Holly Skolnick Human Rights Award

Edwidge Danticat

Writer, Filmmaker, Educator and Activist

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Edwidge Danticat is an award-winning writer, filmmaker, educator, and activist. The author of more than a dozen acclaimed literary works, Danticat began writing at the age of nine. At 12, she emigrated from her native Haiti to Brooklyn, New York and by the age of 14, she published her first essay, "A Haitian-American Christmas" in New Youth Connections, a newspaper written by teenagers in New York.

Danticat graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Barnard College, where she received a Bachelor of Arts in French Literature and Translation. She received a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Brown University in 1993. She has taught Creative Writing at both New York University and the University of Miami.

Her first novel — Breath, Eyes, and Memory — was an Oprah's Book Club selection in 1998. She is a multiple National Book Award nominee for Krik? Krak! and then for Brother, I'm Dying in 2007. Brother, I’m Dying details the death in US immigration custody, of Danticat’s uncle Joseph, a charismatic pastor, she considered her second father. Late in 2004, forced to flee Haiti after a mob attacked his church, the frail, eighty-one-year-old Joseph made his way to Miami, where he requested asylum. Instead, he was detained by U.S. Customs and Immigration, was brutally imprisoned, and was dead within days. It was a story that made headlines around the world.

Edwidge appeared on 60 Minutes and other television programs to discuss her uncle’s case as well as to advocate for the fair treatment of immigrants and asylum seekers. She has written several opinion pieces and has testified before congress on immigration issues.

A respected national voice  for the rights of Haitians and other immigrants, Danticat was the writer and narrator of the 2009 documentary film Poto Mitan, which examines the historical and contemporary impact of colonization and globalization on Haitian society through the eyes of five women. She is also the Associate Producer, with filmmaker Jonathan Demme,  of the documentary films, "Courage and Pain: Haitian  Torture Survivors" and  “The Agronomist”, a documentary film  about the assassination of Jean Leopold Dominique, one of Haiti’s most prominent journalists. She is also the co-writer of  a documentary film about girls’ education called “Girl Rising”. In 2009, she received a John D. and Catherine MacArthur Foundation Fellowship or Genius grant. She has also received the  Langston Hughes Medal of Honor,  the  Dayton Literary Peace Prize, the National Books Critics Circle Award, and The Story Prize.  In 2010, Edwidge was named one of Foreign Policy Magazine, "100 Global Thinkers," 2010 and The Root.com's "100 African-American Newsmakers”. This year, she will publish a picture book, Mama's Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation  and a young adult novel called  Untwine.

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AI Justice is an award-winning non-profit law and advocacy firm that protects and promotes the basic human rights of immigrants. In Florida and on a national level, we champion the rights of unaccompanied immigrant children; advocate for survivors of trafficking and domestic violence; serve as a watchdog on immigration detention practices and policies; and speak for immigrant groups who have particular and compelling claims to justice.