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


INTERVIEW

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: 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!

FEEL THE BERN

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

Join in Angora Poets World Caffé Virtual Poetry Reading via Zoom, April 19th

Photograph courtesy of Artsy Vibes, Unsplash

“Like déjà vu, poetry
intimates that the past
is never quite over
and done with.”
Matthew Brevis, Poetry, March 2020 issue



ANGORA POETS WORLD CAFFÉ, VIRTUAL POETRY READING

SUNDAY, April 19, 2020 at 8 p.m. -11 p.m. UTC+2

An Invitation

Copyright Angora Poets World Caffé

Angora Poets Sunday April 19 at 20h – 8 p.m; Paris time. Join Zoom Meeting // Poets, Prose, Spoken Word, Performance Artists. All languages welcome. Connect on Facebook HERE for more details.

“When I say All Languages welcome: our poets present in English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Russian, Italian. We are truly a world caffé.” Moe Seager



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!



FEEL THE BERN

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

Poetry Foundation to celebrate National Poetry Month (April) across digital platforms only as it cancels offline events

March 2020 issue

 The oldest monthly devoted to verse in the English-speaking world.



The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry, announced that the safety of staff and community remains it’s top priority and that during these unprecedented times, they continue to monitor and heed the guidance of local and national officials. Based on the most recent guidelines from the Center for Disease Control  they’ve decided to cancel all programming and remain closed to the public through May 15, regretful because April is National Poetry Month, a time for celebrating the community of poets, artists and performers.

Poetry Foundation will continue April’s celebrations across digital platforms and suggests that whether you’re a newcomer to reading poems and looking for a place to start, or a lifelong writer seeking fresh engagement with poetry, the Foundation will have something for you.

Stay connected with The Poetry Foundation through their website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

The Poetry Foundation has a fabulous archive of poetry and poet biographies accessible worldwide. It also offers audio recordings and podcasts, articles about children’s poetry,  and Harriet’s Blog, a literary blog about poetry and related news. There’s also a glossary of poetic terms.

RELATED:

  • THE PARIS REVIEW on YouTube offers a wealth of videos of interest to writers and readers.
  • The BeZine will celebrate April as International Poetry Month, themed pandemic but we are suggesting a wide-range of subject material under that heading. I will publish more details sometime tomorrow. Submissions to thezinesubmissions@gmail.com (Please note this is our new email address.) / J.D.


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!



FEEL THE BERN

For Peace, Sustainability, Social Justice

The Poet by Day officially endorses Bernie Sanders for President.

The New New Deal

“Democracy is not a spectator sport.” Bernie Sanders



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

Interview with Mbizo Chirasha, Founder and Curator of the Womawords Project and Call for Submissions to Daughters of the Earth Project, an international contest

Taken on a trip in 2016 with World Vision to Sierra Leone. Courtesy of Annie Spratt, Unsplash

I Read a Poem Today

I read a poem today and decided
I must deed it to some lost, lonely
fatherless child… to embrace her

along her stone path, invoke sanity
I want to tell her: don’t sell out your
dearest dreams or buy the social OS

Instead, let the poem play you like a
musician her viola, rewriting lonely
into sapphire solitude, silken sanctity

Let it wash you like the spray of whales
Let it drench your body in the music
of your soul, singing pure prana into

the marrow and margins of your life
Let your shaman soul name your muse,
find yourself posing poetry as power and

discover the amethyst bliss of words
woven from strands of your own DNA
Yes. I read a poem today and decided
I must deed it to a lost fatherless child

© 2011, Jamie Dedes (Written for an International Women’s Day forum and republished in 2012 for International Girl Child Day in 2012)



Womawords is a complex of efforts initiated by Zimbabwean poet activist in exile, Mbizo Chirasha (Mbizo, The Black Poet).  I was curious – and thought others might be as well – about the inspiration for this ambitious and worthy effort that is devoted to giving women and girls a platform to speak out about their concerns and experiences and to share their wisdom.  I think you’ll enjoy the interview. Perhaps some women reading here will want to consider submitting to the Daughters of the Earth  Project International Contest. There is no submission fee.

The Womawords Project comprises: Womawords Literary Press, Liberating Voices Journal, the Girl Child Creativity Project (now evolved into Womawords), and Daughters of the Earth Project International Contest (not for poetry only).

INTERVIEW

JAMIE: Why and when did you start Womawords?

MBIZO: The heart of a women is like an  ocean, thus  she must be proffered a free platform to express concerns, to speak rights, to voice against wrongs, to sing experiences and more. The world over we are blessed with an influx of  women and the girl child gifted not only physical stature but  mental beauty, endowed with wisdom to sub create and shape humanity. Womawords was birthed in  April 2019 as a complimentary initiative during my eye-opening  and life changing tenure with the International Human Right Art Festival.

JAMIE: Please tell us about the origin of the name.

MBIZO: The name pays tribute to the power and influence literary arts culture, words and poetry. The Womawords Project is a positive transformation from my initial project Girl Child Creativity Project, which was Zimbabwean based, and transitioned it into an international literary arts culture digital space exhibiting women’s voices and literature. Women are powerful trench soldiers; they experience a bundle of traumas from child birthing, forced intercourse, menstrual health issues, domestic violence, stigma and discrimination. A whole lot of hardships but also women are molders of humanity. I have always known of mother tongue not father tongue, hence Womawords – a metaphor that gives women from around the globe a space to express themselves through poetry , resistance  literature,  and resilience  arts.

JAMIE: What are the current activities Womawords is sponsoring?

MBIZO: The 2020 main project is the Daughters of the Earth Project, an international writer’s contest. The writer’s contest gives an opportunity for women to raise their voice, exchange ideas and promote dialogue on Menstrual Equity and Health through poetry, stories, flash fiction, and essays. And they are a myriad of  issues, unresolved problems, taboos and myth experienced by women globally. WOMEN must be given the chance to speak, to raise their concerns, to offer solutions and to tell their experiences through this # Daughters of the Earth Writers Contest Project. For more details follow on the submissions portal on Womawords.

Other projects include:

  • Women of Residence Profile Features: The Press is anchored by FEATURES of Prolific Poets, Writers, Socialites and Artistic Luminaries.
  • Liberating Voices: this is a quarterly collection of voices and is guided by a specific theme of every publication.

JAMIE: What are the long-term goals?

MBIZO: Womawords Literary Press is a formula of positive change and transformation in the area of exhibiting women’s artistic voices and resistance literature by the girl child.  In the next five years we are  growing  into a  reputable book and literary arts publishing republic. Going forward within 2020 we continue to restructure by placing  and appointing representatives in more than twenty countries around the globe. These  are women writers, poets, activist, and artists using their words to bring  forth transformative change, using their poetry to expose societal tumors, wielding their artistic weapons to slash perpetuators of barbarism, using their resistance literatures to shine a light on the madness.  In March  2021, we are hosting a Womawords International Symposium with editorial associates, contributing writers, women artists, and women arts cultural activists who will convene to  share and exchange experiences through symposium presentations, poetry performances, and  story readings .

ALUTA CONTINUA!!! [“The struggle continues.” It’s a rallying cry for freedom.]

THE DAUGHTERS OF THE EARTH PROJECT

Call for Submissions

The newly initiated Daughters of the Earth Project will offer a new theme each year.  The  2020 theme is Menstrual Health and Menstrual Equity

BACKGROUND AND SCOPE: The Daughters of the Project is an international writer’s contest . The writer’s contest gives an opportunity for women  to raise their voices, exchange ideas and promote dialogue on Menstrual Equity and Health through poetry, stories, flash fiction and essays. There are a  myriad  of  issues , unresolved problems, taboos and myth experienced  by women globally. Women must be given the chance to speak, to raise their concerns, to offer solutions, and to tell their experiences through this Daughters of the Earth Writers Contest Project.

TIMELINE: The Daughters of the Earth Writing Contest Project  will resume  in April  2020 and end in October  2020

April 2020- JUNE 2020( Writers Submissions and Contest Entries)

July 2020-  August 2020- ( Judging, Jury to be announced)

August 2020- September 2020 (Publicity and Awards  Gathering)

October 2020( Results and Winners Announcement)

Mbizo Chirasha

MBIZO CHIRASHA (Mbizo, The Black Poet) is one of the newest members of The BeZine core team. He is a poet from Zimbabwe who is on the run. We have been coordinating in the search for safe harbor. In part I am doing this today to remind everyone that while we’ve made progress with funding, we still need to find a host for Mbizo, preferably Germany, but England or U.S. would work too.  Open to suggestion.  Connect with me if you are able to help, have leads, or have questions. You can read more about Mbizo and his story: Zimbabwean Poet in Exile: Award-Winning Poet Mbizo Chirasha, A Life on the Run, Interview.


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!



FEEL THE BERN

For Peace, Sustainability, Social Justice

The Poet by Day officially endorses Bernie Sanders for President.

The New New Deal

Link HERE for Bernie’s schedule of events around the country.

“Democracy is not a spectator sport.” Bernie Sanders



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