Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Death of Detained Immigrant Inspires Online Game-kind of blows your mind

I discovered a website that will truly blow your mind away. Created by Breakthrough, an international human rights organization, the game centers on an investigation to the death of Boubacar Bah, a detained immigrant who died while imprisoned under suspicious circumstances in 2007. A spokeswoman for ICE said that the video game is “a work of fiction that dehumanizes the individuals depicted and grossly distorts conditions in detention facilities.” She added, “I believe that most informed people know that they leave reality at the door when they enter the world of video games.” I actually played the online video game which is found at . In the game, you are an undercover reporter who has applied for a job as a detention guard at the Elizabeth Detention Center in NJ where Bah died (and Fauziya was held). You move around the detention facility picking up clues, talking to other inmates, reviewing incident reports having to due with Bah, all the meanwhile taking notes. While this is a video game as ICE officials are quick to remind us, it is simply a video game because it’s an interactive virtual story being told. Throughout the game, “the content encountered along the way is backed by links to real newspaper articles, court documents and other factual material.”  

Breakthrough, the human rights organization responsible for this video game, is known to mix fantasy with reality with the goal of educating young people on immigration issues. They have another online video game called “ICED-I Can End Deportation” in which “a player assumes the role of one of five characters with uncertain immigration status, trying to avoid deportation and secure citizenship. That game can be found at It serves as a good mental workout for us so I would suggest that you take 15 minutes from “facebooking” and play these two pretty wild video games about detainees and legal status. Talk about human rights group stepping up their game huh?

Alison Des Forges: A True Human Rights Champion

I only had the opportunity to see Dr. Des Forges a few times at African Studies Association conferences. I was surprised at how physically tiny and fragile she looked. In my mind -- she was a giant -- what else could she be -- standing up to human rights abusers whatever their ethnicity, religion or political affiliation.
It came as quite the shock to hear that she had died in a plane crash --over Buffalo. To Dr. Des Forges' family -- I am sure that nothing will soothe the pain of her loss -- but I think that you should know that there are many others, like me, out there that admired her from afar. She was an inspiration and a true hero. May she rest in peace.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free,
provided they have satisfactorily filled out forms 3584-A through
3597-Q. Dwight MacDonald 1963.