Special thanks to Israel Centeno, Henry Reese & City of Asylum Pittsburgh. Visit their website for more information: www.cityofasylumpittsburgh.org.
Speech, and the freedom to express oneself, is always important. However, as Americans we take it for granted. I learned this lesson when I met Venezuelan author Israel Centeno at City of Asylum Pittsburgh, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing sanctuary to literary authors who have been threatened and oppressed in their own country because of their work. Israel was just about to close the first year of his two-year assignment as City of Asylum’s Writer-in-Residence, and he welcomed me into his home to interview and photograph him. During my stay he candidly gave me a glimpse into his life in exile, recounted his tumultuous and nearly fatal time in Venezuela under the regime of Hugo Chavez, explored his ever-growing body of novels and poetry and expressed his hope and humor about the future. My time spent with Israel was a revealing one. As an independent documentarian I seek to tell interesting stories, but rarely acknowledge the unalienable right I have to do so. I learned we must remember to value our ability to make statements, regardless of their popularity or dissent, for there are others who don’t share this liberty. I am thankful for Israel’s courage and grateful to him for allowing me to share his story with others.
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