Read here for interviews with human rights activists and creative artists.

Interview with Kerry Bystrom, scholar of Human Rights and Creativity


The past five years have seen an explosion in interest in the interplay between creativity and human rights. Kerry Bystrom is on the forefront of this swiftly evolving field. An Assistant Professor in the Foundations of Humanitarianism Program at the University of Connecticut, she also teaches at the University of Witswatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. It’s rare to find someone so well versed in human rights and creativity.

I talked with Bystrom about how she got involved in the field, asked her for emerging trends, and picked her brain for some good reads.


Interview with Lynn Nottage, Pulitzer-Prize Winning Playwright of “Ruined”


Playwright Lynn Nottage has received numerous awards for her groundbreaking work on the stage, including the MacArthur ‘Genius’ Award. A Brooklyn native, she regularly champions social justice issues in her plays. She was recently awarded a Pulitzer Prize for her play Ruined, a hard-hitting tale of a group of women set in a brothel in the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. The women flee the ravages of internecine war and the scars of brutal, mutilating rapes. Yet the characters — even the men — offer touching moments of real warmth, all while united by a lilting soundtrack of Congolese music. Ruined will be staged at the Almeida Theatre in London in March 2010.

Nottage spoke with me about her life as an activist, her work as a dramatist, and the power of stories to effect social change.


Photo of Lynn Nottage by Susan Johann

Interview with Eric Tars, Director of Human Rights at the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty


Eric Tars is the Director of Human Rights at the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. He is considered by his peers to be one of the foremost human rights activists working within the United States today. He’s on the front lines of the battle to realize housing as a human right.


Interview with Mohamed Keita, the Africa researcher of the Committee to Protect Journalists

mohamed keita

Mohamed Keita is the researcher of the Africa division of the Committee to Protect Journalists. The Mali-born activist took time out of his super busy schedule to answer questions about his work.


Photograph by Beowulf Sheehan

Interview with Larry Siems, Director of the PEN American Center Freedom to Write Project.

Larry Siems is the Director of the PEN American Center’s Freedom to Write Project. He has worked to support writers facing persecution in Nigeria, China, Turkey, and the U.S. Siems is also an accomplished poet and author in his own right who received numerous accolades for his book Between the Lines: Letters between Undocumented Mexican and Latin American Immigrants and Their Families and Friends (Harper Collins). He offers the rare, inspiring combination of fervent advocacy and a passion for the creative arts.

Larry spoke to FictionthatMatters about his work. I decided to divide his interview into two parts because he speaks in depth about a variety of complex subjects. The first part was roughly dedicated to literature and letters. (Click on the link to read it.) This second half focuses on his work as an activist.


Interview with Karen Scott of Music for Human Rights


I spoke with the Program Manager of Music for Human Rights Karen Scott about her innovative work. She’s a true music lover and a quick glance at the website will show you how busy she really is. Not everyone can imitate such a high profile organization — Amnesty has over 2 million members — but Karen seems convinced that we can all make a difference.


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