Image provided by Paula Allen.
In September, five representatives of the Agrupación de Familiares de Ejecutados y Detenidos Desaparecidos de Calama (AFEDDEP, the Association of Relatives of Executed and Missing Political Prisoners of Calama, Chile) came to Oklahoma to receive the 2014 Clyde Snow Social Justice Award. The President and one of the founding members of the AFEDDEP, Violeta Berríos, was accompanied by Lorena Hoyos, Ana Yueng, Teresa Berríos Contreras, and María Irmina Araya Tapia, a group composed of wives, sisters and daughters of the working men who were disappeared in the early days following the 1973 military coup in Chile. They were joined by photojournalist Paula Allen, who nominated the group for the award and who has documented their decades-long efforts to recover the remains of their loved ones and learn the truth about what happened to them. The title of Allen’s book about the women’s struggle and the pressure they put on the Chilean government to account for their missing relatives, Flowers in the Desert, refers to one of the ways the women mourned their losses and honored their dead: without knowledge of the location of the clandestine burials or graves to visit they scattered flowers in the desolate Atacama Desert.
The women’s four-day visit to OU was preceded by a screening of the film “Nostalgia for the Light,” by Chilean filmmaker Patricio Guzmán, which includes the story of the women of Calama. During their visit, the women from Calama had numerous opportunities to speak to and meet with students, including a classroom visit and a moving presentation to an interdisciplinary group of faculty and students from across campus. Additionally, Paula Allen gave a public lecture about the women illustrated with her photographs, followed by a panel discussion with the representatives from the Agrupación. Allen also gave an interview for the World Views radio program, which aired in December on KGOU. Members of the OU community who attended these events were profoundly affected by the women’s story of strength and persistence in the face of profound loss and great personal danger. The Chilean women in turn were inspired by the positive responses they received from the students; upon returning to Chile, the women planned to reach out to students in their own country to work with them to continue their search for justice. While the goal of the Award is to recognize those who work to rehumanize victims of human rights abuses, an unintended consequence and positive outcome of the Award and the response from students on our campus was to further energize these women to continue to pursue their efforts.
The highlight of their visit was the award banquet and ceremony. Over one hundred invited guests, including members of the Whistler-Snow family and donors to the Clyde Snow Social Justice Award, attended the banquet. Among the speakers, Norman Mayor Cindy Rosenthal presented Dr. Snow’s widow, Jerry Whistler Snow, with an official document proclaiming the following day, September 27, 2014, Dr. Clyde Snow Social Justice Day in the City of Norman. This was the second Clyde Snow Social Justice Award; the first one was given to Dr. Snow himself. Sadly, it was also the first award given out after his passing. Dr. Snow had been an active participant in the evaluation of the nominees for the award in his name, and his presence was strongly felt at the Award ceremony. The following day, Dr. Snow’s family, friends, former students, and the recipients of the award in his honor gathered for a Celebration of Life, one of several gatherings that have been held in his honor from New York to Buenos Aires in the year following his death in May 2014. The biannual Clyde Snow Social Justice Award will continue for years to come as a tribute to Dr. Snow’s human rights work by recognizing the efforts of those who strive to restore the humanity and dignity of communities that have suffered human rights violations.