Sunday, February 13, 2011

Working with artists in Tanzania for

I am currently in Tanzania with two Brooklyn based artists - Maya Azucena and Okai - and we are working with some of Tanzania's most well-known artists on a new song and mini doc for

Check out the article posted on the UN wire below. I'll post more soon - internet is spotty in Tanzania.

9 February 2011 – The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has teamed up with a group of artists from the United States and Tanzania to raise awareness, through music, on the need to have better maternal health services in the East African nation, where deaths related to childbearing remain a serious challenge.
The collaboration, made possible with the help of the global network of artists known as, just concluded a three-day music workshop with the production of a song calling for increased attention to maternal health in the country.

Goal number 5 of the eight globally agreed anti-poverty Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) calls for the reduction of maternal mortality deaths by three quarters, and the attainment of universal access to reproductive health services by the target date of 2015.

The music workshop featured co-founders Emmy-winning filmmaker Lisa Russell and Grammy-winning singer Maya Azucena, and New York’s famous MC Okai, along with a group of Tanzanian stars, including Lady Jay Dee, Mzungu Kichaa, Mrisho Mpoto, FidQ, Sauda and Mama C.

The song produced at the end of the Arts and Advocacy workshop calls on world leaders to pay greater attention to the rights of women and girls, and urges the people of Tanzania to further empower, engage and encourage women as partners in development.

A short documentary film will also be produced featuring interviews with participating artists and maternal health representatives and highlighting the importance of uniting artists and activists around maternal health.

“UNFPA believes that artists have an important role in shaping opinions, informing the public and advocating for positive change,” said Dr. Julitta Onabanjo, UNFPA’s representative in Tanzania.

“While the voices of the marginalized are often not heard, the voices of artists break boundaries and are heard by all, the young and old, community leaders and policy makers, opinion shapers and development practitioners,” she added.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Here is some information on my recent film, "YOUTH ZONES" produced with UNFPA and the Women's Refugee Commission. Check out the film above and our website at

Youth Zones: Dealing with the Aftermath of Conflict or Natural Disasters

In conflicts and natural disasters around the world, young people, at a crucial stage of their development, are faced with profound challenges. Emergencies often steal their adolescence and force them to undertake adult responsibilities. The structures and institutions that should guarantee their secure, peaceful development – schools, family, community and health centres – have often broken down, leaving them with little, if any, support. Access to basic sexual and reproductive health services, including information on sexually transmitted infections and HIV, is often impossible.

Yet in the midst of hardship and deprivation, young people show tremendous resilience. They raise their younger siblings, form youth groups and organizations, put food on the table for their families, conduct peer education activities, contribute to peace movements, galvanize their communities and contribute in numerous other ways to positive change.

But many of their stories are never told, many of their voices are not heard.

However, a new film, Youth Zones, Voices from Emergencies, produced in association with UNFPA and the Women's Refugee Commission, documents the lives of young people affected by conflict and natural disaster in five countries.

Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Lisa Russell, accompanied by spoken word poet Luke Nephew and youth activist Chernor Bah, facilitated discussions and conducted creative writing and poetry workshops with youth from Colombia, Lebanon, Liberia, Northern Uganda and New Orleans. The 25-minute film profiles youth who work as educators, peace activists, healthcare assistants and drama mentors in an effort to rehabilitate their communities after emergencies.

Filmmed in English, Spanish, Arabic, and Luo with English subtitles.