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Happy birthday to the incomparable Martin Luther King Jr. He was born 100 years ago and yet, we still have a ways to go before his dreams become a reality.

She was a 20-year-old beauty from a village in Central Vietnam. The opportunity of a lifetime was days away. She had made her way to Hanoi where a friend of a relative had met her and helped with the complicated visa process at the US Embassy. Her dream of going to America and becoming a well-paid beautician was only a visa interview and a plane ride away. What happened next shattered her dreams but also saved her life.*

8 years ago, when we started fighting human trafficking, most Americans who were even aware of the extent of human trafficking understood it as a cross-border problem: As something that happened overseas. Our goal was to raise awareness and action about domestic trafficking with a focus on young people and children. We made a feature documentary, Tricked, which still streams on Netflix, and a series of short documentaries and videos. We explained what constitutes human trafficking at home, among our daughters and sons. Today, far more Americans recognize that much domestic prostitution is more pernicious than “boys will be boys” and how frequently it meets the legal definition of human trafficking. We have always underscored that it is a human rights crisis. We have made strides.

500 miles away in the consulate in Ho Chi Minh City, a consular officer was trying to authenticate the story of an unsophisticated man applying for a first-time visa to visit a friend in Long Island. The US-based friend was a wealthy oil industry executive who had apparently come from the same village as the applicant. In another interview room, an applicant was seeking a replacement visa for a new passport. The officer sensed that this young man, with 2 phones, a tall story about a burned passport, and a travel history that made him a member of the million mile club, may be part of something bigger. Quickly, he traced the IP address from which his verification documents had been emailed. It was the same one as the man headed to Long Island. On a hunch he next contacted a buddy at the Embassy. Did they have anyone there with documents from the same IP address? Minutes later the word came back, yes they did, at that very moment — a 20-year-old girl heading to New York City. She was taken aside for questioning. What was uncovered over the next few days was a sophisticated sex trafficking and organ smuggling ring. The girl was saved from a life of indentured sex slavery in New York City and the man who was to receive $9000 for a kidney was denied a visa but still has two kidneys. The young man with the burner phone and the burnt passport is in prison. 3 visas unearthed a sophisticated trans global human trafficking ring.

We can now add organ donation to the horror that is human trafficking. It is the desire to escape poverty, economic insecurity and lack of safety at home that allow innocent people to fall into the hands of traffickers and smugglers. Commoditization of other people’s lives is the currency of trafficking. Pure greed, coupled with with complete antipathy, are what survivors of smuggling have described to us time and time again. The moral arguments about how to lift billions of people out of poverty are far more complex. If we are not actively fighting abject poverty overseas at source, are we not aiding and abetting human traffickers — whether it is at the southern border or in Vietnam? Foreign policy that encourages aid is a major preventative. If you don’t want immigrants from Guatemala seeking a safer life here, then try and make things better there. Would you sell a kidney to a stranger to educate your children? Our laws say doing so is illegal, but does that truly make us a more civilized society? Why is OK to donate a kidney but not to sell one? This is what we are thinking about today on National Human Trafficking Day.

*certain identifying details in this story have been changed

A disturbing New York Times investigative piece by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Eric Lipton confirms and amplifies what we’ve been screaming about for the last 4 years. The news from the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation is ominous. The trade off between short term economic gains from fracking and its long term environmental damage disproportionately harms the residents of the reservation. Of course, this story from Fort Berthold is only one part of the larger crisis the Trump administration’s relaxing of environmental protections has wrought.

Key members of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara nations, the protagonists of our 2016 feature documentary, A Different American Dream, knew that this crisis was coming. If you haven’t already seen the film, watch it now on VimeoThis award-winning film takes the viewer deep into the world Eric Lipton recounts. 

Watch it and weep.


We did it. We deactivated Facebook. It’s barely a ripple in a small pond but I believe the Dalai Lama’s teaching about the power of a lone mosquito. All who have deactivated had their reasons, for many it was a combination of factors. For us there was a red line — the role of Facebook in fomenting the annihilation and dislocation of the Rohingya muslim minority in Myanmar. 3 Generations is a human rights and social justice organization. We couldn’t accept that on the other side of the world a huge American company had been playing a pivotal role in a genocide:

Members of the Myanmar military were the prime operatives behind a systematic campaign on Facebook that stretched back half a decade and that targeted the country’s mostly Muslim Rohingya minority group — The New York Times 10/15/18

Imagine if a US corporation had been behind the genocidal propaganda spewed by Radio-Television Libre des Milles Collines during the Rwandan genocide? Or supporting the Nazis during the 1930s in Germany? Unthinkable. Unacceptable.

Filming with Imran in Chicago, 12.18.18

Another recent New York Times article recommended assessing collateral damage before deactivation: at 3 Generations we called a board meeting and received a unanimous vote that the risk was worth it. My co-workers and I followed suit because we support the Rohingya and the NAACP. Working in the human rights field, we know when enough is enough.

Deactivating will impact our work. We will have to find new ways to inform the public about what we are doing and thinking. At this critical end of year giving season it will affect donations but it will be worth it because we didn’t do nothing.

This week, when we had the opportunity to film a Rohingya refugee, it felt great to not post about it on Facebook. The hypocrisy would have been unbearable. The young Rohingya man, Imran, has literally lived his whole life without basic human rights: the right to an education, to travel freely, to have papers and a legal identity. And yet he sat before us a beacon of tolerance, hope and faith. For him being in America means freedom. For the first time in his short life he has papers, he is getting an education and has a job. He exists and his life is not virtual. He has a small group of friends who have shared his journey with him. He makes weekly phone calls to his mother and siblings, still trapped in a refugee camp in Bangladesh. Everything about his presence and story is a rebuke to what is wrong with America today — xenophobia, intolerance, racism, monopolies and fake news.

Our job is to share his story widely, to help other refugees and to do so with integrity. We could do that before Facebook existed (and arguably we did so far better) and we will again.

That’s my promise to Imran and his fellow Rohingya. We will try to be a beacon of hope for your people and do so without compromising our standards. While Facebook is the tool of dictators and disinformation we will do so without its “help”.


Shouldn’t every human being have equal rights? And why would anyone want to silo those rights?                      3 Generations covers a range of social justice issues, and we are never surprised when they cross-pollinate – indeed they almost always do. We can talk about sex trafficking and genocide in the same breath (and have done so for years) because we know where there is genocide, girls and boys are being sexually exploited by genocidaires. So it follows naturally that when we explore veterans rights, we will inevitably find ourselves exploring transgender rights too. Our new short documentary, GO DEBBIE, tells the story of a Vietnam veteran who recently transitioned to her true self as a woman, with help from the VA. We were honored that Debbie shared her story with us, and did so with candor and humor. We are proud of of the resulting film.

We were disheartened to get some of the most negative feedback we have ever received at 3 Generations on one of our regular fundraising platforms. Some donors felt that transgender rights do not qualify as veteran rights, suggesting that we should not honor veterans and talk about transgender rights in the same conversation. This, despite the fact that there are over 150,000 transgender veterans in this country and close to 15,000 currently serving in the military. We do not agree. But we were not surprised, given the rhetoric against the trans community playing out in the 2018 midterm elections.

Vermont Democrat and gubernatorial candidate, Christine Hallquist, made election history as the first transgender woman to win a major party primary race for governor. She has reported receiving a steady stream of death threats, as well as personal attacks, since her candidacy began to draw national and international attention. Hallquist has said “early on when our team assembled I said ‘the more successful we are, the more vitriol and threats we are going to receive’ – it’s kind of a natural outcome of our divided country.”

Divided or not, all occupations in this country should be open to any qualified person. Fighting discrimination and advocating for equal human rights is the work of 3 Generations. If that work challenges some of our donors then we know we are still have more to accomplish. The critiquing of GO DEBBIE has actually invigorated us. It underscores how silenced transgender men and women in the military have been. “I thought this (3 Generations’ program Valuing Our Veterans) was only about veterans”, one donor wrote. It is, and in this case that veteran was a transgender women who served in Vietnam.

Last week we received a message from Debbie herself: “I hope my film will be part of the fight that is sure to be generated by Trump declaring that I do not exist”. And so here we are, facing the 2018 midterm elections, finding ourselves at the vanguard of the fight for transgender rights.

We are proud to support and work alongside activist like Debbie Brady, Go Debbie.

Recently, after listening to Phoebe Judge’s podcast, Criminal, I decided to visit an inmate at a correctional facility five hours north. As a student studying political science with a passion for criminal justice reform, I believed this inmate’s case and experiences would be highly relevant to the direction and purpose of my advocacy efforts. To protect the privacy of the inmate, I will refer to him as Robert in place of his real name.

During the hour and a half that I spent talking with Robert, he was kind, honest, and open, and never seemed threatening or abnormal in the slightest. We sat in a tiny room, about the size of a supply closet, separated by a reinforced chain wall, similar to the cell Robert will spend the rest of his life in. He has been in solitary confinement for over 15 years. Robert has been in prison since he was 15 for two counts of murder. At the age of 21, he was released for 3 months, but was soon reincarcerated for attempted robbery. While serving 3-7 years, he committed a number of violations, including arson and stabbings, and accumulated a life imprisonment sentence.

As a child, Robert was constantly in and out of reformatories and institutions. According to Robert, nothing anyone did ever helped him, but rather taught him how to “calculate and analyze” his growing hatred. What could have helped Robert and shifted his trajectory? In his first month back in prison at 21, a highly respected friend of Robert’s told him he was “too impulsive.” Robert claimed these exact words changed how he faced his anger, and could have impacted him at a younger age. In a moment of clear, deep anguish, Robert said he wished a “young, intelligent woman” had taken him aside, looked into his eyes, and told him that they believed in him and would be there for him. He stressed this point, of needing a young woman to have been a mentor to him. He admits that many well-meaning mental-health professionals did their best to help him, but he didn’t trust them or their methods. He needed to hear that his life was valuable and capable of goodness.

In our country, people of color (POC) are frequently treated as worthless and less-than. In America, police have violently taken the lives of young, unarmed black Americans and received little to no punishment; young POC students in public and private education often lack the resources and opportunities to succeed in a system that values wealth and white skin; emergency services are called when a young, black woman is seen peaceably eating in her school’s cafeteria; incarcerated men, women, and children are forced to work in privately owned correctional facilities for little to no pay. It is no coincidence that African Americans are incarcerated at 5 times the rate of Whites. The millions of people, regardless of race, gender, or ethnicity, rotting away in prisons and detention facilities deserve to be loved, valued, and feel safe, just as all people deserve these basic rights.

Robert and I agreed that incarceration is a worthless, cruel form of suppression and doesn’t benefit inmates in any way. Inmates are not reformed, but rather released as “shells of real people.” They lack empathy, compassion, and trust, all necessary to cultivating safe, healthy communities. Robert excluded non-violent, drug possession-charges related inmates from his dire expectations. After spending so many years in prison, Robert believes our extremely high rate of incarceration reflects the gradual shedding of compassion, community, and empathy in our society. He is terrified of what our world is becoming. Robert believes that every 5 years, each individual sentenced to more than 5 years should be given the choice to proceed with another 5 years in prison, or be euthanized. If he were let out tomorrow, Robert stated his first act would be to request euthanization so that he may “finally rest in peace.” He does not believe he or his fellow inmates are able to be free citizens.

At 3G, we believe that reform is possible, but do not support prisons, nor the privatization of such. In 2016, we released A System of Justice, to bring awareness to wrongful incarcerations and honor the life of Glenn Ford, who spent 33 years on death row for a crime he did not commit. According to the NAACP, “in 2012 alone, the United States spent nearly $81 billion on corrections. Spending on prisons and jails has increased at triple the rate of spending on Pre‐K‐12 public education in the last thirty years.”

Before joining 3G, I spent a year working full-time as an unpaid intern in Washington, DC. I spent August-December working in a Senator’s Capitol Hill office, and January-May working in the personal office of a supremely popular and highly regarded former politician. In both positions, I worked eight hour days, Monday-Friday. I received $300 from the Senator and $0 from the former politician. I felt extremely honored to be working under my principles, surrounded by brilliant people doing vitally important work, and have the opportunity to contribute to causes close to my heart and see democracy function before my eyes. I’m grateful for the recommendation letters, the lessons learned, friends made, and the two new blurbs on my resume. However, neither a resume nor recommendation letter can cover the financial burdens of living in Washington, DC, which often costs upwards of $6000 for a semester. During my time in DC, I met many young people coming from wealthy, connected families who could easily afford to live in one of the world’s most expensive cities for 2-5 months. I knew two people who could not, including myself.

Without the connections and networking opportunities that come with an internship, finding a job in politics is exceptionally difficult. Students from low-income and working-class families often may not be able to cover the costs of transportation, housing, food, and wardrobe without any salary or stipend. Therefore, access to opportunities on the Hill, and in politics in general, are largely limited to students who come from wealthy backgrounds, further deteriorating the cultural, racial, and socioeconomic diversity in our representation. Internships must be available to all qualified candidates in order to increase the representation of marginalized communities.

In a New York Times article, Internships Are Not a Privilege, Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, asks his readers to, “consider…how a plum internship may alter a young person’s career trajectory. While some students take a summer job in food service to pay the bills, others can afford to accept unpaid jobs at high-profile organizations, setting them on a more lucrative path.” Students below a certain socioeconomic level are unable to reap the benefits an internship can offer, both in valuable work experience and networking opportunities, and can be effectively excluded from advancing in their field. In a Washington Monthly article, When Congress Paid its Interns, Saahil Desai, digital editor at Washington Monthly, states that, “By failing to pay interns, Congress not only dissuades children of the non-affluent from becoming interns, but also limits the talent pool from which it draws most of its paid staff…This pinching of the talent pipeline has another downstream effect: fewer minorities in the intern pool—a direct consequence of not offering payment—means fewer minorities in the ranks of the paid staff.”

At best, an unpaid internship is dispiriting and frustrating. For me and many others, it places enormous strain, financially and mentally, on you and your family. In the fall, I lived in southern Maryland and commuted two hours each way to avoid DC housing costs. I had to leave every morning by 6:45am and usually didn’t get back home until 7pm. Transportation fees and stress – along with having to pay for an expensive dog-walker since I was gone all day – forced me to seek housing in DC for the spring. I was lucky enough to avoid paying an average rent by finding kind-hearted individuals to house me and my dog for greatly reduced rates. Most students don’t have this privilege and must pay thousands of dollars for a DC or Virginia apartment. Even though I was able to avoid high rent, I still had to cover transportation, food, medical costs, and a new wardrobe. Working as a delivery person at night and on weekends, my family and I were just able to pull it off, but it was an extremely stressful, overwhelming period of my life. I frequently went to sleep without eating all day in order to cover my Metro fare the next morning. At the end of my second internship in May, I had lost nearly 12% of my body weight and was experiencing a multitude of health problems, including recurring migraines and acute, unexplained nerve damage.

I consider myself to be skilled, efficient, and hardworking, with a passion to help others through enacting transformative and progressive change. I’m committed to advocating for equal rights and opportunities, reproductive justice, farm animal welfare, criminal justice reform, and more. For as long as I can remember, helping others, both humans and animals, has been my primary passion. After a year spent working unpaid for the very people who are elected to do just that – be a public servant – I felt used and undervalued by the system I so desperately wanted to enter.

On Monday, June 25th, the Senate passed H.R. 5895, an appropriations bill that includes $5 million for Senate intern salaries, allocating approximately $50,000 per office. According to a 2017 congressional report by Pay Our Interns, a nonprofit organization dedicated to advocating for paid internships on the Hill, only 32% of Senate Democrats and 51% of Senate Republicans pay their interns. In the House, a mere 4% of Democrats and 8% of Republicans pay their interns. H.R. 5895 is certainly a step in the right direction, but our nation’s fight for income equality remains. It is not a pleasant feeling to work for nothing and skip lunch when everyone around you is being paid.

This summer, as a 3G intern, I’m extremely grateful that we have always remained committed to paying our interns. Even as a nonprofit organization that relies entirely on generous donations, 3G understands the socioeconomic divides that arise from unpaid internships, and is proud to actively support institutional integrity. Jane Wells, our Executive Director, says it best: “for years, we have gratefully and proudly paid our interns. As an anti-slavery organization we cannot imagine not doing so.”

A few weeks ago, I returned to work from a week in Guayaquil, Ecuador, a populous city in the province of Guayas, where half a century ago my maternal grandparents met while in exile from fascist Europe – two of the more than four thousand Jews who were welcomed as refugees in a country that would soon face a series of its own political upheavals. It has taken me this time to process my experience walking in their footsteps, particularly in an American political climate dominated by resurgent nationalist and exclusionary sentiments and policies.

My grandparents and their families managed to escape with their lives from Germany and Italy respectively. She was just 12 and he was 19. Their relationship unfolded in Spanish, a language newly acquired for both. Together they made a home in conditions of considerable poverty, and despite encounters with Typhus fever, earthquakes, and civil unrest, survived to emigrate to the United States in 1955, convinced – like many immigrants – that they would be met with an opportunity for a better life for their children.

My father’s parents had another story of survival, in Poland and the Netherlands, and I am keenly aware that my own life is a function of this odd confluence of fates that brought four people from different countries, on different pathways, together. At just eighteen years old, my grandmother was captured in Czechoslovakia, and taken on the third transport of women to the new extermination camp at Auschwitz. As the Nazis lost ground to the Red Army in 1944, my grandmother and countless others were marched across Europe. Many died of exhaustion. Others were shot where they stood. The SS were desperate to keep their prisoners out of the hands of allied forces, and took extraordinary measures to prevent that eventuality. In Auschwitz, my grandmother twice met the Angel of Death, Josef Mengele. Her experience, and that of her older sister Rena, with whom she survived the entirety of the war, was the subject of a best-selling memoir, Rena’s Promise. Her future husband grew up and was educated in Amsterdam. Though for a time he labored in a work camp, he mustered the nerve to walk out the front door when the opportunity presented itself. He escaped on a train, narrowly avoiding capture in part because he looked Aryan, but also through remarkable courage and cunning. Several times he faces SS officers and outwitted them, distracting them or using Wehrmacht officers as cover.

All of my grandparents built their lives from the ashes left by one of the most efficient genocidal war machines the world has ever known. Each, in their own way, felt it necessary to avoid allowing their experiences to make them in turn hateful of others. To hate, they would often say, was to let Hitler win. They thought their survival, and indeed of us, their children and grandchildren, as the best revenge. We rarely talked about their suffering. They poured their efforts instead into creating the conditions for an inclusive and happy family life. And yet, there has not been a single moment in my life when those memories have not, in one way or another, been present. That history, integral to my experience. To my being. And I carry their aspirations, their dreams, and to an extent, their suffering, with me every day. And I make sure everyone in my life knows how proud I am to come from such a family, and how much I admire my grandparents for all they were able to achieve and to make possible for us. All four of them have now passed on, but I carry them in my heart everywhere I go.

Spending time in Guayaquil, I found myself flooded by memories of my grandparents. My oldest brother is a cultural anthropologist and has for a number of years carried out fieldwork in Germany. Several times we have joined him there as a family. But for all we know, for as important as my grandparents and their stories are to me, the horror of that time never feels quite real to me when I am in Europe. And I had the same feeling in Ecuador. Something about violence always seems to evade us, slipping out of our grasp, impossible to capture. Scholars have said so for a long time, but there are very real consequences of this situation for our contemporary political reality. In the seventy-five years since the Shoah, much of the memory of those refugees has been wiped away. Of course, in Berlin, memorials, plaques, monuments and other signs of ostensive apology are everywhere. And yet, it also feels like any other city, no different for the crimes many of its residents committed only a few generations ago. In Guayaquil, there are today only about seventy members of the Jewish community. One would be hard pressed to find the traces of that history. In times such as these, both kinds of forgetting take on a harrowing quality. Everywhere we seem to be under threat of becoming unmoved bystanders to violence.

Every step I take is in honor of my grandparents. But now, walking in streets in so many cities that have been witness to horrors, it’s hard not to be shaken by the complacency with history. These memories are the driving force behind my decision to dedicated my life to human rights advocacy. Racist violence seems to fade easily from the oppressor’s sight. We forget all the time. Or continue to refuse to see what is right before our eyes. For many, these are not distant threats. They are not somewhere over the horizon. They are the reality of life right now. Visiting Ecuador has been a painful but important reminder for me. With my grandparents at the forefront of my mind, I am back at work this week hoping I can make a difference; hoping not only that violence on the scale of the Holocaust will never come again, but that we remain alive to dangers already present for our neighbors.


Jane Wells

The full restoration of German Concentration Camps Factual Survey premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in 2014. Since then, it has been shown around the world on hundreds of occasions, and I have attended screenings and spoken about it many times. The recent invitation to screen at Congregation Beth Torah in Brooklyn, New York was different. It was the first time we have screened the documentary in a synagogue and the first on Yom HaShoah. It was a memorable and moving experience for me, and I believe, for the audience as well.

Rabbi Ari Azancot has a very profound commitment to teach his congregation about the Holocaust, particularly since its members are largely from Syria. After, he urged the audience to go and listen to the stories of survivors. It was an honor to speak before the members of the Beth Torah community, to hear the Kaddish on that particular day and to represent my father and all those who made this film 74 years ago.

At 3 Generations, we have the educational and non-theatrical rights to German Concentration Camps Factual Survey for North America. I sincerely hope other congregations, both Jewish and non-Jewish, will consider showing this film. Reviewing it in the New York Times, Manohla Dargis described the restored film as “an extraordinary act of cinematic reclamation and historiography…you need to watch.” Here at 3 Generations, German Concentration Camps Factual Survey is the essence of our foundation story. The sharing of this film is the actualization of our mission. After the screening at Beth Torah, a member of the congregation wrote: “The feedback from those attending was unqualified in recognizing the film’s special place in the historical record and your special connection to the material—your presence made the night something that our Congregation will never forget.”

Won’t you consider sharing it with your community?


Jamie Brandel

In what world should it be normal that any woman or girl has zero control or say about what happens to her body? What world bestows upon a person the right to violate another? This world. This world, in its silence, says this is okay.

A week ago, while walking to work at 3G, I experienced something that I am always wary of, that has me looking around at most men on the street – that I am constantly on the lookout for. (And for any skeptics, I was wearing leggings, a huge sweater a jacket and glasses – not that it matters). I was walking by a man when he approached me, came inches from my face, and tried to kiss me – making sounds as he did so. Simple as that – so simple that no one noticed. In this moment, my heart started to beat out of my chest and my stomach dropped as I hurriedly kept walking. If you’re a male or a some sort of unicorn woman or anything in between that has not experienced this, you may ask me why. This seems so trivial.

First of all, no matter how small these acts may seem from the outside, they are incredibly violating in and of themselves. I did not ask this man, or the many others who have done similar things to women, to act in this way. I should be able to have control over whether or not someone would even have the impression of being able to kiss me. Or anything else for that matter. Emotionally and mentally, women should be unapologetically confident in their bodies and confident in the control they have over it: we are endowed that fundamental right. For any person to feel unsafe walking down the street and seemingly feel as if they have no control over their personal space is frightening, to say the least. Again, even in the most open of places, it is reiterated to me that I have no say and no control over whether or not someone can invade my body, invade my emotions, invade my very being. All of these seemingly minute instances chip away at you, until it is buried so deep you don’t know what you even feel anymore. We as women become so numb to what is now commonplace and engendered in what is now our culture.

Even more so, this emotional uneasiness reminds me of all the times that I’ve had zero physical control or say in what happens to me. So many times I can’t even count, the opposite sex has felt it is their right to take something from me or attempt to. Just because it’s been “okayed” by the good ol’ boys club that runs our world. Just because they can. Because we have been subjugated into thinking that we are lesser than, that we are vessels to take from – that this is merely “how it is”.

I myself have been in the presence of men who felt it was within their right to grab my thigh or pull at my dress.

I, like so many others in college, have written off encounters as simple drunken mishaps of the night when they really are in no way consensual (making a girl feel badly about saying no isn’t okay either).

I have been in incredibly unhealthy relationships, where I’ve been gaslighted and wildly unappreciated.

And I have been cat called, touched, accosted, and made to feel unsafe in so many ways, for so many years that I don’t remember when it began.

The degrees of these experiences, you may say, wildly varies. And it does. But let’s stop questioning that. Let’s stop asking “well what exactly happened?”, “what did he do to you?”, “was he drunk?” because truth be told, it doesn’t matter in the slightest. It’s this culture of masculinity, this culture that is toxic and far reaching – and in these instances, it demonstrates how pervasive it is and how it stretches into every facet of human interaction.

Still, this only continues to remind me of so many people – immigrants, Native Americans, Muslims, African Americans, the LGBTQ community, women of color, the students at Parkland High School and so many more – who have no control over so many aspects of their life. People who have far far less control than me. Shouldn’t we all be able to have an equal and fair say about what happens to our bodies and our lives? The values that we say we hold onto, as Americans, are in the darkness and to move forward and heal, they must be brought out.


By Maggie McNish

On December 14, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will be voting on the repeal of net neutrality. We feel passionately that this is only one crucial political action being buried in the tsunami of news pouring out of the republican controlled federal government. Among these are a looming government shutdown, a tax bill with the potential to crash the economy, and a controversial special election for a vacant U.S. senate seat featuring an accused-pedodophile. All of this is taking place under the umbrella of Robert Mueller’s FBI investigation unveiling nonstop revelations into the relationship between key players of the Trump presidential campaign and the Russian government.

Net neutrality may very well slip through the cracks. It is a vital aspect of American freedom and democracy, but there are essentially no tools available to fight its repeal. As an independent commission, the FCC does not answer to the American people. After commissioners are appointed by the president and approved by the senate, the FCC does not answer to the federal government. One of the few exceptions is if congress decides to implement a congressional resolution of disapproval, which seems severely unlikely and out of tune with republican objectives.

The message for people fighting against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act was simple — call your elected officials, show up at their offices, force them to hold town halls, etc. Avoiding the fatality of Net Neutrality seems hopeless in comparison. You can make a complaint to the FCC or urge your representatives to fight back against the commission; you can tweet #NetNeutrality or repost a Facebook image that illustrates what the internet would look like without it. You can do all of that and more, and yet the FCC has no concrete responsibility to value your thoughts on the matter.

The bigger problem — the one that the FCC is successfully capitalizing on — is that net neutrality is incredibly confusing for anyone who does not study or work in a technology field. This is not a generational issue. This is not an issue of ignorance. The fact is that watching “Mr. Robot” is sadly not enough to understand the complexities of the internet (although I like to think it makes me an expert). So, a true step we can take is spreading awareness of what Net Neutrality means and why it must be preserved.

Internet service providers (ISPs), operate within a heavily monopolized industry. Most communities only have one or two internet companies operating in their area, giving them little to no choice in who provides their internet. In 2015, President Obama imposed strict net neutrality rules with the promise of keeping the internet open and free. With these rules, the handful of massive ISPs that operate within the internet industry cannot restrict what sites their customers choose to access and utilize. Without net neutrality, they can.

Its repeal could have immediate personal effects on Americans. Let’s say, for example, that you  enjoy watching Netflix (I know for sure that Netflix is one of the most vital forces in my own life). Let’s also say that Verizon Fios is your ISP. Now, Verizon might get a little jealous that you chose a Netflix subscription over including cable in your Verizon package, and so they decide to cut off your access Netflix. You cannot switch providers, because Verizon is the only provider in your area. What do you do? Do you live without knowing the end of “Stranger Things”? Do you pay an extra fee to Verizon to reach the Netflix website? Do you suck it up and buy a cable package like your parents had back in 2005?

Let’s take another example. You are a politically active progressive who uses the internet to organize political meetings and rallies. Your ISP does not support you — indeed they are probably living on the complete opposite side of the ideological spectrum. Your left-wing, socialist tendencies do not match the corporate interests of AT&T, and AT&T decides to cut of your access to events posted on Facebook.

Furthermore, the FCC is relentlessly trying to push their agenda as a positive change, tweeting out the link to Chairman Ajit Pai’s press release on the repeal called, “Myth vs. Fact.” He also promises that revoking net neutrality will make it easier for providers to reach the 13% of Americans who do not have access to the internet. This seemingly charitable approach is still just another effort to put more money into the pockets of the ISPs.    

In 1936, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Rural Electrification Administration which successfully provided electricity to rural communities across the country. Chairman Pai’s rhetoric on spreading internet mirrors this effort, but there is a key difference. The Rural Electrification Administration used cooperative power companies that were run by their own employees. The FCC, on the other hand, will rely on contracting private companies, only deepening the monopolization of the internet industry.

Repealing net neutrality rules is a big deal. It is another step on the eerie road to fascism in America. However hopeless the fight we must engage in it. As a media company, 3 Generations supports net neutrality. The content on our website and on our Vimeo page are pieces of work that illuminate atrocities from genocide in Rwanda to sex trafficking in Miami. We believe that engagement with this sort of content is vital hearing the humanity behind human rights abuses.

By Jane Wells

The #MeToo movement gets more complex everyday. As politicians are added to the list of predators, red lines of acceptable conduct are now blurred to the point where our President can declare that keeping a Democrat out of the Senate trumps voting for an accused pedophile.

There are as many prisms through which to view the issue of sexual misconduct, of child abuse, of predation, as there are victims with stories to tell. But the dark world of sex trafficking, our shadow world of sexual dysfunction, offers some universal insights.

We have learned from listening to survivors of sex trafficking (or forced prostitution) the appalling sameness and predictability of tactics used by pimps to enslave their victims. Girls (and boys) are groomed or “boyfriended” into the sex industry through a combination of praise, presents and threats.

When Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman went public with the story of her abuse at the hands of Dr. Lawrence Nassar, the US team doctor, she gave a moving interview with 60 Minutes (thank God not with Charlie Rose). Her description of how the doctor had groomed her was articulate and haunting. It could have come from the lips of any of the young girls we interviewed making our documentary Tricked:

“He would always bring me desserts or gifts, he’d buy me little things, so I really thought he was a nice person, I really thought he was looking out for me…..I didn’t know the signs, I didn’t know what sexual abuse really was…”

Aly Raisman, two-time Olympian

After Aly and her fellow gold medalists told their truth they were shunned and shamed by leaders in their sport for speaking out. On social media people suggested that the girls had “enjoyed it”. When will the the broader culture learn that there is never anyone to blame for sexual assault but the perpetrator? Are we to persist in the belief that people who are forced to sell sex enjoy it?

For celebrities and gymnasts the long-term harm and trauma may appear to be mitigated by the trappings of success – a silver medal here, an acting award there. For victims of sex trafficking the mitigation might be a miraculous rescue or the sentencing of a pimp to 472 years in prison. But the harm is done. There are no happy endings in the real world. Decades later we know that girls who had the courage to speak out about their pimps still live in terror of reprisals, even from prison. For those who have recently made accusations against Harvey Weinstein, Roy Moore, Kevin Spacey et al, we do not yet know what the long-term risks may prove to be. For systemic change we need more than a #hashtag. Laws must change to protect those who speak out. There must be no statute of limitations on sexual crimes. Non-disclosure agreements that hide criminal acts must be ruled invalid. Pedophiles and sexual predators must be booted out of the halls of power, in every profession, in every workplace.

We must stop giving a pass to predators because they are talented or cool or powerful. In the words of the young, and wise Aly Raisman:

“Just because everyone is saying they are the best person, it does not make it OK for them to make you uncomfortable. Ever.”

Amen, Aly.

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Lost in Lebanon, directed by the Scott Sisters and produced by Jane Wells for 3 Generations, is screening at New York City’s Human Rights Watch Film Festival this June.

To celebrate this occasion, our intern Mimi Mayo-Smith interviewed sisters Georgia Scott and Sophia Scott on their documentary and perspectives on the Syrian War and the refugee diaspora in Lebanon. We are delighted to share with you an edited transcript of their conversation.

Lost in Lebanon will screen at the IFC on June 15th and at the Lincoln Center on June 17th. Tickets are still available for purchase here: Tickets for HRWFF

Mimi: You have a multi-layered and intimate knowledge of what’s going on with Syrian refugees in Lebanon. The common viewer usually only has the perspective of the mainstream media. What do you think viewers of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival should keep in mind when watching Lost in Lebanon?

Sophia: I think it’s very much that the human story is lost in all the news reports. What we hope to achieve in Lost in Lebanon is to give back some kind of dignity and human story to the vast numbers of fleeing refugees.

Georgia: I also think it as a reminder that the war is continuing inside Syria and that there are millions of Syrian people that cannot go back home. So I think this film is a reminder that their struggles continue.

Mimi: Do you think the way current media depicts Syrian refugees hinders the documentary through hyper-normalization or helps contextualize your film?

Sophia: I think the news medium is very important to get the developing stories out. It’s crucial. But I think what we’re offering can assist people who want to understand a bit more deeply and go more underneath the surface of what it actually means to be a refugee or what it means to be at home when there is war raging in your country. Even if you are no longer living underneath the bombs, the trauma still continues. And how you need to have access to legal status to be able to send your children to school. All those things that you don’t understand just from reading news reports, which tend to be slightly sensational and talk about the death and destruction. There is a lot more human trauma that follows.

Mimi: Do you think your film seeks to criticize the slow violence of bureaucracy and international institutions – the violence of the documentation process just because of the time it takes to assist refugees? Or is your film more of an expression of this reality?

Sophia: I think it’s quite subtle. It’s done through the voices of these four people. But it is questioning why is it that only five thousand Syrian people have been resettled legally in one year. Only 5 thousand out of a country that is hosting more than 1.8 million refugees. So I think it is. It is questioning. It is asking why is this happening? And looking at the consequences of not being resettled.

Georgia: This is very important for us just to state: we are not attacking or especially criticizing anybody or any organization. We are shining a light on an area of the world where people don’t always see the true story. So we’re trying to shine light on the Syrians that have fled and are living in neighboring countries like Lebanon. But I wouldn’t want to go as far as saying that we are being critical – because who are we to be critical? We are only observers on the ground.

Mimi: Is your film trying to increase activism in ordinary citizens?

Sophia: Absolutely. We are also trying to make people view the Syrian people who are fleeing the conflict as humans rather than just numbers, a fleeing refugee or some extremist Islamist person. We want people to identify more with, for example, Sheikh Abdo [LIL character]: a community leader, a teacher, a father. He could be your brother or your husband. We are trying to humanize a group of people that are often just portrayed as a number or an extremist. It’s not the case.

Mimi: Distributing the film in cities such as New York City and London – it seems that the audiences in these places are pretty progressive regarding the image of a refugee: a refugee as someone that is not a terrorist, not just a number.

Sophia: I think sometimes our concern is that these film festivals are fantastic but that we are slightly preaching to the converted so we are also very aware that we need to make sure our film is seen by the wider public. Which is why it’s so important for the results of the film festival to be that TV broadcasters pick it up, that we do all this outreach screenings at universities and high school classrooms so that the general public has access to this film as well.

Mimi: And you also do screenings at political conferences. Which ones have been you been to?

Sophia: We just started our outreach screenings last month. And we kickstarted that with a big screening at Chatham house, which is a large think tank in Europe. We’ve had one screening with them so far, last month, and we’re just in the process of organizing many more with the European Parliament, the German Parliament, the French Parliament, and the House of Lords here in the UK. And then, we have screenings across Lebanon that we are busy organizing now and with Middle Eastern institutions here in London, one of which is the center for Lebanese studies. We will have a screening there on the 4th of July.

Mimi: Do you think the way forward – in order to improve the lives of these millions of Syrians –  is to focus on their opportunities elsewhere rather than solving the conflict in Syria?

Sophia: Solving the conflict in Syria is paramount and I’m outraged that it’s going into its sixth year now. But I’m not fooling myself believing that this film can stop war inside Syria. I do hope that we can at least try and help the people that are either trying to flee currently from Syria or have already fled and are trying to survive in neighboring countries.

Mimi: One of the grand challenges of this conflict is educating the next generation. Do you think it’s important to hear from and share the perspectives of children directly?

Sophia: Yes. I mean every child that we met in Lebanon had experienced some form of terrible trauma from when they still lived under the bombings in Syria, where they’ve lost loved ones. But we also didn’t want to exploit young children, which is why our four main characters are all above the age of 18. We do have scenes where the younger children who Nemr or Sheikh Abdo [Lost in Lebanon characters] teach, and their voices are represented to an extent.

We also wanted to show the positive side and the importance of access to education, which is why some scenes of the film show the children learning, that they’ve been taught. We also wanted to show their eagerness to keep building a society that can help rebuild Syria in the future – which is through education.

Mimi: Should we then prioritize education when investing in the future of Syrian refugees?

Sophia: Yes – education is vital. But there needs to be an emphasis on access to legal status – because if a child or a family doesn’t have legal status in a country like Lebanon, then it makes it very difficult for that child to travel to school because they risk arrest and potential deportation. So it kind of comes hand in hand. The legal status is equally as important. It needs to come before access to education to be honest.

Mimi: The power to change the lives of Syrian refugees, then, lies primarily in the hands of foreign governments.

Sophia: Absolutely. It also lies in the hands of the international community. This film, Lost in Lebanon, is not criticizing the Lebanese government as such. It is shining a light on the fact that they are inundated with Syrian people, and Palestinian people before that, and so there needs to be some help given: advice and funding to ensure that the Lebanese government can in turn support the Syrian refugees that are currently residing in the country.

Mimi: What do you think is the root of the issue?

Sophia: I think the world has lost a lot of its compassion and I think we’ve become very fearful. I think the media and the government sometimes feed that fury of the human condition of hating the other and being fearful of the other. And I think that will only lead to future wars and make for very ugly societies. So Georgia and I are all about peace building and joining hands between different religious and ethnic groups. I think it’s so important to see each other as shared human beings living on this planet that belongs to us all. I think that lies at the heart of what we try to achieve with our films.

Mimi: Regarding your filming experience, was it difficult to live one and a half years in Lebanon?

Sophia: It was very challenging, first of all because we kind of give our whole self to the making of this film. We got very emotionally engaged with the characters and financially it was very difficult. We are always fundraising each step of the way. And we spent a lot of time in Lebanon – we got very involved with each character’s life. We kind of felt and still feel very responsible for them because they opened up to us. We have a good film at the end but their lives are still in disarray. It’s not quick fixes and the situation kind of continues. It was difficult and in some instances in the North of Lebanon it wasn’t very safe. There’s a risk of kidnapping so we had to deal with those factors but we felt the film we were making was worth it.  

Mimi: How can individuals engage and contribute to this issue?

Sophia: It starts in your own community. So raise awareness about the plight of refugees and try to make people understand that people are not wanting to leave their homes. They are being forced out of their homes. They don’t want to come to Europe or to America. It’s out of necessity. It’s out of the need to live safely somewhere. So that’s the number one thing that every individual in this world can do is try to spread the understanding that actually it’s the last resort to flee to Europe, or to the US, or to leave their home country. And secondly, also to be engaged and look at organizations that operate on the ground in a funding way. So you can support organizations like 3 Generations, or IFC,  or Refugees International – all these different kinds of organizations that work on the ground. The least is to be aware, to acknowledge.

Mimi: Your film seems very hopeful. It portrays the Syrian refugees gracefully, yet it also doesn’t romanticize their suffering. Was there still joy in the daily life of refugees?
Sophia: Absolutely. We’ve witnessed everything within the course of a year and a half. We’ve watched their friends dying, we’ve watch the birth of babies. We’ve attended weddings, birthday parties, new year’s eve, so we’ve witnessed everything and something that gave us a huge kind of hope was the continuous approach of life where they think “we’re lucky, we’re the lucky ones”.  And the fact that they wanted to help themselves and each other to survive and be an asset rather than a burden. So yes, they are very hopeful people in the face of continuing war in their own country. We found a lot of resilience.

Written by Mimi Mayo-Smith, 3G Intern

The world premiere for Lost in Lebanon will be held in London, United Kingdom at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival on March 12th and 13th, 2017.

“There is nothing like your homeland.

Nothing at all.”

In the global media, we know Syria as a place of conflict. Syria: rife with violations of human rights. Aleppo: a former UNESCO world heritage center now annihilated by bombs, empty of living breath. We do not want to go to Syria, hear about Syria, know Syria.

But Syria for Syrians is another story. Syria for Syrians is home. It is the place where identity and meaning dwells. Yet the war between the Free Syrian Army and al-Assad’s oppressive regime, intertwined with ISIS and Russia’s agendas, has made home a distant ghost for millions of Syrians. Home is now only a memory with faded senses. Thirteen million Syrians can no longer touch, feel, hear or smell their roots.

Lost in Lebanon, a documentary directed by the Scott Sisters and produced by 3 Generations and Jane Wells, gives voice and image to the deep fractures caused by displacement. Yet it is also a story of dignity, hope and beauty that can sprout through the painful cracks of loss.

The fracture is not only geographic but emotional. Lost in Lebanon expresses this complexity through its intimate portrayal of four Syrians stranded in Lebanon. The sounds and visuals of the camera inquire these humans’ feelings, philosophy and legal struggles from the crisis. A crisis they did not create, yet are deeply embedded in without choice.

Lebanon is a country of about 4 million people, but is a refuge for over a million Syrians. In 2014, Lebanon ended its Open Door Policy, giving Syrian refugees very little if not no socio-economic mobility. Yet it would be untrue to claim that Syrians aren’t fighting for change in their “open prisons”.  Although Syrians are stranded in Lebanon, they are the opposite of inactivity. Their eyes carry the depth of life and hope, and they are touchingly graceful in their suffering.  The humans we encounter in the film are not simply “refugees,” but activists fighting for better conditions in their own displaced communities. The film portrays the wisdom of Syrian artists, volunteer teachers, NGO leaders and camp managers in Lebanon with ambitions to give their people and the youngest generation of Syrians an opportunity to survive, to be educated and to belong.

And this is one of the most painful aspects of the refugee experience Lost in Lebanon documents. The political and military agendas of the most powerful governments are denying millions of  Syrians the right to belong.

They are perceived as a “burden”, even if they are humans like you and me seeking peaceful lives.

Their humanity is not only being confiscated through labels, but also through forced conscription (either to the Free Syrian Army or al-Assad’s troops), chemical warfare, exclusive laws and cultural apathy. Syrian refugees have suffered profound trauma and this trauma expresses itself in limitless ways. In Lost in Lebanon, a scene showcases Syrian children in a Lebanese refugee camp rapping about political violence. They are chanting rhythmically about their desire to live simply, ignorant of the world’s political theater armed with choking gases and indiscriminate bombs. The insight these children have on the nature of politics imprinted on me. Their honest expression was beautiful but disturbingly tragic. At seven and eight years old, they shouldn’t be singing about bullets planted in their friends’ backs.

Lost in Lebanon is a unique documentary. Unique in its ability to show the beautiful strength of people forced into suffering by warfare, while specifying how this suffering writes their mind’s everyday language:

When will I go home? When will I see my family again?  Will I  be granted legal residency? Will my passport be renewed? Will I ever go back to school? Will the next generation of Syrians be uneducated and landless? Will there be enough water and food for all of us?

These questions are not created out of a void but are derived from the political structures currently in place. The law of migration is bound to nationalist ideology – an ideology that cannot avoid discrimination and injustice.   Passports should not exist, one of the main Syrian protagonists said. Humans should be free to move anywhere, whenever. I agree with her. One’s homeland should not equate “nation” with a fixed racial/religious/sexual/etc. criteria for its citizens. For Syrians, Syria is a place of meaning, that connotes a belonging and holds the history of one’s self and family. It is a land they would like to return to and rebuild.

On March 6th, Trump signed a new travel ban, refusing entry to 6 mainly Muslim countries, including Syria. A 120 day ban has been put in place to block Syrian refugees from finding refuge in the States. This is a disgrace. People must watch Lost in Lebanon, not only to understand the political situation but to recognize that the humans affected are like ourselves and that our nationalist ideology is oppressive. We need to use our voices to keep theirs resoundingly alive.


Lost in Lebanon was reviewed by Cinevue, and was selected as one of their top picks at the HRW Film Festival 2017. To read the review, visit: 

Lebanon revises Open Door Policy.

See Amnesty’s report on Assad’s war crimes: 

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