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AFP Festival Returns with Focus on Engagement and Leadership

AFP Festival Returns with Focus on Engagement and Leadership

Posted: September 23, 2016

Every fall for the past seven years, Buffalo State has hosted the multidisciplinary Anne Frank Project (AFP) conference in which musicians, thespians, poets, visual artists, and academics join forces with genocide survivors to highlight the need for social justice in a rapidly changing world.

Through the years organizers have honed AFP to what it is today—more celebratory festival than conference, more participant-based than passive listening.

The 2016 AFP social justice festival, which will be held September 28 and 29, is intended to get participants moving, sharing, and engaging in the workshops and performances that reflect the theme “Engage. Lead. Improve the World.”

All workshops and performances take place in the Campbell Student Union Social Hall, while the art exhibits can be found in Upton Hall. As always, it’s free and open to the public.

“We’ve learned that we are not producers of an academic conference. That isn’t what AFP should be,” said Drew Kahn, AFP founder and director and professor of theater. “This year we’ll be offering more kinetic workshops given by some of the presenters whose messages resonated with past audiences as well as introducing some new voices.”

There also are fewer workshops this year, and each one lasts more than 90 minutes so that presenters can delve further into the topics, noted Eve Everette, AFP assistant director.

AFP has evolved into much more than a yearly event. Since 2013, Kahn, Everette and students in one course have transported the storytelling model into Buffalo Public Schools. Through regular visits every fall, they help middle- and high school-students grapple with problems such as bullying and suicide. And since 2011, a small cadre of students under Kahn’s supervision has traveled in January to Rwanda. There they create and perform plays with Rwandan college students and engage in community-building projects.

In 2015, Kahn, along with one School of Education professor and handful of students, introduced the AFP curricular model into Rwanda’s Gasabo district classrooms. This is an ongoing project that is still expanding. Kahn showcased the campus’s unique involvement in Rwanda in a presentation at the SUNY Global Center in New York City last summer.

As part of the AFP Festival, the public can get a glimpse into the students’ most recent Rwanda trip. Buffalo State photographer Bruce Fox’s exhibit Through the Lens is a compilation of images he took in January when the group visited genocide memorials, refugee camps, prisons, wildlife reserves, and orphanages. The exhibit can be viewed in the Czurles-Nelson Gallery September 26–30 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Fox also will give a reflective talk on the trip on Thursday, September 29, from 12:15 to 1:30 p.m. in the gallery.

Another compelling exhibit, Nine American Boys, is a project that Alice Pennisi, chair and associate professor of art education, created. She pays tribute to nine African American youths who were falsely accused of raping two white women in Alabama in 1931. Although eight of the nine were sentenced to death, international protests resulted in their release over a span of almost 20 years.

Pennisi painted portraits of boys as if they were school portraits, showing their youth and innocence.

“I want visitors to consider how we treat not only teenagers, but particularly male youth of color,” Pennisi wrote in the program summary of her exhibit. “I also want visitors to know that these ‘boys’ were nine individuals with potential if given opportunities so many of us were given.”

The exhibit will be on display September 26 through October 8 in the Dr. Margaret Eschner Bacon Student Gallery. Pennisi will give a talk followed by a reflective art/writing activity on Tuesday, September 27, at 12:15 p.m. outside the gallery. 

Jason Parker, diversity program coordinator for the Equity and Campus Diversity Office, will present an accompanying discussion, “Wrongful Conviction: Guilty Until Proven Innocent,” with Kara Oliver and Marc Rummenie of the National Federation for Just Communities of Western New York on Wednesday, September 28, from noon to 1:45 p.m. outside Bacon Gallery.

Other workshops and performances over the two days:

  • Students will perform a one-act play they wrote Hello, My Name is — on Wednesday, September 28, at 10:00 a.m.
  • Sophia Veffer, Salumu Honore, and Dep Raij will share stories of survival of such atrocities as the Holocaust and the civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo during a panel discussion on September 28, at 2:00 p.m.
  • Poet Jasmine Mans will explain how to use art as protest on September 28 at 8:00 p.m.
  • Local puppeteer Michele Costa will present From Memory on Thursday, September 29,  at 2:00 p.m. with a follow-up workshop on living in the present moment.


View full schedule and register for events. For more information, call (716) 878-5559. 

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