Friday, August 23, 2019

Six Questions for Uma Menon, Editor, International Human Rights Art Festival (IHRAF) Publishes - Youth

IHRAF Publishes-Youth is new platform for writers under the age of 21 to submit poetry, creative nonfiction, short fiction, essays or any other format that comes from the heart, and focuses on social and activist themes. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Please tell us a little about the IHRAF mission and how IHRAF Publishes-Youth fits into the organizations goals.

Uma Menon: The International Human Rights Art Festival (IHRAF) is an organization that functions at the intersection of art and activism, founded on the belief that art can open hearts and minds while healing the wounds in our society. IHRAF empowers artists of all mediums to use their craft as a tool for activism, social justice, and human rights discourse. The organization has brought together powerful political and social leaders with artists and activists to make this world a better place.

IHRAF Publishes – Youth is a new platform that I’ve started to uplift young voices within the sphere of activism. We often see young people becoming the victims of terrible human rights abuses in our world; yet, our world rarely notices and listens to these young voices. IHRAF Publishes – Youth aims to get to the root of this problem by creating a platform where young writers, artists, and activists under the age of 21 can express themselves. We believe that young people represent the future of human rights discourse and practice. IHRAF Publishes – Youth cultivates tomorrow’s human rights leaders and defenders through its focus on beauty, vulnerability, sincerity, and engagement.

SQF: How did you come to be involved with IHRAF Publishes?

UM: I joined the IHRAF team in June 2019, as the inaugural Youth Fellow for the organization. As a writer myself, I realized that IHRAF Publishes is the platform that artist-activists and writer-activists like myself have always searched and yearned for.

As the Youth Fellow for IHRAF, I decided to take on the project of starting IHRAF Publishes – Youth because I understand how critical young voices are in activist discourse. There are thousands of talented young writer-activists across the world, waiting to be discovered.

SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?

UM: Before I get into the three specific things I’m looking for, I just want to remind writers of the four values that IHRAF is based around: beauty, vulnerability, sincerity, and engagement. These values are important in writing as well.

Apart from those values, I also look for a writer’s passion. An IHRAF Publishes – Youth contributor should be passionate about social justice and human rights. We’re looking for pieces that express the urgency of human rights, which is best achieved through passionate writing.

The next thing I look for is a message – a thematic concept or meaning that propels your work. What does the writer want to raise awareness of? What world does the writer envision? Why do human rights matter?

Finally, I’m looking for creativity. Central to IHRAF’s mission is its focus on art. Art is the communicative tool through which we can uplift human rights. I want to see creative and innovative language that moves beyond the confines. Express your message in your own unique way.

SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission?

UM: Submissions that don’t adhere to our mission guidelines. We’re looking for pieces that strive to create a world of understanding and justice. We’re looking for works that express rather than works that preach. I’d encourage writers to consider the IHRAF’s core values of beauty, vulnerability, sincerity, and engagement when creating.

SQF: If IHRAF Publishes-Youth had a theme song, what would it be and why?

UM: I think that the theme song for the TV Show, Arthur, reflects IHRAF Publishes – Youth’s mission very well. As the song says, “listen to your heart” and “open up your eyes” as you create art and writing about justice.

SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?

UM: Why should I write for IHRAF Publishes – Youth?

IHRAF Publishes – Youth is a very unique platform for writer-activists. It’s the first, and perhaps only, organization of its kind, bringing leaders and artists across the world to uniquely inspire change. If you hope to make a difference in the world with your writing, IHRAF Publishes is the best platform and community. IHRAF Publishes – Youth is tailored specifically towards young people, which is rare in the art/activism world. We truly want to support your art.

We are extremely flexible. Please do reach out if there are any unique projects or pieces you have that fit our mission. Confines exist only as long as you think they do.

Thank you, Uma. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

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