Peter Gabriel attended … but as a robot!
On Thursday, November 12, Witness, an organization dedicated to helping people across the world learn how to properly take videos so they can document any type of human rights violations happening in their community, held its 11th annual “Focus For Change” benefit at ArtBeam. The legendary Peter Gabriel, also the co-founder of Witness, was set to host the festivities, but unfortunately he was feeling sick so Witness, specializing in videography, set up a robot where Peter would connect from England through a live stream, so he could give a moving speech during the gala.
The evening featured performances by Sebu Simonian of Capital Cities, Black Violin, and DJs Scribe & OP!. Philippe Dauman, Viacom President & CEO, was honored for his dedication to amplifying stories of social change and in doing so inspiring Viacom audiences to take action around issues that matter to them.
Q: Can you talk to me about what it’s like being at this gala?
A: Yeah, I know the room and I know the people so this is the first time in 20 years that I actually haven’t made it so I feel a lot of the same feelings that I usually feel but once removed.
Q: Can you talk about the organization’s goals and what it means to you?
A: Well, it means a great deal. I think from the beginning when we were dreaming about getting cameras to the world and give people the tools to fight for their rights and for justice, and that was a dream that has been realized many times over by this organization. And now there has been a big transformation because every fund comes with a camera. So now it is a different requirement in that we need to provide support services—a lot of human rights videos are not effective when it is shot so you can help people understand how to shoot the video in such a way in that it makes it better evidence, that makes it a more compelling video, and teaches them how to keep themselves safe, distribute the content, and make it count, so it is a less precise project. The old version was that you just get cameras out and get people to do something but now rather than work with lots of smaller groups; it is trying to provide this service to millions of people, so the reach is much further and deeper.
Q: And what are you looking forward to most about this gala tonight?
A: Well, I’ll feel a lot happier when I finish my speech. It’s probably the usual but just with getting past this I have to do everything tight.
Kevin Moore is a WeCopwatch Baltimore Activist who filmed the arrest of Freddie Gray. Read our interview with him below:
Q: What is it like being at this gala and what Witness’s goal means to you?
A: It is amazing. It is the first thing that I have done on this level. I am very honored to be here. For me, two years ago you could not tell me I would be here. The tragic incident of what happened to my friend has propelled us into the most positive of directions, but it is a shame that he had to take the sacrifice for us to be here, but I take confidence in that fact that he did not die in vain and I am still the voice for Freddie Gray.
Q: Can you talk about the whole response to Freddie Gray and how the overwhelming response meant to you?
A: Well, once it happened, initially it was like, ‘man what do we do?’ I went out on a limb, I didn’t know anything, and I went to internal affairs, because I am thinking that these guys are the police and they can do something with this video. So once I got back home, a few days ago by and I am thinking about how long does it need to take for something to happen? And so once I felt that they were taking too long to do what I felt was necessary, I got out and put feet on the ground and called every major media outlet, we posted it on Facebook and YouTube just to try and get the video picked up, and it did. And so now this is bigger than Freddie, this is a life thing. And I feel that Freddie was just a stepping stone to get to the better place, to get to the Promised Land. And you have so many more, you have Sandra Bland all the way to Amadou Diallo, all of these people who are just stepping stones to the equality that we thrive for and hunger for.
Q: And can you talk about Witness is so important and relevant in today’s society and why it is necessary to take video?
A: Witness is awesome. We have the same goal, the same vision, and so to have an organization of this standard backing us, it makes us feel like we can do anything. It helps us accomplish a lot more than if we were doing it by ourselves. So today, I feel like if we had more organizations like Cop Watch, like Witness, to get out and put feet and boots on the ground and stay grassroots and continue to care about the neighborhood and the community and once you have that rooted it’s like what else can stop you?
Q: Can you talk about Peter Gabriel and the robot?
A: Man, it was weird at first like, ‘man, is this a robot? Is somebody else here moving it?’ And then he was like, ‘no, I’m moving it.’ And so I was like, ‘this is awesome I have to get one!’ But it was great to meet the founder because he is a huge name and so I feel like it was destined for us to meet.
Q: And can you talk about what you’re looking forward to most about tonight’s event?
A: I am looking forward to just mingling with a lot of people with the same goal, and that goal is freedom. And so it feels great to bump shoulders with people who genuinely care about the movement just as much as I do. And so, for me, that in itself is an honor, and for them to have me speaking on stage and really get into my life story is amazing and I am grateful to be here.