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OpenForum Blog:

A Call for Engagement

Posted on May 25, 2017 in Uncategorized

On Friday, May 19th, Forum hosted a post-performance Talk Tank discussion following Building the Wall.  The panel featured Ajmel Quereshi, senior counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and a board member with the ACLU of Maryland, and Jamie Stiehm, a syndicated columnist with Creators and an opinion contributor for US News & World Report. Michael Feldman (@ArtsConnectedDC), the principal of Transitions International, moderated the conversation.

Forum’s May 3rd Talk Tank conversation concluded that we as a society are struggling to find the language to communicate our shared values and common humanity.  Our May 19th discussion asked how arts, media, and advocacy groups – as well as all of us - can bridge this gap.

Building the Wall sparked a discussion of what constitutes “complicity in immoral acts,” and what it takes to destroy someone’s moral compass. Panelists and audience members grappled with the choices made by the character of Rick, a disgraced private prison supervisor, to participate in unconscionable actions. The group also agreed on the importance of giving full voice to the victimized Latinx detained persons.

Ajmel stressed that the human suffering and threats to civil liberties as depicted in the play are already taking place in the U.S., including the deaths of detainees through negligence. Both panelists suggested that watchdogs like the ACLU and the media have made progress in upholding our society’s moral standards. Ajmel noted that their role in the fight against U.S. torture and detention practices demonstrated the effectiveness and importance of advocacy groups and the media.

Audience members shared stories about struggling to find enough common ground to have productive conversations about human needs and shared dreams. In response, Jamie and Ajmel stressed the need for continued engagement with these issues in both daily life and the political process. They also underlined that everyone needs to feel heard before anyone will be able to hear and engage with other points of view.  

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