Join us on Tuesday, December 7, at 5pm Eastern time for our Artist Spotlight! Our special online event celebrates the work of bold and amazing artists who have faced extreme risks and hardships under oppressive regimes.
Featured on Comedy Central, our headliner Mohanad Elshieky will treat us to hilarious standup and make us laugh at the seemingly unlaughable. Musician and activist Mai Khoi will perform several of her songs. Journalist Arzu Yıldız will share her work and talk about the cost of freedom after she lost everything for reporting on government corruption and illegal arms dealing in Turkey. Writer and activist Hammadi Khelifi will talk about writing during the Tunisian uprising. NYC council member Carlos Menchaca will host the event!
Register here to access the Zoom link. Tickets are sliding scale with a $25 suggested price and an option to make an additional tax-deductible donation. You can also donate to our End of Year Fundraising Campaign to carry this crucial work into the new year.
Mohanad Elshieky began his comedy career in Benghazi hosting a comedic political call-in radio show. Offended by the jokes, Islamic militants burned down the radio station, signaling to Mohanad it was time to leave. He began performing standup in Portland where Thrillist labeled him Oregon’s best comedian. Mohanad has performed on Comedy Central, Conan, and Unprotected Sets, entertaining crowds with stories of illegal detainment, confrontations with militants, and his disdain for Uber. He also co-hosts “I’m Sorry,” a hilarious podcast about apologies and forgiveness. He currently lives in New York and works as a digital producer on Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.
After rising to musical stardom in Vietnam in 2010, Mai Khoi became increasingly uncomfortable submitting her work to government censors. Hoping to change the system from within, Mai Khoi nominated herself to run in the National Assembly elections on a pro-democracy platform, sparking a nationwide debate about political participation. Her music and activism led to police raiding her concerts and detaining her for questioning. She had to leave Vietnam, but continues to lead efforts to promote freedom of artistic expression in her home country while living in exile in the US. Mai Khoi tells her story in the performance piece Bad Activist and performs with her band, Mai Khoi and the Dissidents.
Arzu Yıldız is an investigative reporter whose hard hitting work includes reporting on corruption in the Turkish government, coverups of high profile murder cases, and illegal arms dealing in Turkey. She worked for the oppositional newspaper Taraf before the Turkish government shut it down in the wake of the 2016 coup attempt. Arzu became the first journalist to be issued an arrest warrant in the post-coup attempt crackdown. Facing an indeterminate prison sentence, Arzu made the incredibly difficult decision to leave behind her home and her children to live in freedom. She has written four books and writes for New Canadian Media. Arzu recently won the PEN Canada-Humber College Writer’s in Exile Scholarship.
Hammadi Khelifi has published two novels: Escape in in 2016 that was awarded the Rambourg Foundation Award for Art and Culture, Dhawat National Students Bureau Award, and Prose Not For Publication in 2019. His work also appears in several journals around the world, including DAWN in D.C., Ultra Sawt in Doha, and Akhbaroukom in Beirut. Hammadi worked in several human rights organizations in Tunisia and New York, such as the World Federalist Movement/Institute for Global Policy, the World Organization Against Torture and I Watch Organization/Transparency International. Hammadi has also participated in several social movements against corruption and impunity in the Tunisian government, such as “I Will Not Forgive” and “Free Writers.” Hammadi serves on RTP’s Advisory Council.
Carlos Menchaca is tireless champion for New York City’s immigrant community, leading negotiations that funded the nation’s largest public defender program for undocumented immigrants, and for the greatest City allocation in recent history for adult literacy services. He has supported innovative programs for immigrant day laborers, street vendors, and worker cooperatives. Carlos authored the legislation for IDNYC, an ID card that enables all New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status, to access benefits and programs, open a bank account, take the high school equivalency exam and more. Representing New York City Council District 38 in Brooklyn, he is the state’s first Mexican-American elected official and Brooklyn’s first openly gay office holder.