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Migration as Survival in the Era of Climate Crisis

February 26, 2019 @ 8:00 am - 5:00 pm

Presented by the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at NYU. Co-sponsored by the NYU Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies and the Department of Art & Public Policy, NYU Tisch School of the Arts.

Rising sea levels, drought, food insecurity, intensified hurricanes, and wildfires are some of the many markers of the exacerbating climate crisis. Despite the clear and present danger of climate change, governments are failing to take the action needed to stave off its worst effects. Meanwhile, tens of millions of people, primarily from poor communities and the Global South, are displaced by climate impacts every year only to be met by rising xenophobia, anti-migrant sentiment, and militarized borders. This panel brings together journalists, activists, frontline organizers, academics, and artists to discuss the inextricable links between migration and climate catastrophe. We consider what an intersectional movement for migrant rights and climate justice could look like, the threat posed by right-wing populist governments to the rights of migrants, and the role of arts and culture in creating bold visions for a just future.

Featuring Oscar A. Chacón (Executive Director, Alianza Americas), Oliver Milman (Reporter, The Guardian), Tiara R. Na’puti (Assistant Professor, University of Colorado Boulder), and Ninaj Raoul (Executive Director, Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees). Curated and moderated by Thanushka (Thanu) Yakupitiyage, the A/P/A Institute at NYU 2018-19 Artist-in-Residence.

This venue is on the first floor and is accessible for wheelchair users. Restrooms (which are gender-segregated) are accessible via elevator. If you have any questions or need any accommodations, please email apa.rsvp@nyu.edu.

Oscar A. Chacón is a co‐founder and executive director of Alianza Americas, a Chicago-based national network of Latin American immigrant‐led and immigrant serving organizations in the US. Chacón is an immigrant from El Salvador. He has been an organizer and a leader on community justice issues at the local, national, and international levels for over thirty years. He has occupied leadership positions in multiple organizations including Oxfam America, Centro Presente, the Northern California Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, and Heartland Alliance for Human Needs and Human Rights. Chacón is a frequent spokesperson, domestically and internationally, on economic, social, political, and cultural issues affecting Latin American immigrant communities, including the nexus between human mobility, economic inequality, white supremacy, and racial justice. Alianza Americas mission is to improve the quality of life of Latin American immigrant communities in the US, as well as of peoples throughout the Americas.

Oliver Milman is the environment correspondent for Guardian US, based in New York. He regularly reports on how climate change is altering the natural world, with a particular focus on the communities most vulnerable to these consequences. Before coming to the US, he covered the environment for the Guardian in Australia. His role has taken him to the melting Alaskan Arctic, the wildfire-scorched northern California, the magnificent yet ailing Great Barrier Reef, and people living in the shadow of the petrochemical industry in Texas. Originally from the UK, Millman has previously covered business and politics for a range of print and online publications.

Tiara R. Na’puti (Chamoru) is assistant professor in the Department of Communication at University of Colorado Boulder with faculty affiliations in the Center for Communication and Democratic Engagement (CDE) and the Center for Native American Indigenous Studies (CNAIS). Her scholarship and activism addresses colonization, militarization, Indigenous social movements, and Indigenous cultural discourses—particularly throughout Oceania. She is currently working on a book project that examines the US military buildup plans for the Mariana Islands archipelago and how military aggression fuels the dangerous impacts of climate change. This work examines the communicative dimensions of resistance and connections among Indigenous-led struggles to protect sacred water and land from militarization and extractive industries.

Ninaj Raoul is a co-founder and community organizer at Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees (HWHR) in New York, an organization founded in 1992 to respond to the human needs of Haitian refugees and immigrants in the US fleeing persecution. Through education, community organizing, leadership development, and collective action, HWHR members empower themselves as they struggle for social and economic justice. Raoul is a Petra Foundation Fellow, and a recipient of the Union Square Awards, National Organization of Woman – Susan B. Anthony Award, and Dr. Antonia Pantoja Bilingual Advocacy Award. She continues to mobilize her community to deliver services, organize disaster relief efforts, and fight for workers’ rights. She travels to and from Haiti, where HWHR has provided solidarity support to women-run organizations that respond to manmade and natural disasters. Raoul seeks to raise awareness of the detrimental effects of the US agricultural subsidy programs that dump excess crop in Haiti, as well as other root causes of migration.

Thanushka (Thanu) Yakupitiyage is a long-time immigrant rights activist, media professional, cultural organizer, and multidisciplinary artist/DJ based in New York City. For close to seven years, she worked for the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), where she headed the organization’s communications and media relations strategy. Through her work at NYIC, she became an immigration policy expert, using her skills in media and communications to shift narratives on immigration and immigrants themselves. She was a lead organizer in recent efforts to push back against Trump’s first executive orders that mandated a Muslim Ban, and increased enforcement and raids against immigrant communities. Most recently, she has taken on the role of leading US communications for 350.org and bringing a migration perspective to the critical work of climate justice. As a cultural organizer and DJ under the name Ushka, she has performed across North America and she uses her artistry to create intentional community spaces for queer and immigrant people of color. Yakupitiyage holds an MA in communications from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and a BA in critical media studies and international development from Hampshire College. She is the 2018-19 Artist-in-Residence at the A/P/A Institute at NYU.

Photo by Brooke Anderson, Survival Media Agency (provided by 350.org).

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