Voices Against Indifference Initiative

The Wole Soyinka Project: Truth, Memory & Reconciliation

September 2002 – February 2003

Project Description

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With the arts as a primary vehicle for delivering the message of humanity and reconciliation to the Charlotte Region, the focus of The Wole Soyinka Project is to heighten awareness and understanding through education and building bridges across race lines. Using its substantive relationship with area public, private and parochial schools, The Echo Foundation presented curriculum, teacher workshops, lectures, plays, student dialogues and more to students and faculty across the county. Also through the arts, citizens at large will have access to Soyinka’s message in plays, poetry readings, lectures and more.

At Echo, we believe in the words of Echo Honorary Chair, Elie Wiesel, “Education without compassion is a dangerous tool.” Moreover, most people earnestly agree that we cannot, indeed that we dare not raise a generation of citizens that is indifferent to the suffering of others. With the brilliant and powerful Nigerian born Nobel Laureate for Literature, Wole Soyinka, as catalyst, Truth, Memory and Reconciliation addresses this issue head on…. with dignity and respect. Programs of the Project include:

Art Competition for High School Students: (Deadline: 5 PM, Friday, January 4, 2002) Students across the county were asked to submit original works of photography or two-dimensional art, whose focus is justice and reconciliation between diverse racial groups. The contest was advertised in The Charlotte Observer, and educators and arts professionals served as judges.

Writing Competition for High School Students: (Deadline: 5 PM, Friday, January 4, 2002) Students across the county were asked to submit original poetry and prose whose focus is justice and reconciliation between diverse racial groups. The competition was announced in The Charlotte Observer; and educators and arts professionals served as judges. Read the winning entries here.

Book Publication: Comprised of the ten best Art Contest Entries from both photography and two-dimensional art, and the ten best Writing Contest Entries from both poetry and prose, a book was published. With a forward by Wole Soyinka, it was used as a thank you and sold to raise funds to support future Echo projects.

High School Drama Class Play Production: Under the direction of Charlotte Repertory Theater, a local high school scripted and produced a play relating to the life of Wole Soyinka.

Film Festival: (January – February 2002) Hosted by the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. Films that represent the Soyinka Project mission, such as Long Night’s Journey into Day, a film documenting the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Lumumba, a film documenting the life and assassination of Congo’s first democratic president, Patrice Lumumba, made up the series. Director Raoul Peck, (Lumumba) was invited to the opening.

Teacher Workshops: (Available in January 2002 free of charge) Curriculum guides were created by a student advisory panel with faculty direction. Copies of this guide will be distributed to teachers in Charlotte-Mecklenburg County to prepare students for their dialogue with Professor Soyinka. The curriculum focused on Africa, issues of human rights and reconciliation and Soyinka’s literary works.

Student Tolerance Day: (January 24, 2002) Providence High School hosted 700 students from across Charlotte-Mecklenburg County including local public, private schools, home-schooled children, as well as students from Hyde School, Bath, Maine, and the Paideia School in Atlanta, to prepare for the Student Dialogue. Students were introduced to The Echo Foundation, Wole Soyinka, and were educated on topics specific to project themes. Small groups  formed for discussion and generation of ideas for questions at the Student Dialogue.

Student Dialogue: (February 20, 2002) Providence High School hosted a 1.5-hour discussion between students and Professor Soyinka. Students will base their questions on knowledge acquired from their studies using the curriculum guide and Student Tolerance Day. This will be the culmination and the exclamation mark of The Wole Soyinka Project: Truth, Memory, and Reconciliation. WJZY generously committed to creating a documentary of this educational event in Charlotte to be shared nation-wide.

Keynote Address: (February 19, 2002 Hilton Charlotte & Towers) With an introduction by author, Maya Angelou, 1986 Nobel Laureate for Literature, Wole Soyinka was the Keynote Speaker at the Third Annual Echo Award Dinner. His address on the topic of Truth, Memory and Reconciliation was delivered to approximately 700 guest.

Staged Reading: (February 20, 2002 Booth Playhouse) The African American Play Festival presented a staged reading of Soyinka’s work at the Booth Playhouse, followed by an audience dialogue with the playwright.

Soyinka Poetry: (February 21, 2002) One evening of Soyinka’s February visit will be devoted to his poetry. Moving Poets, a local dance and mullet-media troupe, performed an interpretation of Soyinka poetry followed by readings by Soyinka himself. Audience discussion followed.