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Speak Truth to Power : Human Rights Defenders Who Are Changing Our World Hardcover – September 19, 2000
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Anonymous wears a black shroud and a hangman's noose. Unnamed and masked, perhaps he or she will avoid the fate suggested in the haunting photograph that graces the cover of this remarkable book. Anonymous is one of the mostly unsung heroes interviewed by Kerry Kennedy Cuomo who are fighting for human rights in places where torture, imprisonment, and death are the side effects of speaking out against such atrocities as child soldiers, sex slavery, honor killings, and repression of political rights. In Anonymous's case, teaching Sudanese women their rights where a civil war is being waged by Islamic extremists could land him or her in a "ghost house" of torture, or, if lucky, in prison for an undetermined amount of time. In an age when heroes seem almost a thing of the past, these 51 human rights defenders demonstrate that real moral courage is alive and well on planet Earth. As Kennedy Cuomo writes in her introduction, these are the Martin Luther Kings of the world, and "courage, with its affirmation of possibility and change, is what defines them."
For instance, there is Ka Hsaw Wa, who, after hearing stories of horrific torture and abuse from Burmese villagers, took the bold step of bringing a lawsuit against the American oil company Unocal for using human rights abuses to further its profit margins. To protect himself as he gathers documentation, he travels the jungle in black clothes and has had to interview victims using only his memory for lack of pen and paper. Fauziya Kassindja came to her work through no choice of her own--when she fled Togo to escape genital mutilation she found herself shackled and abandoned in the U.S. prison system, and has become a force for change in both countries. Others have seen a need and filled it, such as Muhammed Yunus, who has achieved miraculous results in Bangladesh by giving small loans to those who no one else would entrust with money--poor women without collateral. The results have been nothing less than the transformation of the women, their families, and the political landscape of a nation.
There are also the famous here: Desmond Tutu, Elie Wiesel, Rigoberta Menchu Tum. Václav Havel speaks on becoming a dissident and the divine, while the Dalai Lama talks about compassion, suffering, and nonviolence. These are extraordinary people, and yet they are as human as the rest of us. As Oscar Arias Sanchez says, "One works for justice not for the big victories, but simply because engaging in the struggle is itself worth doing." An inspiring work made beautiful by photographs by renowned photographer Eddie Adams. --Lesley Reed
I cried tears of sadness, joy, and hope. Eloquent and illuminating, these people, from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and North America have much to say and much to teach us about courage, personal fulfillment, and the human spirit. They are an inspiration.
-- Muhammad Ali
Speak Truth to Power gives us an insight into the power of the human spirit. It tells us why and how men and women all over the world struggle against oppression, injustice, and cruelty. There is horror but there is also immense hope in this world where dedicated people translate their commitment to human rights into action.
-- Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Prize Laureate
You cannot kill an idea, you cannot imprison freedom. The lives of the common women and men in this book, heroes every one, inspire all who believe in liberty and justice. This book is a tribute to the human spirit and proof of the capacity of one person of courage to triumph over overwhelming evil.
-- President Nelson Mandela
In one of the most compelling and remarkable examples of exemplary journalism, Eddie Adams and Kerry Kennedy Cuomo have achieved the most breathtaking storytelling possible.
-- Walter Anderson, Parade Publications
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The stories are taken from all over the world -- the Americas, Europe, Asia and Africa. They tell of the lonely struggle of those who seemingly cannot stop themselves from pursing freedom and dignity for their fellows. The stories are simultaneously ennobling, terrifying and challenging. Why are we not all fighters for the rights of our neighbors? WHy are we so often craven and complicit with oppresive powers? Why are so few able to face and withstand the fire of persecution?
As I said, "Speak Truth to Power" is not a light read. But the stories are inspiring and need to be told. For this, I thank Kerry Kennedy Cuomo for her introductions and her selection of material, and to Eddie Adams for the stark and powerful images of the men and women who raise us as a species above the level of beasts.
The photos by Eddie Adams are gripping in their sublime and soft tones making the book a really incredible purchase. My only hope is that more people see this.
Excellent work Ms. Cuomo!
The flyleaf states that "'Speak Truth to Power' is accompanied by a major exhibition opening at The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., then traveling nationally." It almost appears that the story is secondary to the photographs--a pity.