What is Unsilence? Unsilence is a national educational nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that helps young people and communities start difficult conversations about taboo and hidden stories of human rights.
What is Unsilence's mission? Unsilence breaks taboos and lifts voices to illuminate stories of human rights and ignite action against injustice. We create empowering learning experiences for youth and the public, and teach educators and community leaders, to spark dialogue, support critical thinking, and build empathy to inspire healing and social change.
What issues does Unsilence "unsilence"? Unsilence helps communities talk about difficult topics, including: mental health and suicide; sexual and domestic violence; political asylum and refugee rights; mass incarceration and systemic racism; transgender, lesbian, gay, and bisexual rights; girls’ and women’s rights; genocide denial; and many other issues.
Who is Unsilence's audience? Young adults, educators, policymakers, and the public. We train teachers and informal educators. Wedeliver workshops for students and young adults. We run community and public programs. We engage and train administrative staff and policymakers in the field of education and in social services, including social workers and health professionals.
Which communities does Unsilence work with? Unsilence works with schools, museums, youth centers, communities of faith, and organizations, and in public spaces. We have a local, national, and international reach, including: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Illinois, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Wyoming, and Washington D.C., as well as Poland, Israel, and Germany.
How does Unsilence engage different audiences? Unsilence uses pedagogically-sound, research-driven approaches to draw people into human rights content. Our in-person learning experiences include youth workshops, teacher trainings, and community-based interactive lectures. Our free online content includes human rights fiction, WebQuests, choose-your-own-pathway stories, virtual exhibitions, and other highly-engaging methodologies.
What makes Unsilence unique? We use our Framework of Unsilencing to help young adults and educators explore how and why certain human rights become hidden. Institutional Silencing (e.g., laws and policy), Cultural Silencing (e.g., prejudice and taboos), and Personal Silencing (e.g., shame and fear) form barriers that prevent communities from talking openly about important and urgent issues like mental health, sexual violence, and systemic racism.
How does Unsilence decide which issues to "unsilence"? International treaties like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provide a foundation for our work. Unsilence programs focus on human rights that society finds difficult to talk about, especially with young people. We address a broad range of issues, because specific human rights do not exist in isolation; they are interconnected. Through our on-the-ground programs and emerging local chapters (Unsilence Here), communities get to decide for themselves which issues are most relevant and urgent.
How can I bring Unsilence to my community or get involved? Unsilence offers customized programs for schools, communities, and organizations. In the near future, we'll have opportunities to volunteer. We would love to hear from you. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How did Unsilence get started? Unsilence grew out of the doctoral research of learning scientist and fiction writer Danny M. Cohen, under the supervision of Brian Reiser and Phyllis Lassner at Northwestern University. Danny's study of educators at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center led to his creation of human rights content and educator training programs to help schools and communities "unsilence" marginalized historical and contemporary narratives. Advised by fellow learning scientists and human rights educators, including Stacey Mann, Kelley H. Szany, Alexis S. Morrisroe, and Julia Eksner, the creation of groundbreaking learning experiences and a Framework of Unsilencing led to the founding of Unsilence as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in 2014.
What is Unsilence's vision for the future? Unsilence is a movement, and we're growing in reach and scope. We are a community working together to shed light on hidden stories of human rights. By giving voice to the marginalized and by breaking taboos, we help communities take action against injustice, build bridges with others, and find ways to heal.