In the fall of 2012, as Executive Director of the Rex Foundation, I connected with Vy Higgensen, Founder and Executive Director of the Mama Foundation for the Arts in Harlem, after a member of the Rex Foundation Board, already a direct supporter of the Mama Foundation, suggested I learn more about the organization as part of advancing its candidacy for a Rex Foundation grant. The Rex Foundation grant did happen in 2012; we were proud to support the Mama Foundation’s mission to present, preserve, and promote gospel, jazz, and the R&B arts for current and future generations!
In the course of our conversations, I provided Vy with information about The World As It Could Be Human Rights Education Program (TWAICB) so that she could consider how to incorporate the concepts of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in her programmatic work with teens. Vy immediately valued gaining familiarity with the UDHR, and we agreed to stay in touch about how to work with the UDHR in future Mama Foundation productions.
Having retired from Rex in October 2013, I had not had any communication with Vy until Tuesday, November 25th, when she called me to discuss the UDHR’s meaning in connection with the Ferguson grand jury decision. Vy explained that re-reading the UDHR provided a helpful perspective and means of re-channeling energy in the wake of erupting protests and questions about how to bring about true justice. Vy now wants to bring the words of UDHR to her youth to help them think about how to take positive action to right wrongs and support realization of human dignity for everyone.
Vy sent me the link to the video< of the performance of the title song “We Are,” from the 2012 Mama Foundation musical that showcases the participating youth’s strength and vitality. She included the following words she composed to help express the added significance of “We Are” in light of the Ferguson situation:
We are the generation that will make the difference
Don’t kill us
Vy and I hope that seeing this video and added commentary, along with reading the UDHR, will inspire renewed energy to reflect on how our individual actions and those of our leaders can be directed to make the words of the UDHR reality.