As evidenced by many of the concepts submitted so far, video is a medium that is at the intersection of words, image, and life. What if we could use video to spread the stories and voice of detainees in a safe and anonymous way? Through MY VOICE we could connect protestors and detainees to a global community in an impactful, engaging way.
In coming up with the concept for MY VOICE, I was in part inspired by NPR's
StoryCorps. For those who aren't familiar with StoryCorps, the idea, as stated on their
Facebook page, is to, "provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve their stories." In areas where detainment is a constant threat, who needs to tell their stories more than potential detainees, former detainees, and their families?
Such stories will convey the human-ness (both the strength and the vulnerability) of a movement, or a people, like nothing else can. As pointed out by Kerry Xie in her concept
Raising Empathy - Animated Video Series
, humanizing the victims of detainment should be a key area of focus and concern. In her concept Kerry proposes animated videos, and I agree that video is probably the best way to engage a viewer's empathy and concern.
In an extension of her concept, I suggest showing simple, elegant videos (face-shots only) of real people conveying the stories of the detained and their families, and using these videos to form cultural connections and create empathy on a global scale. Of course, within this premise, several issues arise:
How do we collect the stories?
Two concepts already presented in the Amnesty International challenge would prove the perfect forums to collect people's stories: Anne-Laure Fayard's
Amnesty International III Shift Van
and Ana Cecilia Santos'
Vending Machine / Info Hub
. The shift van and the info hub could function as both stationary (info hub) and mobile (shift van) post offices, in a sense. They could serve as places for potential detainees, former detainees, and the families of current detainees to turn in written versions of their stories, in their own words. They could also potentially serve as ways to record audio versions of people's stories.
Once the stories are collected, where do they go?
Depending on whether the shift van and info hub have access to the internet at a given point of time, the stories could either be snail-mailed through the protection of Amnesty International (or another aid organization) or sent through internet channels, to MY VOICE.
What is MY VOICE?
MY VOICE is a matching service that will pair each storyteller with a voice. I propose collecting two pieces of non-identifying personal information from each storyteller, gender and age. Once MY VOICE receives the story, the stories must be translated (probably to English as that is a widely spoken language, possibly also to Spanish and/or French).
Once the story has been translated, the story will be assigned to a volunteer of the same gender and roughly the same age. These volunteers will be called Ambassadors.
The Ambassador will tell the detainee's story, in the detainee's own words, but the story will be told using the Ambassador's own voice. This way, anonymity of the detainees and families can be maintained, but the story can be told in a natural way by an individual very similar to to the original storyteller (by age and gender). By assigning the story to an Ambassador, MY VOICE is able to give a voice to detainees and their families, while at the same time protecting their anonymity, thus helping to preserve their safety.
As suggested by Rachel, it may be possible to record conversations in addition to individual accounts. An exchange between a father and a daughter, a husband and a wife, etc. discussing how detainment impacted their lives, looking particularly at the separation aspect.
An additional benefit of such a format is that, by using Ambassadors from all over the world, MY VOICE connects people in a global way.
What this format signifies to me, and I hope to others, is that others are willing to speak for detainees when it would be unsafe for them to speak for themselves. Also, I hope that using a global volunteer pool will help other cultures and groups to connect in a more personal way to the detainee's story because they'll be hearing the message from one of their own (i.e., Canada might connect more personally to a detainee's message if the message is delivered by somebody from Canada).
MY VOICE is also a website that will serve two functions. First, it will serve as a place to recruit Ambassadors. To be an Ambassador, one need only provide their age and gender and have access to a video camera and the internet.
Once a matching detainee or family member is assigned, the Ambassador will be responsible for video-taping a reading of the detainee's or family member's story.
Secondly, and most importantly,
MY VOICE will serve as a forum for these stories to be displayed and these voices to be heard. Each voice will get it's own link/page (similar to YouTube). On that page will be the video the volunteer recorded and, attached independently from the video, a PDF of the original letter (pre-translation) or the audio of the original recording (kept in the storyteller's native language).
Of course, it would be unlikely that we could achieve access to those currently suffering illegal detainment. As such,
the primary storytellers would be those living at risk of detainment, those who are now free but have suffered detainment in the past, and the family members of those who are currently detained. Each of these storytellers will add a unique element and a different perspective.
Finally, if the internet infrastructure could be arranged, it would be ideal to
have links embedded into the family member's pages that might connect viewers with ways to provide support.
The overall image would be Jason's
Universal Symbol for Unlawful Detainment
. Each 'I', or bar in the image, could provide a link to a different means of support. One 'I' could link to the microloan portion of
The Detainee Support Net
, one 'I' could link to an online petition to free the detainee, and one 'I' could link to the moral support e-mails that Jason incorporated into The Detainee Support Net.
MY VOICE would create a platform that would allow the international community to assume the role of VOICE for a detainee and/or family member. The format of MY VOICE would ultimately help to foster an empathy and concern for people affected by unlawful detainment. And, finally, by posting the original message (visual or audio) in addition to the video-taped one, MY VOICE would allow detainees and family members to talk about their experiences, to tell their story, in their own words.