Internationally-known human rights activist Dr. Alison L. Des Forges, who authored a book about the Rwandan genocide, was killed in Flight 3407 last February 12th. On the anniversary of her death, Dr. Des Forges’ life and work will be commemorated in Buffalo through a one-woman play called Miracle in Rwanda.
Based on the book Left to Tell by Immaculée Ilibagiza, the play (schedule of events below) portrays Ilibagiza’s surviving the Rwandan genocide by hiding in a tiny bathroom with seven other women for ninety-one days. Actress Leslie Lewis Sword brilliantly transforms herself into a host of characters to tell the story of Ilibagiza, whose family was brutally murdered during the three-month slaughter and who, miraculously, was spared as hundreds of machete-wielding killers searched the house repeatedly for her, determined to find and butcher her.
Crafted by Leslie Lewis Sword and co-creator Edward Vilga, Miracle in Rwanda chronicles these dramatic events through the interior life of Immaculée. The message is one of personal empowerment, of overcoming all obstacles through the power of faith, and ultimately finding peace of mind amidst unbelievable hardship. Often called “our generation’s Anne Frank”–yet one who thankfully survived–the true miracle of Immaculée’s story is her ability to forgive.
Alison Des Forges was Senior Advisor to the Africa Division of Human Rights Watch and one of the world’s leading experts on Rwanda. Her book Leave None to Tell the Story: Genocide in Rwanda is a landmark account of the 1994 genocide. Her tireless efforts to awaken the international community to the horrors of that event earned her many awards, including a MacArthur Foundation Award in 1999.
The producer of the play, DeWane Allen Harris, a University at Buffalo graduate, has organized a full slate of events, including films preceding the second and third performances of the play, as well as commentary after each play performance. Tickets for the 7:30PM screenings on February 12th and 13th are $25 (general admission) and $10 (students with ID) and are available at the SBI ticket office, 221 Student Union, UB, or online (click on” Tickets”) or at this ticket site.
On February 11th, the Alison L. Des Forges Memorial Committee is sponsoring a special Opening Night Reception before the play to honor Alison’s memory and to continue raising funds for a scholarship and lectures in her name. Aloys Habimana, a Rwandan survivor of the genocide and Deputy Director of the Africa Division of Human Rights Watch, and Roger Des Forges, Alison’s husband and Professor of History at UB, will provide commentary after the play. Tickets for the Opening Night fundraising performance at 7:30PM are $125 each, and are available by calling Helene Kramer of the Alison L. Des Forges Memorial Committee at 716.866.3876, or by email at ALDMemorial@gmail.com. Contributions are also gratefully accepted.
On February 12th, the film Hotel Rwanda will be screened at 4PM in the Student Union Theater. Hosted by UB professors Bruce Jackson and Diane Christian, it will be followed by commentary by Paul Rusesbagina, whose heroic efforts to save hundreds of Tutsis are portrayed in the film. Play at 7:30PM. Post-play commentary will be provided that evening by Monique Mujawamariya, a Rwandan survivor of the genocide and founder of the Rwandan Association for the Defense of Human Rights and Public Liberties, and Tim Longman, former Human Rights Watch researcher on Rwanda and currently Professor of Political Science and Director of the African Studies Center at Boston University.
On February 13th, the film Sometimes in April will be screened at 5PM in the Student Union Theater and hosted by UB professors Bruce Jackson and Diane Christian. Play at 7:30PM. Post-play commentary that evening will be provided by Claude Welch, human rights specialist and Professor of Political Science at the University at Buffalo, and Shaun Irlam, student of the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide and Professor of Comparative Literature at the University at Buffalo.