MWO celebrates Free Speech Week, partners with NK defectors

November 20, 2016
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Jackson Hole, Wyoming – In celebration of national Free Speech Week (October 17-21, 2016, www.freespeechweek.org/) Minds Wide Open founder and former alternative weekly newspaper founder/publisher, Mary Grossman, visited the Jackson Hole Community School to discuss and explore freedom of expression issues.

img_0052This year, juniors and seniors in Amy Fulwyler’s Contemporary Issues class covered an array of topics concerning Article 19 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights and the First Amendment including: press laws under repressive regimes (Cuba, Palestinian Authority and North Korea), bloggers and journalists currently incarcerated or threatened for religious criticism (Charlie Hebdo writer, Zineb el Rhazoui –  Singaporean teen vlogger, Amos Yee – and jailed Saudi blogger, Raif Badawi) and the challenges and dangers facing journalists working in conflict areas (Amy Goodman/Democracy Now! and other journalists covering the Dakota Access Pipeline protests).

 

“Students should learn to tolerate a wide spectrum of speech,

including provocative and tabooed speech”

“Students should learn to tolerate a wide spectrum of speech, including provocative and tabooed speech,” said Grossman. “By looking at how speech is manipulated, filtered and suppressed by repressive powers, it helps students identify biases in their own thinking and gives them to tools to approach differing opinions with an open mind.”

As part of their Free Speech Week project, the students had a special opportunity to partner with No Chain, a North Korean defector-led NGO that works to promote a free society in North Korea by dropping USB drives and SD Cards filled with images, movies, music and news from the outside world into North Korea using helicopter drones. See below for details on their project with No Chain.

The class had the opportunity to video chat via Google Hangout with Mr. Jung Gwang-Il (founder of No Chain) who was in South Korea and Mr. Hyun Song (executive director of No Chain) who interpreted questions from Washington, D.C.. Students asked questions about Mr.Jung’s experiences of abuse and torture while living in North Korea, and daily life experiences for women and teens. For more about Mr. Jung and No Chain here is a great interview in the Atlantic Magazinefswjung1

No Chain is also partner with the Human Rights Foundation (www.hrf.org). Grossman learned about No Chain at the HRF’s annual U.S. human rights summit, San Francisco Freedom Forum.

Project Freedom Drives

img_0041Each student was given a USB drive by Grossman and asked to fill it with images, video and documents that represent life growing up in Wyoming and life as a teenager in a free society. The identities of the students were not revealed. Grossman also asked local Jackson Hole contemporary artist, Aaron Wallis, to contribute a USB drive to the collection. Each drive included a document containing the First Amendment translated into Korean. The drives were shipped to Mr. Jung in South Korea and then will be dropped by helicopter drone over North Korea. The hope is that the USB drives will end up on the black market and then viewed by residents of North Korea giving them a window to the world outside of their repressive society.

The drives were delivered to No Chain and Mr. Song in Washington, D.C. in South Korea. The drives were successfully dropped into North Korea in spring of 2017. Success!

screen-shot-2016-10-25-at-7-14-38Grossman says “the USB drive project was a tangible opportunity to help support the concept of a free society within a closed society from here in rural, and very free, Wyoming.”

Lean more about No Chain HERE. 

 

 

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Helping youth exposed to conflict understand their rights to freedom of expression in order to build a more peaceful society.