If you’re looking for a powerful, thought-provoking film to see this summer, look no further than Finding Fela—a new documentary that opened this past Friday in New York City at IFC and has bookings throughout the country opening on various dates this month.
Fela Kuti was the brilliant Nigerian performer who became a human rights activist challenging the corrupt government in his country. He used his music as a mobilizing force, galvanizing others to join him in the battle for social and political change. During his lifetime, he became a beacon for oppressed peoples in Nigeria, in Africa and elsewhere in the world. He also became a target for his government, which was eager to silence him and stop his organizing. Read More
Over the past week, the search for more than 250 girls abducted from a school in northern Nigeria has intensified. The U.S. and other countries are now assisting the Nigerian government in an effort to quickly locate the girls and their captors, the Islamic militant group Boko Haram.
Protesters in Nigeria call for an end to Boko Haram terrorism, including the kidnapping of the schoolgirls. Photo courtesy of Spaces for Change
International media and U.S. activists and politicians have continued to focus attention on the story, particularly after the Monday release of a video showing the girls in captivity. In addition to repeated calls for the girls’ freedom, the story has sparked debate about a spectrum of problems facing Nigeria and how foreign countries should (or should not) assist in counter-terrorism efforts there.
Demonstrators in Nairobi, Kenya rally against wave of anti-gay legislation in Africa. Photo: Getty Images.
The ancient rabbi Hillel famously asked: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?” I feel it is important to answer the first two questions in the way Hillel hoped—that we must stand up for both ourselves and for others. (After 40 years as a legislator, my answer to the third is “as soon as we have the votes.”)
On Purim, Jews remember the oppression we faced and overcame in ancient Persia and throughout our history. With Hillel’s questions in mind, we must rededicate ourselves to combating anti-Semitism throughout the world and to combating the oppression of others.
Is Shell Oil too big to punish?
That’s the question that our friends at EarthRights International (ERI) asked during their recent campaign in which they called upon the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold human rights for people who have been exploited by big businesses.
In October of 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments for Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum (Shell Oil). Shell, through its work with Nigeria’s military regime, was accused of killing nine peaceful protesters and the torture of countless others in the Ogoni region of the Niger Delta. Specifically, the plaintiffs of the case allege that “Shell bribed and tampered with witnesses and paid Nigerian security forces that attacked Ogoni villages.” The case was originally filed in 2002 by 12 Nigerian refugees who are now living in political asylum in the United States. The lead plaintiff, Esther Kiobel, was married to one of the “Ogoni Nine”—a group of nine activists from the Ogoni region of Nigeria who were executed by hanging in 1995 by the military dictatorship of General Sani Abacha. Read More