Tag Archives: United Nations

Film tackles U.N. failings

Our oldest daughter Jennifer, who studies cultural anthropology at Arizona State University, came home with passes to a new movie the other night — a Disruptive Pictures film called “U.N. Me” that’s written, directed and produced by Ami Horowitz and Matthew Groff.

It’s billed as an expose of corruption and incompetence within an international organization meant to promote world peace and universal human rights. As most folks know, the U.N. was founded in 1942.

The topic holds special interest for our family since Jennifer has long dreamed of working with the U.N. Our kids first learned of the U.N. during grade school, while participating in the Trick-or-Treat for Unicef program.

“U.N. Me” opened Friday at Harkins Shea 14 Theatre

Watching something so scathing was downright depressing. Unlike other films tackling tough issues such as failings in education, health care inequities, climate change and bullying, this movie left me feeling numb instead of moved to action.

I remember seeing “Bully” and wondering why such a significant portion of the film followed the advocacy of those whose lives were touched in tragic ways. Wasn’t it obvious that those who recognized the problem would be moved to act?

The wisdom of “Bully” filmmakers Lee Hirsch and Cynthia Lowen grows more evident as the credits for “U.N. Me” roll. Viewers see a single sentence directing them to make a difference by visiting the movie’s website, but there’s little reassurance that taking individual action can effect change.

An Inconvenient Truth,” a film directed by David Guggenheim that explored Al Gore’s concerns about human contributions to global climate change, left me feeling a lot more empowered thanks to practical tips shared near the end of the film.

Plenty of folks who see “U.N. Me” — including those who embrace its premises — will never visit the film’s website. But there’s plenty they can do in their daily lives to fight violations of human rights. Arizona offers plenty of examples.

“U.N. Me” follows Horowitz as he talks with people from various nations who have current or former U.N. ties, plus experts in areas such as genocide and nuclear proliferation. Nobel laureate Jody Williams is the most compelling by far.

I’m not wild about the flippant approach Horowitz takes during the film. His comedic forays distract from the deadly serious subject matter. And having spent more than a decade in investment banking, Horowitz will strike many among “the 99%” as an unlikely prophet for all things pure and good.

It’ll be too easy for those who oppose the U.N., especially those who do so for political gain, to use this film to indict every U.N. program and person affiliated with the organization. Or to walk away from the personal responsibility each of us bears for two words at the heart of the film — never again.

– Lynn

Note: “U.N. Me” is currently showing at Harkins Shea 14 Theatre in Scottsale

Coming up: Remembering Anne Frank, Student art meets Arizona history

Women’s art for women’s rights

As renewed battles over women’s rights are making headlines here at home, the struggles of women in other countries too often go unnoticed.

The neglect and abuse of women is woven into the fabric of far too many societies, as evidenced by a recent exhibition of quilts at the United Nations Visitors Centre in NYC. Think fabric squares depicting burning villages, brutal acts of violence against women and other horrifying scenes — some involving infants and children.

Though “Women are the Fabric” recently closed, I’m pleased to share several snapshots of works I enjoyed during my March NYC visit. All serve as powerful reminders of the way interwoven threads of civilization unravel when women’s rights to dignity, safety, health, education and equal opportunity are trampled or ignored.

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Folks interested in world cultures can attend CultureFest, a family-friendly cultural dinner being presented by The Welcome to America Project. The dinner will raise funds to help refugee families from war-torn countries settle in to their new lives in Phoenix. It’s part of the organization’s World Refugee Day celebration.

Those attending the June 24 event — which is part of the group’s 2012 “Cultural Dinner Series” — will “experience and learn traditions about the cultures from nine representative countries.” Think Burma, Congo, Cuba, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan and more.

Click here to learn more about United Nations policies and programs focused on improving the lives of women across the globe, here to explore Quilt for Change and here for information on the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

– Lynn

Note: Fountain Hills Youth Theater in Arizona presents a Y.A.B.O.Y. (Young Actors Benefiting Other Youth) production about dating sexual abuse called “The Silence Between the Whispers” March 15-31, 2013 (auditions for ages 12-19 are scheduled for Feb. 4 & 5).

Coming up: Youth theater meets social justice, Getting to know women playwrights, Cancer meets creativity

Art meets awareness

A spied this child-friendly quilt featuring animals and flowers during a recent visit to the United Nations Visitors Centre in New York City

The U.N.’s World Health Organization notes that mental disorders are responsible for 13% of the global disease burden — and urges all countries to allocate more resources to mental health care. Here in the Valley, several organizations are holding events with an art twist in recognition of May as National Mental Health Month (Kids are the focus on May 9).

Detail of quilt at the U.N. Visitors Centre in NYC

The People of Color Network in Phoenix invites Valley families to join their “2nd Annual National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day” celebration from 10am to 8pm on Wed, May 9 at 4520 N. Central Ave. They’re joining several community partners for the event designed to “raise awareness about the importance of mental health in a child’s life.”

Event organizers note that “mental health is essential to a child’s healthy development from birth,” adding that their priority is “building resilience in children and youth dealing with trauma so they can reach their fullest potential.” Wednesday’s event includes an art contest and exhibits, children’s activities, and workshops for kids and parents.

Detail of quilt at the U.N. Visitors Centre in NYC

The People of Color Network provides behavioral health care services to children and adults in Maricopa County, and seeks to raise awareness throughout the state of the importance of good mental health. They’ll have information about childhood mental health at the event.

Their partners include Chicano Por La Causa, Native American Connections, Empact, Ebony House and Centro de Amistad. All work to foster best practices delivered with respect for cultural heritage.

Folks who ride the bus or light rail to the event can present their ticket at the information booth when they arrive, and they’ll be entered into a free raffle. Learn more at www.pocn.com.

– Lynn

Note: You can find “People Colors” arts and craft supplies at Lakeshore Learning Materials in Phoenix and Paradise Valley — or online.

Coming up: Disco meets “Dark Shadows,” Developing new plays for young audiences

Update: I’ll be blogging about art and mental health all month. If your Arizona organization offers art-related programs by and/or for people living with mental illness, I’d love to hear from you at rakstagemom@gmail.com. 5/8/12

Art for peace

I was pleasantly surprised, while visiting the United Nations Visitors Centre in NYC last week, to discover all sorts of artwork — quilts with a “women’s rights” theme, a giant wall mural featuring all sorts of animals, and photographs depicting the aftermath of Japan’s early 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

The United Nations clealy understands the power of art to effect social change. Hence their call for artwork by youth on the theme of nuclear disarmament. The “Art for Peace Contest” is sponsored by the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs and the Harmony for Peace Foundation.

Detail of wall mural located in the children's section of the New York Public Library Stephen A. Schwarzman Building

The contest runs through April 30. Youth in all countries who are between 5 and 17 years of age can enter the contest. They can draw, paint, sketch, use pens, pencils, crayons, charcoal, oil, acrylic paint or watercolor to create their artwork. “Be creative,” say contest organizers. “Use your imagination to show a world free of nuclear weapons, a world without bombs, without wars, without fear.”

Participants are encouraged to watch a short film online before creating their own artwork based on the content of the film and the contest theme. Different films are available for different age groups. Films and entry details are available at www.unartforpeace.org.

Artwork submitted for the contest is posted online so family, friends and others can share works via social media. Contest organizers note that “children between the ages of 5 and 12 will need to have their parents or teachers help them with their submissions.”

Detail of "Find a Cure" quilt by fifth grade students at Chapman Elementary School in Huntsville, Alabama

There will be four winners in each age category (ages 5-8, ages 9-12 and ages 13-17), and all entries will be judged using the same criteria: creativity, composition, theme and technique. The winners will be announced before the end of May.

For age groups 5-8 and 9-12, the winners will receive art supplies. For the 13-17 age group, there will be cash prizes of $500 for first place, $300 for second place, $200 for third place and $100 for fourth place.

Each winning entry will also receive a certificate from the United Nations and all winning artwork will be reproduced in a United Nations calendar. All artwork submitted must be original. Click here for full contest rules.

Lions Clubs International Poster for Peace 2010-11 merit award winner by Sheelam Arun Kumar of India

While buying stamps for my daughter Jennifer at the the U.N. Visitors Centre post office I overheard a gentleman ask about U.N. stamps issued in years past which featured artwork by winners of previous Lions Clubs International art contests for children. Seems Lions clubs hold a “Peace Poster Contest” each year, inviting children to submit artwork on a designated peace-related theme.

Students who will be 11, 12 or 13 years old on Nov. 15 can enter the 2012-13 contest, which features an “Imagine Peace” theme. Works can be submitted in a variety of mediums, including charcoal, crayon, pencil and pastel, and prizes will be awarded to 24 young artists. One grand prize winner will receive $5,000 and 23 merit award winners will receive $500. Click here for contest details, and here to see posters created by 24 grand prize winners from years past.

– Lynn

Note: To find calls for artwork and art contests for children within the state of Arizona, visit the Arizona Commission on the Arts at www.azarts.gov. Click here for details on the 2012 Arizona Young Artists’ Competition (the deadline to enter is March 25).

Coming up: Art meets women’s rights, Remembering Mr. Rogers, Art in the North Valley

Refugee tales

While driving through a parking lot Tuesday morning, I spied a small delivery truck with colorful faces painted on two sides — along with the words “Welcome to America.” This is one of those moments my children dread, because they know two things are about to happen. First, I’m going to whip out my camera. And second, I’m going to go in search of the artist. What I call serendipitous, they consider strange.

Jennifer might have felt differently about this encounter, because I ended up introducing myself to a man who was walking towards the truck — only to discover he’s the driver for an organization called The Welcome to America Project, which delivers donated furniture and other household goods to refugees who have recently located to the Phoenix area.

Turns out there’s a United Nations connection that would fascinate Jennifer, an ASU student in cultural anthroplogy who dreams of working for the U.N. one day. There’s a 9/11 connection too — because The Welcome to America Project was started by Phil and Carolyn Manning after Phil’s brother Terence Manning lost his life in the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center.

Seems the Mannings were searching for a way to honor his memory by making a positive difference in the community when they saw the photo of a political refugee family from Afghanistan on a local news report. Each “realized this family sought the same things they did – safety, housing and a future free of fear for their children.” Soon they were collecting clothing and household items on the family’s behalf.

To date, their non-profit organization (described by the truck driver I met as a “mom and pop” operation) has engaged thousands of volunteers in helping 1,200 refugee families. This week they’re scheduled to assist two families originally from Bhutan who lived for many years in Nepal before coming to America, plus a single woman from Sri Lanka who survived a bombing that killed her brother and father.

The Welcome to America Project also holds special events that raise funds for aiding refugees. Last year’s “prom” had a Broadway musical theme, so I’m eager to see what they come up with for the 2012 version, taking place April 21 at the St.  Patrick’s Catholic Community Center in Scottsdale.

They’re kicking off a 2012 Cultural Dinner Series this Sun, March 11, with “A Night in Havana” at Orangewood Church in Phoenix. The event is “is designed to give Phoenix residents a rare glimpse into the complex history and culture of Cuba.” Think “dance performances, poems, cuisine, colorful clothing and firsthand accounts of the struggles and strength of Cuban refugees building new lives here in Arizona.”

Tuesday’s encounter with Jack Bigus (whose business card simply reads “driver”) reinforces a philosophy I’ve long embraced while exploring Arizona arts and culture — Follow the art, Follow your heart.

– Lynn

Note: Click here for information on refugees to the United States from the Cultural Orientation Resource Center

Coming up: More NYC travels

Pondering peace

I was struck, while listening to President Obama deliver a speech today to a gathering of United Nations members in New York City, by several of his remarks about furthering peace and justice in the world.

Our conscience calls on us to act. Our common humanity is at stake. Peace is hard, but we know that it is possible. Together let us make peace…but a peace that will last.

It reminded me of quotes I’d pondered earlier this year at the Arizona Museum for Youth in Mesa, which are pictured throughout this post.

Parents looking for ways to promote peace, which always starts at home, are getting a little help from Phoenix Theatre’s Cookie Company — which presents a work titled “Peacemaker” Feb 11-26, 2012 at Greasepaint Youtheatre in Scottsdale.

Phoenix Theater offers this description of the work…

The Blues and the Reds have lived on either side of the Wall for decades. Interaction is forbidden, and both communities live in an atmosphere of fear, suspicion, and mistrust. But when circumstances allow Simp, a Red, to meet Bluey, they learn that their similarities far outweigh the differences.

“Peacemaker” — which is full of clowning, juggling and physical storytelling — is meant to promote acceptance, empathy and friendship.

The United Nations reports that “an International Day of Peace was established in 1981 by resolution 36/67 of the United Nations General Assembly to coincide with its opening session, which was held annually on the third Tuesday of September.”

“The first Peace Day,” they add, “was observed in September 1982. In 2001, the General Assembly by unanimous vote adopted resolution 55/282, which established 21 September as an annual day of non-violence and cease-fire. The UN invites all nations and people to honour a cessation of hostilities during the Day, and to otherwise commemorate the Day through education and public awareness on issues related to peace.”

An art exhibit featuring photos of NYC children who hail from every country on the planet opened today at Park51 in Lower Manhattan. The Kickstarter-funded exhibit features the work of David Goldfield, which I hope to explore while visiting Lizabeth next month for Pace University’s homecoming weekend.

We pay attention to peace for a lot of reasons at our house, including the fact that our daughter Jennifer hopes to work at the United Nations one day. She’s an ASU student studying cultural anthropology whose current classes focus on human disease, religions of the world, and Holocaust history and the media.

For ideas on promoting peace in homes, schools, communities and beyond, visit the “International Day of Peace” website at www.internationaldayofpeace.org.

– Lynn

Note: You’ll find Arizona Museum for Youth at www.arizonamuseumforyouth.com, Phoenix Theatre’s Cookie Company at www.cookiecompany.org, Park51 at www.park51.org and the United Nations at www.un.org.

Coming up: Making peace with a purple plastic purse

From JFK to Father’s Day

This poster resembles a T-shirt my daughter Jennifer loves to wear

For most, the name Kennedy conjures thoughts of politics. My own daughter Jennifer, a 20-year-old antroplogy student at ASU who aspires to work for the United Nations, loves wearing a T-shirt that bears the likeness of a 1960 poster supporting JFK’s presidential campaign.

John F. Kennedy was born in Massachusetts on May 29, 1917. Had he not been assassinated in November 1963, today would be JFK’s 94th birthday. And while opinions of his politics may vary, it’s hard to find fault in his avid support for the arts.

After Kennedy’s death, a work in progress originally dubbed the National Culture Center became the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. It’s located near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. and there are three ways folks in Arizona can enjoy its offerings.

Those visiting D.C. can attend diverse music, dance and theater performance at the Kennedy Center — assuming tickets are available when you’re ready to buy them. The rest of us can watch for touring productions of Kennedy Center programs like the Theater for Young Audiences performance of “Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical” presented last year at Higley Center for the Performing Arts, Or go online for daily webcasts from the Center’s Millennium Stage.

The Kennedy Center offers free daily performances (at 6pm EST) on its Millennium Stage. Saturday night I watched streaming video of the Beach Fossils. Sunday night will feature a D.C. trio called “Medications,” described as “an 18-year collaboration between multi-instrumentalists Devin Ocampo and Chad Molter with drummer Mark Cisneros” that “combines a love of ’60s and ’70s pop, as well as the visceral pulse of ’70s punk.”

There’s plenty of live performance art right here in Arizona, but Kennedy Center Millennium Stage offerings are perfect for evenings you’re content to stay home but still want to get your daily dose of arts and culture. While you’re online, consider exploring the Kennedy Center website to learn about its many collaborations with Arizona artists.

Ballet Arizona performed at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts as part of the Center’s “Ballet Across America II” program in June 2010. And Childsplay, a Tempe-based theater company presenting works for youth and families, has participated four times in the Center’s “New Visions/New Voices” playwriting development program — with “The Yellow Boat,” “Even Steven Goes to War,” “Salt & Pepper,” and “Telemera: Stories My Mother Told Me.”

But the Kennedy family legacy goes beyond the realms of politics and art.

Patrick J. Kennedy, son of JFK’s brother Edward M. Kennedy and former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, is coupling his personal experience with bipolar disorder and addiction with his expertise in public policy to further the work of the newly-established “One Mind for Research” campaign — which aims to unify the science, technology, research and knowledge needed to battle brain disorders.

Eunice Kennedy Shriver, JFK’s sister, founded the Special Olympics in 1968. The organization — which describes itself as “the world’s largest movement dedicated to promoting respect, acceptance, inclusion, and human dignity for people with intellectual disabilities” — serves more than 3.5 million people through a variety of programs. From June 25 to July 4, 7,500 athletes from 185 countries will participate in the Special Olympics “World Summer Games” in Athens — which includes 22 Olympic-type sports.

Today the only surviving child of John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Caroline Kennedy, continues making her own contributions to arts and culture. She serves as honorary chairman of the American Ballet Theatre governing board and has authored several books including “A Family of Poems: My Favorite Poetry for Children” and the recently released “She Walks in Beauty: A Woman’s Journey Through Poems.”

I imagine what it must have been like to grow up surrounded by the countless words of others attempting to decipher or describe your father’s legacy. If you’d like to try writing about your own father, consider attending a “Father’s Day Writing Workshop” Fri, June 9, from 6-8pm at MADE Art Boutique on Roosevelt Row in downtown Phoenix. Here’s a little blurb about the event from the “Mothers Who Write” website:

A good dad is hard to find. If you’ve got one, let him know how you feel by writing something for him this Father’s Day. And if you don’t, write about him anyway — it just might be cathartic. Bring 17 copies of your two-page (typed, double spaced) piece to MADE and fine-tune it with MWW instructors Amy Silverman (Phoenix New Times) and Deborah Sussman (ASU Art Museum). Spaces are limited; registration is required. To register, call 602.256.MADE.

We all spend far too much time delving into the private lives of other families, famous and otherwise. And while I find the topic of JFK fascinating, I can assure you that my own father is every bit as interesting and complex — albeit in a wholly different sort of a way. Maybe he’s the one I should be writing about…

– Lynn

Note: Click here to learn about Special Olymics Arizona

Coming up: Local twists on the Tony Awards®, Last chance! Art camps, Do the math: Arizona arts & culture by the numbers

Films that matter

I suppose all films matter to the people who make them. But as a parent, I’m fonder of films that focus on child-related themes than films full of chase scenes. So I’m thrilled that Arizona parents will have two opportunities this week to enjoy films that raise important issues for families.

First. a film titled “Pushing the Elephant.” It’s being broadcast on Eight, Arizona PBS this Tuesday, March 29, at 1opm — as part of the PBS “Independent Lens” series. The film profiles a mother of 10 named Rose Mapendo, who some of you may know from a 2007 piece Vicki Louk Balint wrote for Raising Arizona Kids magazine.

PBS says the film “follows the life of Congolese refugee Rose Mapendo and her family, and their story of love and survival. Now an Arizona resident, Mapendo emerged from the harrowing experience advocating forgiveness and reconciliation.”

I first learned of the film after attending “The Many Faces of Film Series” presented at Scottsdale Community College in conjunction with the Anti-Defamation League. The film shown that evening was “Bullied: A Student, a School and a Case that Made History.”

During a Q & A session following the film, one of Mapendo’s sons stood to share ways parents can teach and model anti-bullying attitudes and behaviors. I enjoyed chatting with the young man, who towered over me much like my own son, with kind eyes and a genuine beaming smile.

Mapendo’s story holds important lessons for all parents — and those who’d like to experience the film in a community setting can see it Thursday, March 31, at the Mesa Arts Center. It’s being shown in the Dobson Lecture Hall at Mesa Contemporary Arts (part of the MAC) at 6:30pm.

Admission is free, but those planning to attend must first RSVP to katie.brown@mesaaz.gov. The film is being presented as part of a City of Mesa “Community Cinema” series, and Mapendo — named the 2009 United Nations Humanitarian of the Year — will present a lecture following the film.

Second, a film titled “Race to Nowhere.” It’s being shown at Yavapai College in Prescott on Friday, April 1, at 7pm. The film is part of a grassroots movement sparked by a mother named Sara Bennett, founder of an organization called “Stop Homework.”

Race to Nowhere” features several experts concerned that American schools may be missing important opportunities to help children “become healthy, bright, contributing and leading citizens” — including educators, clinical psychologists and an adolescent medicine specialist.

Tickets for the Yavapai College screening are $15 at the door or $10 when purchased in advance. Valley residents may enjoy a screening closer to home at some point, but those eager to join the discussion — or perhaps the “End the Race” movement — will enjoy getting a jump on the issue by attending this event.

I’m eager to learn more about the “End the Race” movement — having long witnessed with my own three children the ways standardized testing and mountains of homework have been counterproductive to their development as active, engaged citizens seeking knowledge with joyous curiosity.

Considering that bullying and education are two of the hottest topics in parenting and political circles these days, I hope you’ll make time to experience one or both of these films this week. Then join the discussion, engaging your children, peers, educators and policy makers in moving the conversation forward.

– Lynn

Note: Rose Mapendo will be a guest on “Horizon” on Eight, Arizona PBS on Tuesday, March 29 — which airs at 7pm.

Coming up: An argument for more art and less homework