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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI Feinstein Providence Campus to host symposium on rebuilding Liberia

Media Contact: Jhodi Redlich, 401-874-4500

Award-winning film producer Jonathan Stack and human rights award winner Samuel Kofi Woods to speak

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – February 9, 2005 – After more than 14 years of civil war in Liberia, there is a new call to action to help rehabilitate, reconstruct and reintegrate the Liberian nation.

That call to action will start in Rhode Island with a day-long symposium at the University of Rhode Island's Feinstein Providence Campus focused on finding answers to the urgent Liberian call to rebuild.

Open to the public, the forum will be held on Saturday, Feb. 19, 2005 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Feinstein Providence Campus at 80 Washington St. A voluntary $5 donation is requested to cover costs.

The day will feature a special viewing of the award-winning documentary, Liberia: An Uncivil War, with a discussion of the film by its producer/director Jonathan Stack and Liberian attorney and award-winning human rights activist Samuel Kofi Woods who was portrayed in Kerry Kennedy’s book Speak Truth to Power.

According to Liberian native Moses Saygbe of Providence who has lived in Rhode Island since 1982, the goal of the event is to raise awareness of the issues surrounding Liberia's historic links with the U.S., the conditions that still exist, and the needs that are prevalent in the country.

Since civil war broke out in Liberia in 1989, thousands of Liberians came to the U.S. where they still remain as refugees. More than 10,000 of these refugees live in Rhode Island, more than in any other state in the nation. They have spent the last decade raising their families and contributing in very positive ways to American society.

"We hope that people will become more aware of the Liberian refugee status and the conditions in Liberia itself. There are many different groups that are working independently on Liberian issues, some politicians have provided their support, but we need to bring these groups together to share ideas and map out a plan to improve the conditions in Liberia and look to the future," said Saygbe who is coordinating the forum with Cleveland Kurtz, the acting director of the Center for Urban Research and Studies at the University's Providence Campus.

Saygbe said that after first seeing the film, URI's Vice Provost for Urban Affairs Dr. John McCray made contact with the producer and invited him to URI to provide background and a greater understanding of the issues facing Liberia.

Liberia: An Uncivil War (USA, 102 minutes) by Stack and James Brabazon follows a rebel army made up of indigenous Liberians intent on overthrowing the government of then-President Charles Taylor. In the summer of 2003, Stack went to Liberia to document its ongoing civil war. The film chronicles Liberia's call for U.S. peacekeeping forces, and shows how the U.S. response is seen by many to be too little, too late.

In December, Stack's film received the International Documentary Association's "Courage Under Fire Award" presented for the filmmaker's "conspicuous bravery and fearless perseverance in the faces of danger." Stack is a two-time Academy Award® nominee and an Emmy®-winning documentary filmmaker who has produced more than 75 films including The Farm: Angola, Usa, The Wildest Show In The South: The Angola Prison Rodeo, and After 9/11: Rebuilding Lives.

The founding director of the foremost human rights organization in Liberia, the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission, Woods is known for his works that have educated thousands of Liberians about their rights. He will speak about the current conditions in Liberia related to human rights and the upcoming elections. He is now also working on developing a Liberian youth non-violence education and training program.

The program is sponsored by the University's Alan Shawn Feinstein College of Continuing Education, the College of Arts and Sciences' Dept. of African and African American Studies in collaboration with Liberians in Rhode Island.

Liberia: An Uncivil War (USA, 102 minutes) was produced by Gabriel Films in association with Discovery Times Network.