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Moral Courage Project to Unveil Exhibit Chronicling Work at U.S.-Mexico Border

The University of Dayton Human Rights Center will unveil "America the Borderland," an exhibit by the center's Moral Courage Project designed to shine a light on human rights defenders at the US-Mexico border, during a free, public reception 7:30 to 9 p.m. Thursday, April 11, in the Keller Hall atrium on the University of Dayton campus.

"In an effort to confront the intense debate around immigration and threats against immigrant rights, our team of undergraduate students and faculty traveled to El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, for two weeks last May to conduct 50 interviews with community leaders, faith leaders, advocates and organizers in an effort to learn what makes them commit themselves to this work," said Joel Pruce, an assistant professor of human rights and coordinator of the Moral Courage Project.

The Moral Courage Project also works with the University of Dayton human rights studies program and PROOF: Media for Social Justice, an organization specializing in visual storytelling for human rights and peacebuilding. In addition to the exhibit, "America the Borderland" consists of a podcast, an interactive website that will go live March 25, and a booklet also to be unveiled April 11.

"I believe storytelling is one of the most powerful ways we can do human rights advocacy. Listening to other people and hearing their stories is a transformative act for the listener and the teller of the story because they are being exposed to someone else's perspective that they've never had before," said Rose Dyar, a human rights studies major who went on the trip to El Paso, Texas.

See a video about the Moral Courage Project in El Paso here.

This is the second edition of the Moral Courage Project for University of Dayton students. The first — "Ferguson Voices: Disrupting the Frame" — collected oral histories of people affected by or involved in the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014. Since its launch in 2017, "Ferguson Voices: Disrupting the Frame" has toured the country. It will open at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee, April 1.

The "America the Borderland" premiere is part of an evening of events recognizing the work of human rights defenders.

Before the exhibit premiere and reception, the University will present its international Romero Human Rights Award to central figures in the investigation and prosecution of one of the largest state-sponsored killings in Latin America in the 20th century — the El Mozote Massacre. David Morales from Cristosal and Ovidio Mauricio Gonzalez and Wilfredo Medrano from Tutela Legal, will receive the award for their efforts to seek justice and accountability for current and past violence in El Salvador.

The honorees, selected by the University of Dayton Human Rights Center, will receive the award from University of Dayton President Eric Spina during a ceremony starting at 6 p.m. in the Kennedy Union Boll Theatre on the University of Dayton campus.

Tutela Legal, originally associated with the Archdiocese in San Salvador during St. Romero's tenure as archbishop, was one of the key human rights agencies that archived and collected stories and evidence during El Salvador's civil war from 1979 to 1992. Tutela Legal continues to promote transitional justice and accountability for contemporary issues of state violence.

Cristosal advances human rights in Central America through rights-based research, learning and programming. Morales was previously the human rights ombudsman for the government of El Salvador and now leads Cristosal’s Observatory on Forced Displacement by Violence covering El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

Created in 2000, the award is presented to an individual or organization promoting the dignity of all human beings and alleviating human suffering. It honors the ministry and martyrdom of St. Romero, a Salvadoran archbishop slain while officiating at a 1980 Mass because of his vocal defense of the human rights of the poor and disenfranchised. Click here to see a list of honorees.

Before the award presentation, the Human Rights Center will host a free, public symposium discussing the links between past and current violence in Latin America and the rights of migrants and asylum seekers in the United States from 4:30 to 5:45 p.m. in the Kennedy Union Boll Theatre. Linda Rivas, executive director and managing attorney for the Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center who is featured in the "America the Borderland" exhibit will speak along with Ashley Feasley, director of policy for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Migrant and Refugee Services; Craig Hovey, director of the Ashland Center for Nonviolence and University of Dayton Human Rights Center Visiting Scholar; and Dayton activist and artist Gabriella Piquett.

For more information or interviews, contact Shawn Robinson at 937-229-3391 or srobinson@udayton.edu.


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