policy.


This year The BeZine September issue  (September 15) will be devoted to social justice and on Saturday, September 29, we’ll host 100,000 Poets and Friends for Change on The BeZine site in concert with off-line efforts to be sponsored by communities all over the world.

I hope you’ll join us at the Zine in September.

Perhaps you’ll decide to host an event in your town or region. For details on that connect with Michael Rothenberg on Facebook or sign-up HERE.

Here’s a message Michael Rothenberg and Terri Carrion asked me to post for you earlier today:

“100 Thousand Poets for Change began in 2011. It was an initiative that spread by word of mouth across the globe.

“Poets in nearly 100 countries around the world expressed their outrage at war, ecocide, gender inequality, police brutality and a slew of other issues that were not being addressed. Up to then, poets as a community had been fragmented and silenced by the corporatization of the arts and peer pressure that insisted poetry should not be political, that poetry and art did not matter in changing the world.

“Now, 8 years later, it has been regularly demonstrated that poetry and the rest of the arts are a powerful resource in broadcasting the need for positive change. This could be in a very small part because of the effect of 100 Thousand Poets for Change.

“However, I believe that, mostly, there was a paradigm shift in regard to the need for protest and engagement in the world. Many individuals and organizations came to the realization that silence is complicity.

“Today you can hear voices raised against injustice everywhere. It has become part of the curriculum. But sadly, it seems that these voices are not loud enough or strong enough, that although the poetry community has unified in many ways and pushed forward in expressing opposition to injustice, situations have gotten worse.

“War continues and expands, militarization continues and expands, children are gunned down in schools, neo-nazis and white supremacists are emboldened, gender inequality is still the norm, and at this very moment we are witnessing a country that professes to be the most democratic and freest country in the world, the USA, tearing children out of the arms of their parents and putting them in cages as part of their immigration policy.

“My heart is broken.

“Some days, I feel like disconnecting entirely from the horrifying news. I can hardly stand to hear it any longer. But then there are the poets and artists who keep up the fight, who continue to speak out, the beautiful souls who refuse to be broken, and go on against all odds.

“So I go on.

“September 29 is the next global 100 Thousand Poets for Change Day. I am convinced this is an initiative worth continuing. Poets and artists must continue to rally and bond, connect, create and speak out in unison against the daily horrors. For each other and for our very own sanity, we must continue and grow.

“The 100 Thousand Poets for Change initiative saves me and keeps me focused and sane.

“I invite you to join hundreds, maybe hundreds of thousands, of other poets globally on this day, September 29, to gather and unify. If you can’t organize on September 29, pick any other day in September or October and let me know where and when you will organize.

“I will spread word of your event to the global poetry community for change, and together we can be empowered to re-write the narrative of civilization to a sustainable alternative. There is strength in numbers. Together we can raise our voices for peace.

“We can do this!”

Love, Michael and Terri, 100 Thousand Poets for Change.

Would-be artist’s flow chart …

Via Art Therapy Without Borders
FB Page