So honored to be selected alongside these incredible filmmakers!
I encourage you to check out the complete list of projects selected by the Creative Visions Foundation this year and learn more about the important work they're doing for our global community...
"C.A.P. makes it possible for creative activists to develop new projects that use the power of visual storytelling to raise awareness, drive change, and create sustainable solutions to global issues.
Over the last 10 years, the Creative Visions Foundation has assisted over 200 projects from 35 different countries, reaching millions of people with their stories. These projects have gone on to create policy change in the areas of human rights, environmental protection, and education.
What will they do next?"
"We asked each student who was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa Honor's Society this semester to name the one faculty member who has most supported them in their academic excellence, and who exemplifies the highest degree of intellectual rigor and passion in their own academic pursuits." - Phi Beta Kappa
I am continually inspired by the work that my students do, and yet it is rare, as a professor, to find ONE student who embodies a truly brilliant mind, a deeply compassionate heart, a critical global awareness, and an unwavering commitment to putting in the hard work that it takes to repair and support your community. This one student's dedication to the cause of migrants and refugees is astounding, and I can only imagine how many lives she will impact in the years ahead. Singlehandedly, she makes me feel better about the future of our world.
I want to thank Karly Hampshire for this highest of honors, and mostly, for being a constant source of inspiration for me.
Last week, I received the most unexpected email - "An Invitation to Lunch," it read. It was from the assistant to President Jimmy Carter, and it was addressed to me - just me.
"The President," he said, "has read about your work, and he would like to learn more. You focus on an especially important topic and you do so in a non-traditional way. He would be honored if you would come speak with him." His assistant invited me to join the President for lunch at the Carter Center the following Thursday afternoon. Of course, I accepted his invitation immediately.
Side by side, the President and I waited in line in the cafeteria. He handed me a tray, we selected our sandwiches from the hot bar, and we filled our paper cups at the soda fountain. He placed some napkins and plastic cutlery beside my plate, and said, "Don't worry, he'll take care of us," gesturing to the secret service agent behind us in line, with cash in hand to pay. We sat down together at a little round table, where the President blessed the meal before we ate. He spoke to me about his decision to call both Trump and Clinton earlier in the morning – because he knows what it feels like to win and to lose – and he shared with me his hope that our country will come together again soon. He told me that he has long been interested in the work I am doing to bring a new light to the migrant and refugee crisis - he had read my recent article for PRI and followed the progression of my current film project. [And yes, this was completely surreal to hear.] In fact, the President knew by name one of the young boys in the camp who I have written so much about. He talked to me about the crisis unfolding in Europe, asking me questions about the E.U.’s involvement in Morocco, about the situation for sub-Saharan Africans who are trapped there, and about the third-party agreements that are likely to develop between the E.U. on other nations on the periphery - other nations like Libya and Turkey - in the coming years. And at the end of the meal, he shared my sentiment that human stories are our strongest ally in fighting hate.
President Carter, who has devoted so much of his life to fighting disease, negotiating peace, and building hope across the developing world, sees that sometimes it is the story of that one boy in the masses that makes it harder for the rest of the world to turn away.
This past week, I was deeply honored to be invited to represent Public Radio International (PRI) as the keynote speaker at their Annual Fundraising Dinner in Boston. Below, is an excerpt from the address I gave...
"When I talk about my work, I usually start by talking to the audience about how we’re a country of immigrants, and our diversity is our greatest strength. I talk about why I believe migrant and refugee rights are human rights, about how we are all humans regardless of our race or place of birth, and why we, as global citizens, have certain global responsibilities. Or in the case of my most recent long-read for PRI, I talk about why no child should be beaten back from borders or dropped in the desert to die alone.
The glimpse into an unseen side of the global migrant and refugee crisis that I hope to give you through my work shows us that relative to the world, we remain among the most fortunate few. We have enormous freedoms, and with those freedoms come responsibilities.
As an anthropologist, a writer, and a filmmaker, I always seek out the human stories. I think it is easy to forget that in those 65 million who are displaced - that’s 1 in every 112 people on the planet - there is one boy. They call him Bambino because he’s so scrawny for his age. At 14 years old, he’s traveled nearly 3,000 miles to Morocco on his own. He lost his parents at the age of 12 and had younger siblings to take care of. But his country offered him no way to do that and so he traveled north – and he kept traveling north until he finally reached the last border to Europe.
My hope is that once you come to know the story of one boy in the masses, it will become a little more difficult for you to turn away.
I am so grateful to PRI for providing the space for this kind of reporting to be done – the kind of in-depth reporting that requires that human relationships be built so that human stories can be told. Thank you for giving me the chance to tell the untold stories and for inviting me hear tonight to share my work with this esteemed audience."
Don't miss the first 'Sneak Peak' of THE BURNING at Emory University [special thanks to my students for organizing this event!]
"Isabella Alexander is an artist with a passion. And her passion has a purpose." - Erin Bernhardt, Award-winning Filmmaker and Director of The Art Farm
"As an anthropologist, I've spent many years living in hidden forest camps that have housed hundreds of thousands of African migrants and refugees awaiting their chance at crossing to a better tomorrow – men, women, and children who survive under desperate conditions before attempting to scale a treacherous ring of razor-wire fences that separate Morocco from the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla. These Spanish enclaves bring Europe within the confines of the African continent. They also position Morocco as the primary crossing point for African migrants and refugees who are prepared to risk it all.
For the first time this summer, I returned to Morocco's hidden forest camps as not only an anthropologist, but as a documentary filmmaker. I returned with a camera and the goal of bringing home a different kind of story. I knew that through film I would be able to access broader audiences and give the individuals who are trapped at the core of the current Migrant and Refugee Crisis a chance to tell their stories in their own words. But what I didn’t know was how my camera would open up new depths for me as a researcher, too.
Individuals like Phino, Yasmine, and Bambino were eager to give narrative to the unseen crisis that is unfolding on the other side of Europe's borders. They shared their journeys with remarkable courage, vulnerability, and humor. What came as the biggest surprise to me was that they were even more open with you – their future audiences – than they had been with me. I arrived to Morocco concerned about how my camera would make it more difficult for me, the anthropologist, to camouflage myself in the camps that I had spent so much time in over the years. But I left Morocco confident that the camera presents an opportunity that my pen and paper had not. It presents the opportunity for migrants and refugees to become their own storytellers."
Continue reading and see more images from my recent research trip here!