Speaking Truth to Power in the Real World

May 19, 2022

Listen as three of the good “guys” discuss the reality in the trenches of the fight for human rights. Kenyan poet Sitawa Namwalie, Bangladeshi photographer and activist Shahidul Alam, and American human rights lawyer Jared Genser. At a time when autocrats are rampaging and, by many measures, our democracies are weakening, the need for citizens to defend their rights has never been greater.


Shahidul Alam. 

A Time Magazine Person of the Year 2018, photographer, writer, curator and activist, Shahidul Alam obtained a PhD in chemistry from London University before taking up photography. Returning to Dhaka in 1984, he documented the democratic struggle to remove General Ershad. A former president of the Bangladesh Photographic Society, Alam set up Drik agency, Bangladesh Photographic Institute, Chobi Mela festival, Majority World agency and Pathshala, the South Asian Media Institute, considered one of the finest schools of photography in the world.

Shown in MOMA, Centre Georges Pompidou and Tate Modern and a speaker at Harvard, Stanford, UCLA, Oxford and Cambridge universities, Alam guest curated at Whitechapel Gallery and Musee de Quai Branly. His awards include Shilpakala Padak, the highest national award given to Bangladeshi artists, as well as the Infinity and Lucie Foundation Awards. In 2020 he was given the International Press Freedom Award by the Committee to Protect Journalists. John Morris of Life Magazine described his book “My journey as a witness” as “The most important book ever written by a photographer.”

Alam introduced email to Bangladesh in the early nineties. In 2018 he was jailed for over 100 days for criticising his government. His recent book “The Tide Will Turn” is in the New York Time’s list of ‘Best Art Books of 2020’. His show “Truth to Power” currently touring the USA has received critical acclaim

Jared Genser is Managing Director of Perseus Strategies, Special Advisor on the Responsibility to Protect to the Organization of American States, and an Adjunct Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center. Referred to by the New York Times as “The Extractor” for his work freeing political prisoners, he is also co-Executive Producer of a dramatic TV series based on his life being developed with actor and producer Orlando Bloom by Amazon Studios for Prime Video, which has 175 million viewers worldwide. Genser was previously a partner in the government affairs practice of DLA Piper LLP and a management consultant with McKinsey & Company.

Genser has taught semester-long seminars about the UN Security Council at Georgetown University Law Center and the University of Michigan and University of Pennsylvania law schools. He was an Associate of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University from 2014-2016, a Visiting Fellow with the National Endowment for Democracy from 2006-2007, and was previously named by the National Law Journal as one of “40 Under 40: Washington’s Rising Stars.” His past clients have included former Czech Republic President Václav Havel, former Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed, and Nobel Peace Prize Laureates Desmond Tutu, Liu Xiaobo, and Elie Wiesel. Coming from his experience freeing his first client as a law student, in 2001 he founded Freedom Now, a non-governmental organization that works to free prisoners of conscience worldwide.

He holds a B.S. from Cornell University, an M.P.P. from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, where he was an Alumni Public Service Fellow, and a J.D. cum laude from the University of Michigan Law School.

Genser is author of The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention: Commentary and Guide to Practice (Cambridge University Press, 2019). In addition, he is co-editor of The UN Security Council in the Age of Human Rights (Cambridge University Press, 2016) and The Responsibility to Protect: The Promise of Stopping Mass Atrocities in Our Times (Oxford University Press, 2011). He is a recipient of the Tällberg Eliasson Global Leadership Prize, American Bar Association’s International Human Rights Award, Liberty in North Korea’s Freedom Fighter Award, and the Charles Bronfman Prize. He is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts. And he was selected as a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum (Class of 2008).

Sitawa Namwalie is an award winning Kenyan poet, playwright and performer known for her unique dramatized poetry performances which combine poetry and traditional Kenyan music to create performances. Her growing body of work includes “Cut off My Tongue,” performed in East Africa and at the Hay Festival 2009; “Homecoming” (2011), “Silence is a Woman”, (2014) and “Performing Nairobi: The Stories and Drama of a City”, two plays, “Black Maria on Koinange Street” and “Room of Lost Names” (2015).

Curator for photographic exhibition entitled, “Our Grandmother’s in Miniskirt” crowd sourced photographs and stories of Kenyan women from 1900 to 1980s.

Sitawa has worked with the United Nations and the World Bank. She holds a BSc. in Botany and Zoology from the University of Nairobi and an MA from Clark University in Massachusetts, USA. Sitawa has achieved excellence in many areas of life, including representing Kenya in tennis and hockey in her youth.

At a time when autocrats are rampaging and, by many measures, our democracies are weakening, the need for citizens to defend their rights has never been greater. But, does speaking truth to power matter in the real world? While we celebrate the bravery and eloquence of those who stand up to injustice and overweening authority, too often the bad guys seem to win. What would it take to change that outcome?

The Tällberg Foundation recently hosted a conversation among three of the good “guys:”Kenyan poet Sitawa Namwalie, Bangladeshi photographer and activist Shahidul Alam, and American human rights lawyer Jared Genser. Their conversation was hosted in Vamvakou, Greece by Vamvakou Revival and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF).

Listen as they discuss the reality in the trenches of the fight for human rights.

What do you think? Comment below. 

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  1. Abdul Monir

    Yes, I also like to speak the truth for humanity and mankind., Putin is doing wrong he is destroying the civilization – we should protect it!

  2. Philosopher-Dr-Odhiambo Swa-Makaduol

    I really love the foundation’s activities around the world.

    I wish to promote and strengthen the activisms of Sociodemotheocracy for Africanization and Africanism that will see the growth of Liberal Democracy experience in African Countries.
    African Politicians are the killers of the lack of Africanization achievement in African Countries.
    The African politicians are busy in politics and leadership only to enrich themselves like did Mobutu Seseseko did in DRC Congo among others in African Countries.
    Africa needs an urgent liberation from my brain, heart, principles and philosophy unique to transform the whole continent.
    I really need a team of the strong democracy and liberation to hold my hands and move around African countries to motivate and inspire young leaders to manufacture them as new rethinking rethinkers on Sociodemotheocratic leadership and governance in African Countries.
    I will be able to enable them deeply understand where rain of neocolonialism and exploitation started beating us in Africa.
    Africa would not be transformed by angels of non Africans but Africans themselves are the key holders of African solutions.
    I wish if Tallber Foundation Team of great men and women could identify my clandestine underground packages for a transforming African politics, social inclusion and economic diversified growth inclusion through policies, regulations, legislations and Constitutionality dispensation.
    I’m a God gifted and talented African Sociodemotheocratic PowerPoint leader of the 21st century.
    I’m willing to hear from Tallber Foundation Team soon.
    Philosopher Dr Odhiambo Swa Makaduol,
    Executive Director,
    Citizenry Human Welfare Centre -Kenya.
    Email: citizenryhumanwelfarecentre@yahoo.com
    Contacts: +254-723-046-685


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