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Interview with Michele Greene about Amnesty and the Women of Ciudad Juarez
Michele Greene’s work is not unknown. She is an Emmy-nominated actress and a bilingual singer as well as a writer. Her voice has reverberated in both solo work and on compilations. Her acting abilities have graced the screen both small and large. Her writing has included not only song lyrics but also a grant-winning screenplay and a young adult novel.
But perhaps the most interesting thing that Greene has done in her life is her work with Amnesty International. A few years ago Greene started using music from her CD Luna Roja to benefit the efforts of Amnesty International for the Women of Ciudad Juarez – the kidnapped and murdered women of Mexico. The Amnesty website explains that: “since 1993, almost 400 women and girls have been murdered and more than 70 remain missing in Ciudad Juárez and Chihuahua, Mexico.”
Greene’s CD helped to raise awareness about this crucial issue. In an interview Greene explained her CD really well by saying:
“Luna Roja is an homenaje (homage) to these women: the sisters, the daughters, the mothers, the workers who deserve justice and the basic human dignity of being treated as if their lives and deaths matter. They do matter. Lo que pasa a mi hermana, me pasa a mí también (What happens to my sister, happens to me.) I urge people to speak up, speak out and end this violence.”
In addition to awareness-raising benefit concerts that she held after the album’s release, a portion of the proceeds from the CD sales go towards continued support of Amnesty’s work. This is really important work and a really interesting cause. And it’s neat to see someone with a diverse creative background contributing to something like this.
Following is an interview that I did with Michele Greene specifically about her Amnesty work and the Luna Red CD.
Q: How have the different creative roles that you play influenced one another?
A: They all share the same through-line of telling a story from a particular social and political perspective. Of course, my own writing is in my artistic voice. As an actor, I take someone else’s creation and give it a living, breathing, speaking interpretation but the story is theirs. However, I always try to find the socio-political undercurrents in any character. Life is political, whether people want to admit it or not!
Q: What motivated you to get involved specifically with Amnesty?
A: I have been an Amnesty member for many years. This is an issue that really resonated with me. Being Mexican-American, my mother’s family is from Ciudad Juarez and we have friends from Mexico who could easily have been working in the maquilas and become victims of the violence in Juarez. I wrote a song about it, but I really wanted to get involved in the issue in an ongoing way.
Q: What would you encourage others to do to assist the Women of Ciudad Juarez?
A: Get involved in Amnesty’s campaign to pressure the large multi-national corporations that have factories down there to fund the kinds of projects that the women of Juarez and their families need: a children’s center to help the grandmothers who must now care for the small children of their murdered and missing daughters, a free legal aid office to help and advise the families who must file briefs and complaints in a state criminal justice system that does it’s best to thwart them at every turn. These are some of Amnesty’s big projects; they are tangible, positive, hands-on objectives that are not punitive. They are opportunities for these companies to get involved in helping a situation that their presence in Juarez exacerbates. Mexico is a traditional, macho society; there are a lot of unemployed men in Ciudad Juarez and the maquilas hire mainly women. The multi-nationals are part of changing the traditional roles, bringing women out of the home and into the workplace, giving them earning power and a greater voice in their families. As the social culture of Juarez struggles with these changes, greater violence against women is one of the unfortunate consequences.
Q: What is your favorite song to perform?
A: “Ciudad Juarez” for the way the voice shifts in the song to a family member looking for her sister, allowing me to tap into it from an actor’s perspective. And “Julieta”, which was inspired by Shakespeare, because I just love the way the tres reminds me of a harpsichord or some 15th century music.
Q: How does your band alter or add to your sound?
A: They give life to the sound I have in my head. I am not a solo guitar, folk singer / songwriter; I hear these grooves with conga, accordion, violin – with music! My band embodies it and fleshes it out and Ciro understands how to put that sound together in a way that is still acoustic and intimate.
Q: What is one thing you want fans to know about your work?
A: I believe that all art is about taking a stand and speaking up for those who do not have a voice or power. It is about making us question our world and our beliefs and to get involved. To be an artist is more than entertainment or vanity or celebrity. It’s about courage and change.
If Michele’s work has motivated you to learn more about the Women of Ciudad Juarez and the work of Amnesty International, visit http://www.amnestyusa.org/women/juarez/.