The Poetic Portraits of a Revolution project (PPR) has sent nationally-renowned spoken-word poets and youth educators Kane Smego and Will McInerney, along with project translator and interpreter Mohammad Moussa and professional photographer and videographer Sameer Abdel-khalek to the streets and communities of Egypt and Tunisia from June 15 – August 9. The team is capturing images and emotions of the revolution through poetic reflections, oral interviews, still photography, and video. Inspired by the youth-lead movements in North Africa, Smego, a recent college graduate, and the other three members of the PPR team who are current students, see this project as an opportunity for young people to take an active role in capturing and sharing living history. The project will powerfully convey what it would be like to experience in person one of the most significant social movements of the new millennium through the stories of the people themselves and the art that they inspire.
The project is being produced by the Academy Award-winning organization, Empowerment Project. Coordinated by acclaimed documentarians, David Kasper and Barbara Trent, Empowerment Project has been supporting media activism and social change since 1984. Their extensive experience includes filmmaking and distribution, consulting, training, public speaking, and programs in sustainable living. Empowerment Project is a not-for-profit 501(c) 3 tax-exempt organization.
Coupling artistic innovation with practical application, the PPR team is working to raise awareness around the situation in Egypt and Tunisia by depicting the experiences of everyday people in both countries, and bringing those stories home to inspire organizing in the US. They are linking up with local organizations and individuals on the ground to set up interviews and collect oral histories from people of all walks of life with the intention of covering a wide spectrum of perspectives– from organizers, journalists, teachers, and internet activists, to laborers, women, youth, politicians, and elders. The poetry and recordings they have gathered have been featured as radio segments on the American Public Media show “The Story” with Dick Gordon, as well as the state-wide program “Morning Edition” on WUNC 91.5. In addition, the poetry, oral interview recordings, photographs and video footage will be transformed into a live theater production to be presented across the country and internationally. The project’s photographs, poems, and transcribed oral interviews will also be compiled into a book publication. The ultimate goal is to raise international awareness around the experiences of people in both countries, as well as to offer connections between the revolutions in North Africa and current social and political movements in the United States and abroad. In addition, the project aims to promote alternative forms of news and information transmission that break from the sensationalized conventions of mainstream media, and focus on the human and emotional element of stories that are often lost in the facts. PPR seeks to combat anti-Arabism, Islamophobia, as well as one-dimensional, or romanticized conceptions of revolution by covering a broad range of perspectives within these monumental movements for change.