Before you carry on reading, take a moment to pause and answer these questions – what makes you feel free? And what does freedom mean to you?
It’s these questions that have been posed to school children, politicians, and celebrities across the globe during the past 24 hours for #MyFreedomDay – a day long, student-driven event to raise awareness of modern slavery, started by students at Atlanta International School.
#MyFreedomDay was started by the students at Atlanta International School as way to fight back against the horrors of modern slavery (there are more than 40 million people in the world living in slavery) and, by giving us greater understanding and awareness of it, help empower us to act in order to put an end to it.
Together with CNN, their message has spread across the globe, supported by everyone from Harrison Ford through to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. And it inspired the starting point – The Price of Freedom – for the ISTA Connect Festival taking place right now at Atlanta International School.
Making a difference together
ISTA’s Global Patron, Jonothan Neelands, is a special guest at the festival and says it’s when we act together that we have the biggest impact on the world – something he hopes the young people attending all ISTA festivals will learn.
“Theatre brings people together and helps people understand what we can achieve together is greater than what anyone of us can achieve individually,” he says.
“It breaks down boundaries. We work together through theatre so when we bring international school students together with local students and local youth theatres – as we do at a Connect Festival – then, very quickly, they can establish a rapport, a relationship and an alternative way of speaking about the world.
“The content can then be tailored to issues specific to that place. So here we are in Atlanta, and what’s important to us is human trafficking – and it’s bigger than all of us. And that’s something theatre students learn. If what you’re working on is bigger than you are, then ego, self consciousness and everything else disappears because you concentrate on the bigger picture.
“The other important thing about theatre is that, while we’re helping young people become better artistic and aesthetic actors, we’re also helping them become better social actors. They understand in theatre that if you don’t do anything, then nothing happens. Somebody has to act. There is nothing other than the action. And what we want them to develop is that the same is true in the world.
“If you don’t take action in the world then no one else will. Theatre gives them the confidence and the skills to help overcome any self-consciousness so when they do stand up and try to make a mark on the world and make a difference, they’re equipped to do that because of what theatre’s done for them.”
The students attending the festival, along with special guest speakers, will present their ideas within a summit performance at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights on Saturday, March 16th.
Jonothan adds: “I believe in hope. We have to live with hope. If we don’t, we’re in despair, and when you’re in despair, you do nothing. You only do something if you have hope. So over the next few days we’re going to move ourselves on as activists with the hope that if we carry this journey on we will, together, make a difference.”