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.