In order to promote the rights of people with disabilities as equal members of society and to encourage exchange between the United States and Syria, the Open Hands Initiative partnered with the Victor Pineda Foundation to bring together 26 self-advocate youths and their parents for the first-ever Youth Ability Summit. The Summit, which took place in Damascus, Syria in 2010, brought together youth disability advocates to share their experiences, ideas, and culture, while creating strategies to promote the rights of youth with disabilities. The youth also worked with comic book experts from Liquid Comics to create the Silver Scorpion comic book series, a groundbreaking publishing platform to empower people with disabilities.
The Youth Ability Summit was led by Victor Pineda, American activist and founder of a World Enabled, expert and strategist Valerie Karr, and Syrian activist Chavia Ali. Together, these leaders led our Summit seminars and also collaborated in a three-day workshop to create "Ensuring Rights in Development", a guidebook for implementing the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The guidebook contains case studies from the Middle East and North Africa and is directed at civil society organizations, practitioners, and policymakers.
Our Silver Scorpion comic book series is the first of its kind to raise awareness of the rights of people with disabilities and employ a cross-cultural approach to promoting inclusion and diversity. It was developed by 26 American and Syrian youths with disabilities as part of our Youth Ability Summit under the guidance and leadership of Liquid Comics. More than a superhero, the Silver Scorpion serves as a cross-culture hero that promotes tolerance, inclusion, and equality. The Silver Scorpion comic book was honored at the Clinton Global Initiative in September 2010 as part of our global Commitment to Action.
In February 2011, the Silver Scorpion debuted at the Dar al-Assad Opera House in Damascus, Syria. More than one thousand people attended to watch the animated premiere. The comic book was later released in the United States on Free Comic Book Day on May 7, 2011. In 2012, the comic was transformed into a fully animated version, broadcast on television and the web through a partnership with MTV Voices. Watch the first episode on our YouTube channel.
Syria is a country with a proud history, rich culture, and valued traditions. Yet awareness of this heritage has been lacking in the United States. Similarly, American culture and values are often not fully understood in Syria. Now more than ever, cultivating trust and understanding between the two peoples has become critically important to peace-building in the region. By engaging in projects that address our shared challenges – expanding rights to all members of society – and promoting the arts that touch on our shared humanity and desire for creative expression will help deconstruct our limited narratives of each other and open up a space to find common ground and connect.
We actively seek partners — individuals and organizations — from around the world in order to advance our common goals. Please contact us by mail, phone or email to find out more about getting involved.
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