January 22, 2020
Art has always addressed and exposed injustice in the world and has served as a catalyst for meaningful change throughout cultures.
Equality is not the experience of many Americans today in their own country. While home to only 5% of the world’s population, the U.S. has 25% of the world’s prison population. Among mass incarceration, issues of continued racism, sexism, and income inequality still widely persist. Individuals are taking a stand for change and are using art as their instrument. As such, art has become one of the greatest tools to advocate for social justice.
This is also true in movements around the globe. In this panel discussion, the John Brademas Center of New York University welcomed Shahidul Alam, renowned Bangladeshi photographer, writer, activist, and author of his new book, The Tide Will Turn. Shahidul, whose first U.S. retrospective, “Truth to Power,” is currently on view at the Rubin Museum of Art, provided remarks pertaining to his work then join in conversation with other prominent activists to discuss their life’s work dedicated to social justice and their use of art in order to achieve it.
Photographer, writer, curator and human rights activist Shahidul Alam obtained a PhD in Chemistry from London University before taking up photography. Returning to his hometown Dhaka in 1984, he documented the democratic struggle to remove General Ershad. President of the Bangladesh Photographic Society for three terms, Alam set up the Drik agency; Bangladesh Photographic Institute; Chobi Mela festival; Majority World agency and Pathshala South Asian Media Institute. A new media pioneer, Alam introduced email to Bangladesh in the early 1990s.
His work has been shown at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Centre Pompidou, Paris and Tate Modern, London. He has been a guest curator at the Whitechapel Gallery, London; Fotomuseum Wintherthur, Switzerland; National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur; Musée du quai Branly, Paris; Brussels Biennial and the Auckland Festival of Photography. His awards include the Shilpakala Padak, the highest cultural award given to Bangladeshi artists, a Lucie Award and the ICP Award. Time magazine named Alam as one of their ‘Persons of the Year’ in 2018.
Alam has written and edited several publications including My Journey as a Witness in 2011. His exhibition, Kalpana’s Warriors, was shown at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2015 in Malta, and Best Years of my Life was shown at the Global Forum on Migration and Development in Berlin in 2017.
A speaker at Harvard, Stanford, UCLA, Oxford and Cambridge universities, Alam has been a jury member for the Prix Pictet and World Press Photo, which he chaired. Alam is a visiting professor of Sunderland University and an honorary fellow of the Royal Photographic Society.
As a community arts practitioner, writer, and educator Piper Anderson has dedicated her life to using the arts and education to advocate for social justice. In 2001, realizing the destructive impact of prisons and policing on her community, a 21-year-old Anderson became Blackout Arts Collective’s Lyrics on Lockdown National Tour Coordinator and directed the cultural campaign that reached more than twenty-five US communities creatively catalyzing a dialogue about the urgent need for criminal justice reform. Lyrics on Lockdown is now a course at NYU, taught by Anderson, where the mission has become to inspire the next generation of leaders to be advocates and practitioners for justice. Over the last fifteen years, Anderson has cultivated her “arts for social transformation” practice working in communities internationally. Her work integrates the arts, education, and a range of healing practices. She serves as Director of Education and Artist Development for Young Audiences New York, where she designs innovative arts education programs that enrich and enliven the learning experience for young people, preparing them to be engaged 21st century citizens. She holds a bachelor’s degree from The New School, where she was a Riggio Writing Democracy Fellow, and a Master’s in Applied Theatre from CUNY.
Indira Etwaroo, Ph.D, is a producer, educator, scholar, and non-profit arts leader. She has worked with institutions across the country and the world to explore the complex intersections between community, performing and visual arts and the topics-of-our-time. A Fulbright Scholar, Indira has received numerous awards and honors for her work, including being named one of The Network Journal’s “40 under 40” national leaders. Indira joined the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation in 2015 to provide the vision, strategic direction, fundraising leadership, management and partnership expertise for one of Brooklyn’s cultural and artistic anchors. With her team of dynamic arts leaders, she has reimagined arts and culture at Restoration as a dynamic, 21st-century, world-class creative complex, proudly serving Brooklyn, which is the largest community of people of African descent in the nation.
Indira received her Ph.D. in Cultural Studies and Master’s Degree in Dance Education from Temple University, where she taught undergraduate and graduate lecture courses. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Music from Longwood University. She is currently an adjunct faculty at New York University. She is recognized as a powerhouse, trailblazer and visionary whose many contributions to the arts include being the Founding Executive Producer of the multiplatform, state-of-the-art Jerome L. Greene Performance Space at New York Public Radio, which produced the first-ever recordings of August Wilson’s American Century Cycle and the American Radio Broadcast Premiere of “Their Eyes Were Watching God.”