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Andy Prisbylla | United States

On Sampsonia Way in the North Side section of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is a literary sanctuary. A place where creative freedoms for the oppressed and the ability to express oneself without interference are upheld. City of Asylum Pittsburgh is a non-profit organization that provides safe harbor to exiled literary authors who have experienced oppression and persecution in their own country due to their writing. The program entails a two-year residency for writers-in-exile who are provided housing, a living wage, medical coverage and help in transitioning to a permanent residency.

City of Asylum Pittsburgh is a non-profit organization that offers two-year residences to literary authors who have been persecuted in their own country due to their work. The following photo essay examines the organization and interviews their current writer-in-residence, Venezuelan author Israel Centeno.

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.

email: info@andyp.org

website: www.andyp.org

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