Monday, December 14, 2015

From student Jessica Sevillo, Holocaust Memorial, Berlin, Peter Eisenman

Peter Eisenman, an American architect, designed the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. For the majority of Eisenman’s life, he was dedicated to swimming. When he was in college, he realized that he had a passion for architecture. His newfound talent prompted him to give up swimming for good. After he graduated, he began teaching architecture at schools such as, Ohio State University, Harvard, and Princeton. Some of the projects Eisenman worked on were House VI, The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, City of Culture of Galicia. After Eisenman constructed the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, he said, “I want visitors to feel the loss and disorientation the Jews felt during the Holocaust.” Eisenman also explains that he intentionally designed the memorial to be abstract; “the enormity and scale of the horror of the Holocaust is such that any attempt to represent it by traditional means inevitably inadequate.” Although some people thought the memorial should contain names or dates to represent the victims, Eisenman felt that this would make the memorial seem like a graveyard. The overall intention for this memorial was for it to be a place that is an everyday experience.
The Holocaust Memorial was created based on World War II. Adolf Hitler was in charge, and he envisioned an Aryan race. Anyone who did not fit this “race” was considered inferior. Initially, the Nuremburg Laws of 1935 were passed to exclude Jews from society. Then, as Hitler became more powerful, he decided to create concentration camps that would murder thousands of Jews and others that did not fit the Aryan race. Inside the camps, people were tortured and practically starved to death. Whether the people were forced to labor or perform other tasks, they had to listen to the Nazis. There were also gas chambers and mass graves that were used to “exterminate” as many people as possible. Hitler’s ultimate goal was “extermination,” and he did whatever it took to reach that goal. World War II had lasted from 1939-1945, when finally American soldiers liberated the camps.
The Holocaust Memorial consists of 2,700 concrete slabs covering about 204,440 square feet. In addition, there is a visitor center underneath the stones that offers information about the Holocaust. The primary human rights issue that surrounds this work of art is Jews and many others not being seen as humans. People were not treated with dignity or respect because the Nazis did not see value in them. According to the Nazis, people were worthless in the following ways: not qualifying for the Aryan race, being weak, being a woman or child, being old, etc. This completely violates the majority of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. For example, Article 5 states, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” (UDHR). By putting people under the conditions of the concentration camps, the Nazis were violating Article 5. In response to the Holocaust Memorial, the German parliament said there intention is “to honor the murdered victims, keep alive the memory of inconceivable events in German history and admonish all future generations never again to violate human rights, to defend the democratic constitutional state at all times, to secure equality before the law for all people and to resist forms of dictatorships and regimes based on violence.”
The Holocaust Memorial impacts people because it calls for action. Peter Eisenman said, “The transformation of guilt into collective responsibility suggests that action must be taken to ensure that negative events of the past do not ever happen again the future.” Therefore, the Holocaust is a part of history that cannot be ignored. The German society lives by the motto “never again” to ensure that history will not repeat itself. German’s are now able to “wash their hands clean of the history.” Personally, the memorial has never impacted me, because I have never visited there. If I were to go to the memorial, I would be silent the entire time. Just reading about the Holocaust Memorial makes me wonder about how family members of the victims are affected. 
From student Emily Van Zeeland, "Set Me Free," by Stephanie Olson:

This image was taken by Stephanie Olson for her Set Me Free Project which is an antihuman trafficking moment. This movement aims to raise awareness and provide education to help end human trafficking.  Human trafficking is currently a $150 billion dollar business which makes it the second fastest growing crime in the world. Since human trafficking involves many painful and controversial topics such as rape, prostitution, and violence, many people would rather not think about human trafficking. However, the only way to truly end human trafficking is to bring awareness to the severity of the issue. The fact that human trafficking violates many human rights stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights demonstrates the necessity for change. Two human rights that human trafficking majorly violates are described in articles 4 and 5. Article 4 deals with the freedom from slavery. The hand placed over the girls mouth in the image displays the lack of freedom that individuals suffering from human trafficking have. Human trafficking is not a choice; it is forced upon individuals, who many times are unaware of what is happening. Article 5 furthers the point stated by article 4 by claiming that all humans have a right to the freedom from torture and degrading treatment. In the image this type of treatment is shown by the barcode on the girl’s forehead. She is not viewed as a human being; instead she is just an object and thus is treated like one. This image accurately displays the major human rights violations of human trafficking and has created a positive impact that has resulted in many people donating to the Set Me Free Project.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

From student Teba Saleh: Graffitti near the site of the Boston bombing.

On April 15, 2013, two bombs were exploded by the finish line of the annual Boston Marathon, killing three people and wounding more than 260 others. Suspects were 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, and 26-year-old Tamerlan. Tamerlan died early in the investigation during a shootout with law enforcement. Investigators eventually discovered that the Tsarnaevs were not connected to any terrorist organizations. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is scheduled to receive the death penalty. My first piece of artwork is actually a picture that I took myself of some graffiti near the sight of the Boston bombing. Written on it are the words “How many bombs will it take to make peace?”  I think about this piece of art all the time. I wonder who made it, how he or she was connected to the bombing, it at all, or if he or she simply felt the pain of it from a distance and felt the need to express it somehow. I suppose I’ll never know and that comforts me for some reason, as if knowing whom it was would be too horrific. Also in way, it makes it so that anyone could have made it, and in a sense then, everyone has made it, and it exists for all people. I don’t believe there is any specific controversy surrounding this graffiti and I can’t imagine why there would be. Its message hits home and points out a major flaw in our society. We as individuals and as a nation claim to want peace yet seem to think the best way to do so is through war. My aunts who live in Boston told me that when the graffiti first showed up, it had many visitors and people would leave candles and wishes and offerings near the location. And when I saw it for the first time, I saw some of this. And it really was moving to see people gather around this tragedy. However, I have since revisited the site of the graffiti and no people just pass in without a second glimpse. The tragedy remains in their hearts but people have moved on. And I think its important that people do so, but its sad to see it be slowly forgotten. 
From student Madison Noall: Effie Pappa, "1.2 Million Children

The NO Project utilizes music, art, dance, film, animation, sport, creative writing and social media to promote human trafficking awareness throughout the youth population. Based in Athens, Greece, the NO Project involves numerous artistic pieces that target modern-day slavery, attracting diplomats, government officials, educators, and leaders across the globe. Effie Pappa, an artist involved deeply within the program, is a National Film and Television School graduate that works with numerous techniques to convey modern-day topics through animation. Born and raised in Greece, she had a significant connection to the NO Project, passionate about educating others about the problems of human trafficking through her animations. Her short film, “1.2 Million Children” has won several awards and has stood as a significant contribution to the NO Project. The short animation illustrates an African child that dreams of freedom but becomes one of the 1.2 million children involved within child slavery. Although the United Nations adopted and promoted the Convention of the Rights of a Child, which recognizes rights of children such as the right to life, vaccination, education, and a loving environment, several children across the globe continue to be violated and degraded. There have been several different approaches regarding child trafficking awareness, yet they often cause controversy due to the explicit, dark content, yet Effie Pappa’s “1.2 Million Children” utilizes a child-friendly, uncontroversial approach to appeal to all age groups, increasing awareness amongst numerous different individuals. This video prompted me to do more research, as I was unaware of the extent to which childhood slavery exists within our global culture. With such a creative, artistic approach to spreading awareness, Effie Pappa has effectively reached out to the community, using her creative talents to create a true visual masterpiece. 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

From student McKenzie Zucker:  Civil Rights Memorial, Montgomery, AL, USA

             Maya Lin is an American designer and artist that created the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama. She studied architecture and sculpture at Yale and Harvard University. She also designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Museum of Chinese in America along with this memorial. Maya Lin also served as a board member of the National Resources Defense Council and was a member of the World Trade Center Site Memorial design jury.
              During the 1950’s and 1960’s African Americans struggled for equality. In order to gain freedom they participated in freedom rides, marches, boycotts and other protests to fight for their freedom. This was during the same time as the Jim Crow laws, which created segregation in Southern states. Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her seat to a white man on the bus, and Martin Luther King Jr., who gave his “I have a dream” speech, are examples of individuals who fought for their rights in a nonviolent manner.
              The Civil Rights Memorial was dedicated in 1989 and funded by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Within the memorial there are various pieces of art to resemble this era. There is a granite wall with Martin Luther King Jr., “I have a Dream” speech as well as a 12-foot disk with the dates of the major civil rights era events and the names of the 40 martyrs to the cause. There are several human rights issues involved in this memorial such as: right to equality, freedom from discrimination, right to desirable work and to join trade unions, right to education. Blacks were denied these rights prior to this time and they were unable to attend schools with whites. They were discriminated against and not treated as humans.
              The one controversy that stood out was the inscriptions on the memorials. On the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial one of the quotes that was missing “If”, which was a misrepresentation of his words. This was also present with the Jefferson Memorial as it took quotes, 30 years apart, and combined them together into one quote. The Lincoln Memorial also omits the reference of slavery behind the statue of Lincoln. Although there were words missing or put together, some observers like Doss believe that not all words can be put onto a memorial.
              This memorial impacted a large number of people as it remembers those whose lives were taken away as they were fighting for their own lives. Personally, this memorial was a great way to show all of those who protested for their rights and to show how they impacted the world, creating it to be equal today.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

From Student Juliana Lanese, Art & Human Rights project:

Banksy is a street artist whose identity is unknown all over the world. He is known to be Robert Banks or Robin Gunningham. He began his career as a graffiti artist in the early `90s. His signature style was developed while his work became more popular around Bristol and London. Banksy’s artwork is known to be striking images with slogans and dark humor. He engages political themes, critiquing war, capitalism, and greed. Banksy’s artwork has transformed around the world from being vandalism to interesting pieces of high quality of art.
In 2007, Banksy famous created a stenciled imaged on the security wall of West Bank in Bethlehem. The wall is known to be a barrier and has many names such as “apartheid wall” and “Anti-terrorist fence” that separates Israel and Palestine.  There were many conflicts with Israeli soldiers that the Palestinian villagers went to court and won the case. The fence was moved closer Israel and then it was rebuilt as a wall. This wall is known to have artwork all over it where it promotes upcoming events in the area, but Banksy’s artwork was what shocked people the most. Banksy chose this wall because it was the birthplace of Jesus and it was the center of allegations of human rights abuses. The wall art of ‘Girl and a Soldier’ represents the controversial idea of children being persecuted. The image shows a girl wearing ponytails and a pink dress representing purity and innocence. The soldier is in the traditional soldier clothing with a machine gun lying on his side to contrast with the young girl signifying violence.  The girl patting down the soldier displays dehumanization of individuals as they are automatically assumed to be aggressive based on their religion or ethnicity. The image demonstrates the limited freedom that Palestine people have with role reversal. It also demonstrates the limited freedom that Palestine people have with role reversal. Banksy’s goal of this artwork is to have observers to contemplate the cultural barriers that avoid others from completely recognizing the true humanity of others. Banksy’s artwork influences society because he sends out the message through his artwork of human rights.
            His artwork impacted me personally because it made me realize how artwork can describe so much meaning. An image can hold so much content and can change people’s perspectives of the world. When looking at Banksy’s artwork I realized the world is not a safe place and that there are always controversies between one another, between countries, or between certain groups of people.

Monday, October 19, 2015

From Student Sean Kelley, Art & Human Rights project:

The Aids Quilt

Cleve Jones is a gay activist, and author.  He was a co-founder of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and was the artist behind the creation of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt.  His quilt was made in honor of his deceased friend Marvin Feldman.  Through the patchwork of names, Jones sought to have people see how great the issue of AIDS really was in America, and hope to win them over to help aid the cause to make positive change.
The quilt was first created on the San Francisco Federal Building after a gay rights march, but after such a huge reaction from the public, was then moved to the National Mall in Washington D.C. in 1987.  The wall is a series of placards designed with the names of those who have suffered and died due to AIDS.  Today, there are many sites in which the AIDS quilt can be seen, as more chapters have been added in Kansas, Georgia, and New York.  The last time the quilt was seen in its entirety was 1996.   It is designed to shock the public on how many people have died from the disease, and to show the individuality of all the people who have died from Aids.  The goal was to give AIDS more attention and more donations of money.  Although, the government was helping to fight AIDS more than in the past, people were still dying at a rampant rate and people suffering from the disease were being excluded from society.
The Quilt was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.  It remains the largest art project in the United States, as panels are dispersed throughout the country, some even in elementary schools.  Some people may not believe that AIDS is a relevant issue and oppose having the panels in their city or state, but I could not find any articles on controversy surrounding it.
The NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt is still growing today.  One can register to add a panel of their loved one, or apply to host some of the panels in their city.  This piece of art made international news when it laid across the national mall and different periods of time.  It brought awareness of the AIDS issue to people that the issue was not necessarily affecting.  It forced many people to view the disease as a serious issue that had to be dealt with.  I think that this project is really awesome.  I think art like this is so inspiring and long-lasting because it has the potential to grow throughout the years and can be seen on all different parts of the nation.  It creates a culture that refuses to let people be dehumanized, which I love.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Indigenous People's Day

Highlight the stories of prominent Native Americans in the context of colonialism, U. S. expansion, appreciation of diverse cultures, or the struggle for human rights.


Chief Joseph:



Add a comment with a link to another Native American hero.

Indigenous People's Day

Definitely worth a discussion in classrooms.  A nice accompanying piece for high schools + students is Howard Zinn's "Columbus, the Indians, and Human Progress," from A People's History of the United States.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

South Africa: 20 Years after Apartheid

South Africa serves as one of our historical case studies in class.  After giving background to European colonization and the origins of white rule, we start looking at ways people challenged the system of apartheid.  A central facet of that discussion is the work and ideas of Steven Biko.  We read Biko's essay "Black Consciousness & the Quest for Humanity" and watch the film Cry Freedom starring Denzel Washington and Kevin Kline.  We watch only the first half of the film that deals with Biko; and it serves as a great introduction to the nature of and struggle against apartheid as well as Biko's philosophy.

The Instruments of Healing

ImageA very difficult problem for nations recently experiencing conflict and civil war is what to do with the weapons once the war is over. Disarmament is a difficult end to achieve, and perhaps even more challenging to maintain.  Countries like Mozambique have found unique solutions.

One of my favorite projects for students is to investigate that very issue.  We investigate not only how disarmament can be achieved but also, since it usually marks the end of a conflict, how it can also be part of a society's healing process.  In the first link below you'll find some amazing pictures by photographer Jan Banning about a 1995 project in Mozambique started after its civil war ended in the 1990s.  The project, called "Guns into Ploughshares," was started by church leaders as a way to begin to heal the wounds of the country's long civil conflict.  The instruments of death and destruction literally became the instruments of healing and reconciliation.  The other links are news stories on similar projects.  
We'll be looking at the issue of human rights and art often in our discussion.  

I've been teaching courses on human rights, history and economics for around 17 years.  I decided to start this blog for others interested in teaching issues surrounding human rights, for activists looking for background, and as a general discussion board to share ideas.

Human rights form the basis of most of what I teach, whether it is a class in U. S. history or economics.  Approaching these subjects from a human rights perspective helps me to connect issues to students directly as well as give a global perspective on all topics.

Above you'll notice a couple tabs. UDHR is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the foundation of our ideas and laws about the basic rights we share by the fact of being human.  There is also a tab for those interested in the legal side of pursuing human rights.