PHOTO: Rohingya musicians perform in the refugee camps in Bangladesh. Photo by Bengal Creative Media.
BY LAUREN FORTGANG
This April, a group of Portland-area organizations and museums will host “Rising Up for Human Dignity: Resisting Cultural Erasure,” a virtual series of events to honor Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month.
Raphael Lemkin, who is best known for coining the term “genocide,” also coined the word “ethnocide” in 1944, to describe the systemic erasure of a people’s ancestral culture. This series looks at the attempted erasure of particular cultures in weekly discussions throughout April. The series examines the consequences of existing within ongoing erasure and the radical resilience communities exhibit to not only survive but to thrive. (Three related events are listed at the bottom of this story.)
The series begins April 7 with a conversation with author Barrett Holmes Pitner and historian Jennifer Fang on ethnocide in America. They will discuss how reframing discussions to include ethnocide can change the way we understand today’s diverse and rapidly evolving racial and political climate. Pitner’s book, The Crime Without a Name: Ethnocide and the Erasure of Culture in America, was named by NPR as one of its top books of the year. Fang co-edited a special issue of the Oregon Historical Quarterly about Oregon’s early Chinese diaspora.
Two noontime talks follow. The first is April 14 on the Rohingya, who for decades have experienced a genocidal campaign aimed at erasing them through any means possible, including the stripping of rights – education, worship, livelihoods, citizenship and more. In the face of this relentless campaign, the Rohingya within Myanmar (formerly Burma) and throughout the world have persevered. This discussion examines how Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are working to restore culture through creative projects and finding stories of hope.
The April 21 talk will explore Oregon’s native peoples struggles. Today, tribes in Oregon are working to heal from the centuries of trauma while forming relationships with and educating non-Native organizations, students and neighbors about the histories, cultures and governments of their people. This noon talk will focus on what tribes have been forced to do to survive and how they use education, relationships and sovereignty to maintain their cultures and benefit the broader community today.
The series ends April 28 with a Reading of Names in Pioneer Courthouse Square on Yom Hashoah, also known as Holocaust Remembrance Day. This fitting end to the series recognizes that reading the names of people who perished in the Holocaust serves as evidence that the Nazi attempt to erase Jewish people did not succeed.
“Rising Up for Human Dignity: Resisting Cultural Erasure” is presented in partnership by the Never Again Coalition, Oregon Historical Society, Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education, Portland State University’s Holocaust and Genocide Studies Project, WorldOregon, and co-sponsors The Immigrant Story, Japanese American Museum of Oregon, Portland Chinatown Museum, Five Oaks Museum, Native Arts and Culture Foundation, and Kol Shalom Community for Humanistic Judaism with the support of Rabbi Eve Posen.
Details on the series, individual events and registration: neveragaincoalition.org/rising-up-april-2022.
Lauren Fortgang is the director and co-founder of the Never Again Coalition.
In addition to the Rising up for Human Dignity program, OJMCHE and/or The Immigrant Story present these three events:
April 1, 7-9 pm
I Am My Story: Voices of Hope
An evening program at First Congregational UCC honoring the voices and music of survivors of genocides and atrocities of war. Storytellers from Bosnia, Rwanda and Syria will present first-person accounts of courage, fortitude and resilience.
April 15, noon
Interrupting Violence: From the Holocaust to Modern Hate Groups
Three experts will discuss de-escalating violent conflict using an epidemic-control model to interrupt and stop the spread of violence and how this model can be applied to right-wing extremism in the Pacific Northwest.
April 24, 2 pm
To Bear Witness: The Movie
These stories of seven survivors of the Holocaust, genocide and atrocities of war were produced to be a part of the “To Bear Witness” exhibit at OJMCHE.