By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Mar 06, 2010 at 3:10 PM

International human rights attorney Eric Sirotkin will present excerpts from his film, "Committing Poetry in Times of War," along with a dialogue on the power of creativity in free speech and social activism. The event takes place on Friday, March 19 at 7 p.m. at the Friends Meetinghouse, 3224 N. Gordon Pl.  

An open mic will follow, allowing local poets and activists to share some of their poetry and comments.

"Committing Poetry" is the story of poets who banded together in support of their first amendment right despite mistrust caused by the 9 / 11 tragedy and its aftermath.  It recounts the firing of seven New Mexico teachers for allowing an open debate on the Iraq invasion, and tells the story of high school humanities teacher and poetry slam coach, Bill Nevins, who was fired for student expression about the war.  

"(This film is) a testament to our creative spirit and an affirmation of the power of creative minds and words," says Sirotkin. "It serves as a path toward transformation and hope in troubling times."

The film, containing the work of many talented poets and musicians, screened in dozens of film festivals around the world and won several independent film awards, including the Telluride Talking Gourd Poetry Festival’s Tellus Award as Poetry Film of the Year.  It was also nominated for Best Picture at a festival in South Africa.

Karen W. Moore, an attorney pursuing a doctorate in urban studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, organized the event.

"This film is more relevant than ever. It’s about free speech, particularly by and among educators and students," says Moore.

The next day, on Saturday, March 20, Sirotkin will lead a dialogue at Woodland Pattern Book Center, 720 E. Locust St., at 2 p.m. This workshop will allow local poets at all levels to share their social justice-motivated words and poetry.   

These events are free and open to the public. However, donations to benefit Peace Action are encouraged.

During his visit to Milwaukee, Sirotkin will visit several classes at MATC's Mequon campus where he will share his experiences related to representing individuals in free speech cases, his work as coordinator of the International Monitoring Project of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, and his current work assisting lawyers in Korea who are advocating for peace and reconciliation of the North and South.  

Before Sirotkin's visit to Milwaukee, he will speak to law students and other groups in Minneapolis and Madison.