Raising Awareness: Social and Global Impacts of Injustice Through Creative Media (Summer 2015)

By Michelle “Zephyr” Williams, HasNa, Inc.

We all have a stake in creating a just society, and one hurdle is to convince even those less compassionate or in positions of power that it is in their best interest to promote justice within their own spheres of influence. Film, art, and music can be effective ways of raising awareness about issues and injustices; sometimes people are more receptive when an issue is presented in a way that they might be more able to relate to.

In early July, HasNa had an opportunity to work with local high school students. GWU’s Institute for Middle East Studies was partnering with the Summer Scholars Program on Foreign Policy at Georgetown Preparatory School. This year, the focus of the program was on Turkey – which is also where most of HasNa’s peacebuilding and development programs are located. Thus, HasNa screened a film (“Come to my Voice”) highlighting the struggle of the Kurdish population in Turkey. Following the film, the students were engaged in a discussion.

Several students were able to find parallels between the villagers in the film and minority group struggles within their own countries. Some from the US and the Dominican Republic demonstrated awareness of recent mistreatment and murders of black citizens by the state, and of new, controversial Dominican policies toward undocumented Haitian residents, respectively. But others were perhaps struggling with first-time exposure to the harsh realities of an oppressed group; or perhaps they were not sure how these difficulties related to them.

The challenges with the students were not unique.

It may be difficult to understand how even regions and populations that don’t seem to directly affect us may end up having indirect effects, especially in this age of globalization. All those who work for progress face the tricky task of raising awareness of these interconnections – e.g., oppressive policies, financial corruption, etc. which can impact an entire region/system through social, economic or refugee crises. That is where creative media comes into play – to introduce new ideas and perspectives that quietly influence preconceived notions.