Prompted by the Syrian refugee crisis, this conversation explores the connection between identity and geography.
Artist Meryl Murman joins professor Shereen Naser, community organizer Lugine Gray, community organizer Fernando Lopez, and medical doctor Anjali Niyogi to discuss displacement, trauma and the body, and how art can be used as a tool for social change.
Part of The Lipstick schedule of events.
Meryl Murman is a New Orleans-based artist and human rights organizer working in mixed platforms of dance, film and performance since 2004. Her work has been seen through residencies and commissions in NYC, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Cleveland, and Bangor in addition to being presented at the Fusebox Festival in Austin and eDGe Dance Festival in New Orleans. Internationally, her work has been presented in Berlin Germany, London England, Madrid Spain, Johannesburg South Africa and St. Tropez France, where it has received nominations and awards. She has lectured, taught workshops, and presented research at ImpuslTanz International Dance Festival in Vienna, Austria, and at FIX Art Space in Thessaloniki Greece, as well as various programs and universities in the US including Yale, NYU, and California Institute for the Arts. In New Orleans she co-founded Broken Wings Productions, a laboratory dedicated to experimenting with the intersection of dance and cinema, and is the artistic director of FLOCK, a dance cohort dedicated to developing off-beat performance that stretches the boundaries of contemporary dance. Murman received her BFA from NYU Tisch School of the Arts and her MFA in Choreography and Integrated Media at California Institute for the Arts.
Dr. Shereen Naser is an assistant professor of Psychology at Cleveland State University. Shereen received her doctorate from Tulane University where she studied the impact of trauma on child well-being. As the daughter of Palestinian immigrants, she has always been interested in the roll displacement and acculturation plays in child mental health. Both her work in New Orleans and her work internationally has continued to strengthen this interest. Naser's research and community work focuses on how schools and other service organizations can build capacity for addressing child and family mental health needs, including that of refugee families.
Dr. Anjali Niyogi is an assistant professor of Internal Medicine and Pediatrics and co-founder and director of the global health track at Tulane University School of Medicine. She is also an active member of the Physicians for Human Rights Asylum Network. As part of this network, she works with asylum seekers, many who are victims of torture, to conduct physical evaluations as part of the asylum application. In March 2016, she travelled to Greece to provide medical care to refugees in camps along the Greece-Macedonia border.
Fernando Lopez is lead organizer of the Congress of Day Laborers, a project of the New Orleans Workers Center for Racial Justice. At the Congress of Day Laborers, Fernando Lopez organizes immigrant workers and families across the Southeast Louisiana region through campaigns against criminalization and for civil rights. Fernando co-wrote the report, The Criminal Alien Removal Initiative in New Orleans: The Obama Administration’s Brutal New Frontier in Immigration Enforcement – December 2013. This report reveals the Obama Administration pilot program of race-based community immigration raids that has devastated New Orleans—and warned that it may become the “new normal” for immigrant communities nationwide. Fernando is undocumented and has faced removal proceedings; as a directly affected person, Fernando focuses on grass roots organizing, leadership development and popular education, as well on the use of popular art and photography as a way to uplift the stories of those mostly affected by criminalization and immigration enforcement. Before working with the Congress of Day Laborers, Fernando was a volunteer with the Puente Movement in Phoenix, Arizona and also participated on the Undocubus–Ride for Justice in 2012. Fernando also has a professional culinary background working in the restaurant industry for several years before becoming a full time organizer. Fernando was born and raised in Mexico.
Lugine Gray is a community organizer born and raised in New Orleans, LA. He is the co-founder of The New Orleans Palestinian Solidarity Committee, and took part in organizing the Syrian Refugee Welcome Rally held in December of 2015 alongside Farah Alkhafaf. He is a staff -sergeant and combat veteran in the United States Army, and graduated from Tulane University. His field of study is disaster science and has worked very closely with displaced groups in New Orleans to advocate for social justice. He hopes to build alternative models of community resistance around displaced people.