Beauty, Sincerity, Vulnerability, Engagement

Opening a space where artists, politicians and the spirit can meet

The International Human Rights Art Festival offers an ongoing series of art-advocacy events, festivals, workshops and community programs at the intersection of art, spirit and society.  We open up space to hear different points of view, to listen to unique stories and perspectives.  We believe that beauty, sincerity and vulnerability are the most powerful tools in the activist’s toolbox.  We engage in open-hearted creativity and discourse with politicians, social leaders and others as partners, not adversaries.

We partner with artists whose work is based in the mystical/activist "I am" or "I should," as opposed to the political/religious/oppositional "you are" or "you should."  

We open space for healing, reflection and engagement with those we agree with, as well as others who might seem foreign.

The International Human Rights Art Festival is a 501c3 not-for-profit organization.



Media Partner

Shalom/Salaam: A Voyage to Muslim-Jewish Solidarity April 14, 1:00-8:30 pm, Actors Theatre Workshop, 145 W. 28th Street, New York, NY 10001.

Tickets and further information: HERE.

This will be a full-day conference in conjunction with the Muslim-Jewish Solidarity Committee of NY exploring the cultural, historical and spiritual affinities between members of these two Abrahamic faiths. Beginning at 1 pm, we will spend the afternoon in conversation, workshops, talks, and finish with an evening performance, including dance, theatre and music. The full-day schedule will comprise:

12:30-1:15: check in at the theatre

1:15-1:45: Introductions to the work of the Muslim-Jewish Solidarity Committee and the International Human Rights Art Festival, followed by a meditation niggun (chant) led by Jewish spiritual practitioner Eliezer Sobel.

2:00-3:00: A reading and discussion of medieval Muslim-Jewish poetry, which often used extremely sensual imagery to describe the spiritual path. This will be followed by a writing workshop to create our own poem. The workshop is being run by Muslim Writers Collective member Monna Sabouri.

3:00-3:45: Shalom/Salaam book talk and discussion, based on Tom Block's groundbreaking study of the influence of Sufism on medieval Jewish mysticism, Shalom/Salaam: A Story of a Mystical Fraternity.

4:00-5:00: Widad Hassan, Lead Advisor for Muslim, Arab, South Asian Communities and Beth Miller, Liaison to Jewish Communities, both for the NYC Commission on Human Rights, will lead a workshop and conversation exploring how Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and other forms of religious discrimination impact the lives of New Yorkers and how we can build welcoming, affirming, and multi-faith spaces to build community. The NYC Commission on Human Rights is the city agency charged with enforcing the NYC Human Rights Law, one of the most protective anti-discrimination laws in the country.

5:00-5:45: Muslim-Jewish Songlines: A Tradition of Musical Dialogue. Samuel Torjman Thomas, PhD (of NY Andalus Ensemble) leads a workshop focusing on shared song traditions in the Middle East and North Africa, highlighting instances of Judeo-Islamic intercultural exchange, musical dialects, and textual traditions in Hebrew, Arabic, and Ladino (Hebreo-Spanish).

6:00-7:00: A Jewish-Muslim dinner, featuring shared dishes from our long and often positive history. Don't forget: a medieval Jewish practitiioner once described Islam as "God's gift to the Jews." And the food is good, too!

7:00-8:30 pm: Performance! Featuring: Shayna Maydela Project (dance about untold Sephardic histories, where music connects Jews & Muslims); Amin Sarshar (Persian setar music and mystical poetry); Amirov Dance Theater (Jewish contemporary dance via the Caucasus); Gilad Barakan (Kabbalistic musical interpretations) and Samuel Torjman Thomas, Director and Bandleader of the NY Andalus Ensemble and ASEFA.

And we'll also learn fun facts like: Moses is the most often cited historical figure in the Qu'ran and (as an Imam in Suburban Maryland once told Tom Block): "The Qu'ran is like 60% about the Jews."

And coming up:

IHRAF Dance Curators Dr. Layla Zami and Oxana Chi will present a program of dance and performance. May 12, 7:30-9:00 pm at TADA Theater, 15 W 28th St, New York, NY 10001. Details TBD

June: Aseemkala Initiative will led us on a journey through performance, and then an interactive workshop. Aseemkala Initiative uses traditional Indian dance to explore the range of experiences patients and physicians undergo. They show the common thread of the human experience when faced with illness and the resilience and courage to fight one’s way back to health.

IHRAF Travels!

The International Human Rights Art Festival has begun discussions with a variety of in-town partners and out-of-town hosts, and has tentatively scheduled the following dates/places on our schedule:

Columbia University, New York, NY (Fall 2019)

A.R.T. of Human Rights Series, American Repertory Theater, Boston, MA (Fall 2019)

Danspace, New York, NY (February/March 2020)

Platform Theater, Glasgow, Scotland (February/March 2020)

American University, Washington DC (Fall 2020)

In addition, of course, to our annual Festival at the Wild Project, East Village (December 9-15, 2019).

Stay tuned for further information on these events!!

A few of our Honorary Committee members: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Congressman and Civil Rights hero John Lewis, Singer and Actor Barbra Streisand and Senator Bernie Sanders (see the full list here):

Latest News

February 1, 2019

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IHRAF International Fellow

Mbizo Chirasha, Zimbabwean poet currently living in exile in East Africa, has been named the 2019 IHRAF International Fellow. Mbizo will be a regular African Contributor to the IHRAF PUBLISHES series; be our African Representative of IHRAF (broadcasting, publishing, popularizing IHRAF projects, activities and the festival and help suggest Writers, Writings and Poets for the publication.

Mbizo Chirasha is an acclaimed wordsmith, performance artist, widely published poet and writer. He is the Founder and Creative Director of several creative initiatives and projects, including Young writers Caravan Project, This is Africa Poetry Night 2006 – 2008, Zimbabwe Amateur Poetry conference 2007 – 2010, African Drums Poetry Festival 2007, GirlChildCreativity Project 2011- Current, GirlchildTalent Festival 2012.

December 14, 2018

Celebration of justice

A brief compilation of our main event at the Wild Project, November 16, 2018

November 2, 2018 

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez


We are thrilled to welcome soon-to-be elected Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — from the very same neighborhood in Queens where the Founding Producer lives — to the Honorary Committee, joining our growing list of partners who engage with us. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez is a self-described democratic socialist.  She supports progressive policies such as Medicare for All, a job guarantee, tuition-free public college, ending the privatization of prisons, and enacting gun-control policies. Welcome to the team, Alexandria!

October 7, 2018

Senator susan collins

removed as honorary co-sponsor

Due to an outpouring of indignation over Senator Susan Collins’s (ME) casting the final vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court, and her statement that she didn’t believe Dr. Ford’s assertion that Brett Kavanaugh accosted her, we have removed her name from our list of honorary co-sponsors for the International Human Rights Art Festival at the Wild Project, from November 12-18, 2018.

We very much appreciate all of the new friends who have contacted us about her vote and removing her name — we agree. Her lack of candor, of empathy, her reliance on “junk science” to ignore Dr. Ford’s claim and her insincerity has led us to believe that we do not want her name attached to an event that includes such a sincere and passionate collection of artists, activists, performers and speakers.

August 30, 2018


We are very excited to announce our new publishing initiative, in which we will be occasionally featuring literary artists who base their work in our founding principles: beauty, sincerity and vulnerability.  As the Sufis say: "Words spoken from the mouth will never get past the ears, but words spoken from the heart, enter the heart."  We will feature such heart-speakers. Check it out here.

If you are a writer who would be interested in being featured as part of this initiative, and feel that your work fits our mission, please contact us at humanrightsartfestival@gmail.com!

August 1, 2018

Congressman John Lewis

A brief introduction to the video that Congressman and Civil Rights hero John Lewis made for the International Human Rights Art Festival. The full video, which explores the influence and importance of art on Congressman Lewis during the Civil Rights era, will be shown at the International Human Rights Art Festival opening event, Friday, November 16, 2018 at the Wild Project in NYC.

June 10, 2018



Media Partner

IHRAF is thrilled to announce our new media partner: WNYC, the USA's largest public radio station! WNYC will be helping us get our word out to their 1.7 million listeners and 2 million website visitors a week, as our news and logo become part of their world! Thank you, WNYC, we are looking forward to sharing a great summer and fall together.


May 26, 2018


Amy Poehler

We're very excited to welcome Amy Poehler as the latest addition to our list of Honorary Co-Sponsors!  Ms. Poehler, founder of NYC's Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, was a cast-member of Saturday Night Live from 2001-2008.  She is best known for starring as Leslie Knope in the NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation, for which she won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Television Musical or Comedy Series in 2014 and a Critics' Choice Award for Best Actress in a Comedy Series in 2012.  We're honored to have Ms. Poehler's support!



April 11, 2018

Omoyele Sowore  at the inaugural  International Human Rights Art Festival  at Dixon Place, March 3, 2017. Behind him is a projected image of him and Festival Producer Tom Block, in front of a painting of Mr. Sowore by Mr. Block, in 2002 at the AFL-CIO Headquarters in Washington DC.

Omoyele Sowore at the inaugural International Human Rights Art Festival at Dixon Place, March 3, 2017. Behind him is a projected image of him and Festival Producer Tom Block, in front of a painting of Mr. Sowore by Mr. Block, in 2002 at the AFL-CIO Headquarters in Washington DC.

Omoyele Sowore

Festival friend, participant and supporter Omoyele Sowore is running to become President of Nigeria! Mr. Sowore was born on February 16, 1971 in the Niger Delta region of the country where he was also raised. He studied geography and planning at the University of Lagos and holds a master’s degree in public administration from Colombia University.  
While in the University of Lagos, he was deeply involved in anti – military demonstrations and student unionism which ultimately culminated in his election as the President of the Student Union Government where he served between 1992-1994. 
In 1992 at University of Lagos, Sowore led 2,000 students in protest against Nigeria’s notorious kleptocracy. Police opened fire, killing seven. Sowore was arrested, interrogated and beaten, and later found out his family too had been put under pressure. But he refused to back down in the struggle for decent education in his country. 
For his vociferous anti – government campaigns, he was harassed, arrested and detained for about 8 times in various detention centers. Sowore has remained consistent in his struggle to emancipate his country from the clutches of the racketeers and plunderers. He fled the country to the United States in 1999.
Omoyele Sowore represents different things to different people. To the corrupt politicians, the ruling class and their paid and unpaid apologists, Sowore is a tool in the hands of the opposition. However, to the incorruptible and liberated victims of misrule, corruption and dictatorship, he represents the audacious candle that brightens the scars inflicted on the soul of our nation.


March 5, 2018

bronxnet Tv interview 

IHRAF Producer Tom Block talks with Dr. Bob Lee on BronxNet's "Open" program about the Celebration of Black Men, at the Davenport Theater in midtown Manhattan, on March 12.


January 30, 2018

Norman Lear with Festival friend Kathleen Turner at Norman's 95th birthday party last year.

Norman Lear with Festival friend Kathleen Turner at Norman's 95th birthday party last year.

Norman Lear

We are thrilled to announce that Television Producer, National Medal of Arts Winner, founder of the People for the American way and a strong activist for three-quarters of a century Norman Lear and the Lyn and Norman Lear Family Foundation, our strongest supporter to date, has granted us support to underwrite our interim events between now and the full Festival in November, allowing us to concentrate on providing the most passionate, powerful and transformative activist performances that we can muster.  Thank you Norman Lear, Festival Godfather!






January 15, 2018

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Dramatist Magazine

The Dramatist Magazine, official periodical of the Dramatists Guild, published an article in their edition on censorship (January/February 2018) about their important role in finding us a home for our banned program back on October 15.  Additionally, they used Festival Producer Tom Block's artwork on the cover of their magazine, as well as in the interior, to illustrate their exploration of censorship.


January 9, 2018


Barbra Streisand

Barbra Streisand has joined the International Human Rights Art Festival as an Honorary Co Sponsor! Additionally, she has donated money to us through her Streisand Foundation. Ms. Streisand is a singular American talent, having won two Academy Awards, ten Grammy Awards including the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and the Grammy Legend Award, five Emmy Awards, a Special Tony Award, a Kennedy Center Honors prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and nine Golden Globes! 

January 1, 2018

Documentary from the first

International Human Rights Art Festival @ Dixon Place



Award-winning (C-Span Studentcam) high school videographers Dalya Block and Kalina Gibson completed their documentary of the first IHRAF -- check it out here! 





December 11, 2017

Video from a Celebration of Women

NYU Broadcast Journalist student Hannah Foley made a beautiful short reportage about our celebration on the 70th anniversary of the issuing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, "A Celebration of Women's Power," in honor of Eleanor Roosevelt, who was chair of the drafting committee for the document.  Featuring Rachael Sage, Dancing Georgina Project, Marni Rice and Xiomara Evans.


Video still of Senator Schumer from the 2017 IHRAF  Photo by Elisa Guiterrez

Video still of Senator Schumer from the 2017 IHRAF
Photo by Elisa Guiterrez


Find out about our History, Mission, supporters (including Senator Charles E. Schumer, Congressman John Lewis, Presidential Medal of Arts Winner Norman Lear, and more).

Learn More →

Congresman and Civil Rights hero John Lewis, the youngest of the  Big Six  civil rights leaders as chairman of  SNCC  from 1963 to 1966, has made a video welcome for the 2018 IHRAF at the Wild Project, exploring the importance of art to his activism.  Movie by Mollie Block

Congresman and Civil Rights hero John Lewis, the youngest of the Big Six civil rights leaders as chairman of SNCC from 1963 to 1966, has made a video welcome for the 2018 IHRAF at the Wild Project, exploring the importance of art to his activism. Movie by Mollie Block

Get involved

Want to join in on the upcoming 2018 IHRAF in NYC? Have an event you'd like to cross-promote with us? We want to hear from you!

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Banner Painting: Woman Shedding Burka by Tom Block