Guantánamo Public Memory Project

Why Remember Guantánamo? Exhibit Opening and National Dialogue

December 13-14, 2012 Columbia University and NYU

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National Dialogue

December 13, 9:30-4:00, Held Lecture Hall (Room 304) Barnard Hall, Barnard College (map)

December 14, 9:30-5:30,  New York University, King Juan Carlos Center, 53 Washington Square South (map)

Exhibit Opening Reception

December 13, 6-8pm, New York University, King Juan Carlos Center, 53 Washington Square South (map)

Exhibit Venue

Kimmel Windows, LaGuardia Place & West 3rd, On view 24/7 through February 10

This event concludes the first international conference of Columbia University’s Alliance for Historical Dialogue and Accountability, December 11-14.



Speaker Bios



Join a national dialogue on GTMO’s long history and how it matters today. Hear from people who worked, lived, served, or were held at GTMO from the Cold War through the War on Terror; from the historians, activists, artists, and archivists saving their stories; and from the nearly 100 students around the country who brought those stories to the public through the Guantánamo Public Memory Project’s first exhibit.


Event sponsors:  Columbia University: Heyman Center for the Humanities, Institute for Latin American Studies, Institute for the Study of Human Rights, University Seminar on History, Redress, and Reconciliation and University Seminar on Cultural Memory;  New York University: Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Graduate School of Arts and Science, Humanities Institute, Master’s College, Provost’s Global Research Initiatives; and the New York Council on the Humanities


Thursday, December 13: Held Lecture Hall (Room 304) Barnard Hall, Barnard College

9:00-10:30 Opening: Guantánamo and Historical Dialogue

• Elazar Barkan, Director, Columbia Institute for the Study of Human Rights

• Liz Ševčenko, Director, Guantánamo Public Memory Project

• Jonathan Hansen, Lecturer in Social Studies, Harvard University

10:30-10:45 Coffee break

10:45-12:15 Where is Guantánamo? Locating the Legal Black Hole

• Moderator: Diana Taylor, University Professor of Performance Studies and Spanish, New York University

• Student teams from the University of Massachusetts and Arizona State University present public memory projects on mapping GTMO and the history of its built environment


• Michelle Chase, Assistant Professor of History, Bloomfield College

• Commander Jeff Johnston, head of public works at GTMO, 1999-2009

12:15-1:15 Lunch

1:15-2:45 GTMO and American Empire

• Moderator: Michael Strauss, Professor of International Relations, Centre d’Etudes et Stratégique Diplomatique

• Student teams present public memory projects on the War of 1898 and the leasing of Guantánamo Bay (Rutgers University New Brunswick); life at GTMO in the Cold War (University of North Carolina at Greensboro); and military families’ communities of memory (University of West Florida).


• Jana Lipman, Associate Professor, Tulane University

• Esther Halmon and Leslie Aldama-Palmer, daughters of Cuban workers who grew up on the base in the 1960s

2:45-3:00 Coffee break

3:00-4:30 Working group dialogues: What do we need to remember about GTMO? What questions does its history help us discuss as a community and country? What should be the next steps for the Guantánamo Public Memory Project and how can each of us contribute?

6:00-8:00 Exhibit opening reception, King Juan Carlos Center, New York University, 53 Washington Square South

Friday, December 14: King Juan Carlos Center, New York University

9:00-10:00 Introduction to the Guantánamo Public Memory Project

• Liz Ševčenko, Director, Guantánamo Public Memory Project

10:00-11:30 Safe Haven or Prison Camp? GTMO and immigration policy

• Moderator: Holly Ackerman, Librarian for Latin American, Iberian and Latino Studies, Duke University

• Student teams present public memory projects on Haitian refugee experiences (Brown University) and Cuban refugee experiences (New York University):


• Colonel Stephen Kinder, Retired Colonel, United States Army, Commander, Joint Task Force at GTMO during 1992-93 Haitian refugee crisis

• Jorge del Rio, Cuban balsero

• Betsy Campisi, University at Albany, State University of New York

11:30-11:45 Coffee break

11:45-1:15 National Security’s New Paradigm: Confronting the post-9/11 past

• Student teams present public memory projects on post-9-11 GTMO and the Arts of Detention (Indiana University/Purdue University Indianapolis)


• Peter Jan Honigsberg, University of San Francisco Law School, Project Founder and Director, Witness to Guantánamo

• Ramzi Kassem, Director Immigrant & Refugee Rights Clinic and Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility, CUNY

• Zeke Johnson, Director, Security with Human Rights Campaign, Amnesty International

1:15-2:15 Lunch

2:15-3:45 Can we “close Guantánamo?” Alternative visions for GTMO’s future

• Moderator: Catherine Powell, Associate Professor of Law, Fordham Law School

• Student teams present work on post 9-11 GTMO (University of California, Riverside) and how GTMO has been closed before and what’s being imagined and built at GTMO today (University of Minnesota)


• Zachary Katznelson, Senior Staff Attorney, National Security Program, ACLU

• Omar Farah, Staff Attorney, Center for Constitutional Rights

• Albert Shimkus, Associate Professor, National Security Affairs, Naval War College

• Karen Greenberg, Director, National Security Program, Fordham Law School

3:45-4:00 Coffee break

4:00-5:00 Working group dialogues: What do we need to remember about GTMO? What questions does its recent history and current status help us discuss as a community and country? What should be the next steps for the Guantánamo Public Memory Project and how can each of us contribute?

5:00-5:30 Report back and closing

Speaker Bios (As of 11/28)

Holly Ackerman, Librarian for Latin America and Iberia, Duke University

Holly Ackerman is the librarian for Latin America and Iberia at Duke University. Her research established the foundational demography and history of the 1994 Cuban raft crisis. She has also published works on Cuban political prisoners, the Cuban diaspora, Cuban national reconciliation and various topics related to Caribbean migration. Her work has appeared in Cuban Studies, Encuentro de la cultura cubana, and Latino Studies. She has produced three digital archives on Cuban, Dominican and Haitian themes. Dr. Ackerman served as the country specialist on Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic for Amnesty International in the United States from 1999 to 2006 and continues to consult with their Co-Group Program.

Leslie Aldama

Leslie Aldama was born and raised by Cuban parents on the U.S. Naval Base in Guantánamo Bay.  When the Castro Revolution began, Ms. Aldama’s mother had been working as a seamstress on the base. She made the difficult decision to stay there in hopes of a better future, unable to tell her family of this choice for fear of endangering them. Ms. Aldama’s father was working as a police officer in Cuba, but amidst increasing instability he had an opportunity to move to the naval base, which he took despite having to leave behind loved ones.  Ms. Aldama’s parents began dating on the base and were eventually married. Ms. Aldama grew up at Gitmo with her younger twin brothers (the first Cuban twins to be born on the base), and relocated to Miami with her parents just before her senior year in high school.  The transition was a culture shock, but Ms. Aldama adjusted, graduating that year and receiving an athletic scholarship to Miami Dade College.   She eventually acquired her State of Florida mortgage license, and has spent 18 years in the industry helping countless individuals and families become homeowners.  She is proud and thankful for her family’s sacrifices, courage and determination, which have taught her the importance of following her own dreams in the face of adversity.

Elazar Barkan, Director, Columbia University Institute for Human Rights

Elazar Barkan is the director of Institute for the Study of Human Rights at Columbia University and professor of international and public affairs and director of the human rights concentration at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs. He was the founding director of the Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation (IHJR) in The Hague. Professor Barkan’s research interests focus on human rights and on the role of history in contemporary society and politics and the response to gross historical crimes and injustices. His publications include “Historians and Historical Reconciliation,” (AHR Forum) American Historical Review, (October 2009); No Return, No Refuge: Rites and Rights in Minority Repatriation (with Howard Adelman, CUP 2011); The Guilt of Nations: Restitution and Negotiating Historical Injustices (2000); Claiming the Stones/Naming the Bones: Cultural Property and the Negotiation of National and Ethnic Identity (edited with Ronald Bush, 2003); and Taking Wrongs Seriously: Apologies and Reconciliation (edited with Alexander Karn, 2006).

Michelle Chase, Assistant Professor of History, Bloomfield College

Michelle Chase is an assistant professor of history at Bloomfield College. She specializes in 20th-century Cuban history. Her research articles and book reviews have appeared in the Bulletin of Latin American Research, The Americas, The New West Indian Guide, and The Sixties. She has also published on contemporary Cuba for The Nation and NACLA Report on the Americas. She is currently writing a book on the role of women and gender in the Cuban Revolution.

Omar Farah, Staff Attorney, Center for Constitutional Rights

Omar Farah joined the Center for Constitutional Rights in 2012 as a staff attorney in the Guantanamo Global Justice Initiative.   Omar was previously in private practice, working primarily in the area of international commercial arbitration. Since 2008, he has represented several prisoners detained at Guantanamo Bay in habeas corpus litigation in federal court. At CCR, Omar continues to represent Guantanamo prisoners in habeas corpus challenges and in resettlement efforts, focusing particularly on Guantanamo’s large Yemeni prisoner population.   He is counsel in Al-Hamiri v. Obama, the case of a Yemeni man wrongfully arrested in Pakistan while seeking medical treatment, but who remains at Guantanamo despite being cleared for transfer.  He is counsel in Ba Odah v. Obama, the case of another uncharged Yemeni man who has been on a hunger-strike since February 2007 to protest his indefinite detention.  Omar is also co-counsel in Ameziane v. United States, the first ever case to be heard by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights regarding a Guantanamo detainee.  Beyond Guantanamo, Omar focuses on a range of CCR’s litigation and advocacy in response to abusive counterterrorism practices.  He is a graduate of Columbia University and Georgetown University Law Center.

Karen J. Greenberg, Director, National Security Program, Fordham Law School

Karen J. Greenberg is a historian and law professor who has written extensively on Guantanamo, terrorism, civil liberties, and U.S. national security. She is widely cited as an expert on national security and terrorism in the nation’s most prominent media outlets. Greenberg founded The Center on National Security at Fordham University’s School of Law in September 2011 and currently serves as its director. Greenberg is the author or editor of five books. Her most recent book, The Least Worst Place: Guantanamo’s First 100 Days, was selected as one of the best books of 2009 by The Washington Post and

Esther Halmon

Esther Halmon was born in Oriente Province, Cuba. Her father worked at the US Naval base at Guantánamo Bay. In 1964, after the US government required workers to choose between moving to the base or losing their jobs, her father relocated to the base. After 4 years of trying, he was able to bring Ms. Halmon and the rest of the family to the base in 1968. Ms. Halmon attended the base high school, and met her future husband there, who was serving as a Marine. She has fond memories of growing up at GTMO.

Jonathan Hansen, Lecturer in Social Studies, Harvard University

Jonathan Hansen is Lecturer on Social Studies, Faculty Associate, David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard University. An intellectual historian by training, he is the author of The Lost Promise of Patriotism: Debating American Identity, 1890-1920 (Chicago, 2003) and Guantanamo: An American History (Hill and Wangm 2011), along with numerous articles, op-eds, and book reviews on such subjects as U.S. imperialism, nationalism, cosmopolitanism, and race and ethnicity. He is currently working on YOUNG CASTRO, a biography of Fidel Castro (up to 1959) to be published by Simon & Schuster. Hansen’s teaching includes courses on “Justice and Reconciliation after Mass Violence,” “Reconciliation with Cuba” and “Intractable Conflicts” (the last two with Robert Mnookin at Harvard Law School).

Peter Jan Honigsberg, Founder and Director, Witness to Guantanamo 

Peter Jan Honigsberg is professor of law at the University of San Francisco School of Law.  He is the founder and director of the Witness to Guantanamo project, which has filmed full-length interviews of over 100 former detainees and others who have lived or worked in, or are otherwise associated with, the detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  He is the author of Our Nation Unhinged: the Human Consequences of the War on Terror (University of California Press);  has written a number of law review articles on terrorism and Guantanamo related issues; and has contributed pieces to the Huffington Post and other blogs.

Jeff Johnston, PE

Jeff Johnston, PE has spent the majority of his life managing military facilities and real property, including a 23-year career as an officer in the Navy Civil Engineer Corps, retiring in 2009. From 1999 through 2002, he served on the staff of the United States Southern Command, and was involved in the initial planning for the construction of Guantánamo detention facilities.  He later served as the Public Work Officer at the United States Naval Station, Guantánamo Bay (2004-2009).  He is a member of the American Public Works Association and a registered professional engineer in the state of Florida.

Colonel (R) Stephen P. Kinder

Colonel (R) Stephen P. Kinder is a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army. During 32 years of military service he supported combat, peacekeeping, humanitarian, and force projection missions around the world.  From Sept. – Dec. 1992, Colonel (R) Kinder served as Commander of the Joint Task Force Guantánamo.  Charged with overseeing camps that were well beyond capacity during the height of the Haitian refugee crisis, Colonel (R) Kinder successfully instituted a series of changes that helped gain the confidence of the detainees, and improved living conditions and military-refugee relations.  A 1995 New York Times article described Colonel (R) Kinder as a man who built “trust among the frustrated detainees and help[ed] defuse a series of potentially violent incidents.” Colonel (R) Kinder retired from the United States Army in 2000, and has continued to serve as a Department of Defense Advisor and Program Manager Iraq and Afghanistan. He holds two post graduate degrees – Master of Science Degree in Business Management from Frostburg State University, MD and a Master Degree in Strategic Studies Navy War College Newport, RI. His military education includes the Army Command and General Staff College and Naval War College. He is Master Parachutist. Colonel (R) Kinder is married to Stephanie and they have four sons and four grandsons.

Jana K. Lipman, Associate Professor, Tulane University

Jana Lipman is a specialist in the 20th-century U.S., especially foreign relations, social and political history, Cuba and Vietnam. She has published Guantánamo: A Working-Class History between Empire and Revolution. Drawing from rich oral histories and little-explored Cuban archives, Lipman analyzes how the Cold War and the Cuban revolution made the naval base a place devoid of law and accountability. The result is a narrative filled with danger, intrigue and exploitation throughout the twentieth century. Opening a new window onto the history of U.S. imperialism in the Caribbean and labor history in the region, her book tells how events in Guantánamo and the base created an ominous precedent likely to inform the functioning of U.S. military bases around the world. Lipman received her Ph.D. from Yale University in 2006, and she is an assistant professor of history at Tulane University. Guantánamo: A Working-Class History between Empire and Revolution won the 2008 Taft Prize for Labor History.

Catherine Powell, Associate Professor of Law, Fordham University School of Law

Catherine Powell is on the faculty at Fordham Law School, on leave currently as a visiting professor at Georgetown for the 2012-13 academic year.  She teaches international law, constitutional law, and constitutional rights in comparative perspective. She has recently served in government on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Policy Planning Staff and on the White House National Security Staff, where she was Director for Human Rights. During her government service, she worked on international organizations, human rights, democracy, refugee protection, treaties, technology and social media, gender, and Arab Spring. Professor Powell’s current scholarship focuses on global governance, gender and international law, and the relationship between international law and constitutional law. She was previously on the Human Rights Watch board of directors and was a Council on Foreign Relations Term Member. From 1998 to 2002, she was on the faculty at Columbia Law School, as Founding Director of the Human Rights Institute and the Human Rights Clinic. She clerked in the Southern District of New York for Leonard Sand. Her B.A. and J.D. are from Yale, and she has a Master’s Degree from Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.  As a law student, she was part of the team that sued the U.S. Government for the detention of Haitian refugees at Guantanamo, which she visited after graduation to provide advice.

Liz Ševčenko, Director, Guantánamo Public Memory Project

Liz Ševčenko was Founding Director of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, a network of historic sites that foster public dialogue on pressing contemporary issues. Starting in 1999 as a meeting of nine sites under the auspices of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, under her leadership the Coalition grew to an independent organization with over 250 members in more than 40 countries, and launched regional networks in Russia, South America, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East; as well as an international Immigration Sites of Conscience network and a bi-national (US and Canada) Indian Boarding Schools Project. As Coalition Director, Ševčenko worked with initiatives in more than 60 countries to design replicable programs and practices that reflect on past struggles and inspire citizens to become involved in addressing their contemporary legacies. Before launching the Coalition, Ševčenko had over ten years of experience developing public history projects designed to catalyze civic dialogue in New York and around the country. As Vice President for Programs at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, she developed exhibits and educational activities that connect the dramatic stories of the neighborhood’s immigrants past and present. She also developed national and community initiatives to inspire civic dialogue on cultural identity, labor relations, housing, welfare, immigration, and other issues raised by these stories. She has published extensively on Sites of Conscience in journals and edited volumes in a variety of fields, from human rights to cultural heritage to transitional justice, and teaches Museum Studies at New York University.

Albert J. Shimkus, Jr., Associate Professor, National Security Affairs, Naval War College

Professor Albert J. Shimkus, Jr. joined the National Security Affairs (NSA) faculty in December 2006 and was appointed Course Director for the Policy Making and Process (PMP) and Contemporary Staff Environment (CSE) courses in May 2007.  He now teaches in the Leadership sub-courses.  He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1965, served as an independent duty medic at Bucks Harbor Radar Site, ME and completed a tour of duty at Bien Hoa Air Base, RVN in 1967 and 1968.  After earning an honorable discharge he attended and subsequently graduated from Memorial Hospital School of Nursing, Worcester, MA and Salem State College, Salem, MA with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.  He was then appointed to the faculty of Salem Hospital School of Nursing.  Professor Shimkus received a direct commission in the Navy as a Lieutenant Junior Grade in 1977 and was assigned to Naval Hospital Annapolis, MD where he practiced in the intensive care unit.  He graduated from George Washington University in 1981with a Bachelor of Science in Nurse Anesthesia and practiced as a nurse anesthetist (CRNA) for over 25 years with numerous tours in support of deployed forces.  He earned an MA in National Security and Strategic Studies from the Naval War College in 1993.  He had numerous leadership tours while on active duty to include executive officer, U.S. Naval Hospital, Naples, Italy; commanding officer, U.S. Naval Hospital, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and joint task force surgeon, JTF GTMO; Navy Medicine’s team leader for BRAC 2005; deputy commandant, Naval District Washington; and commanding officer, medical treatment facility USNS COMFORT.  Professor Shimkus taught in the Naval War College’s National Security Decision Making Department for 2 years as a military faculty member and in the College of Distance Education for 6 years.  Professor Shimkus retired from the Navy as a Captain (06) in 2007 after a 39 year career.  His areas of interest are the application of America’s soft power as an element of the national security strategy and strategic health policy.  He frequently lectures on international cooperative efforts in the delivery of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.  He has presented his work associated with humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in Afghanistan, Uganda, China, and many academic venues in the United States.

Michael J. Strauss, Professor, International Relations, Centre d’Etudes Diplomatiques et Stratégiques

Michael J. Strauss is a professor of international relations at the Centre d’Etudes Diplomatiques et Stratégiques, Paris, specializing in territorial leases as phenomena of international relations and international law. Prior to entering academia, he was an international journalist and served as bureau chief for Agence France-Presse’s AFX News in Paris, Knight-Ridder Financial News in Houston and Madrid, and Dow Jones News Service in Geneva.  He took his Ph.D. in international relations and diplomacy from the Centre d’Etudes Diplomatiques et Stratégiques and his M.Sc. in journalism from Columbia University, where he was an International Fellow in the School of International Affairs. He is the author of The Leasing of Guantánamo Bay and the forthcoming The Viability of Territorial Leases in Resolving International Sovereignty Disputes: A Comparative Study.

Diana Taylor, University Professor and Professor of Performance Studies and Spanish, New York University

Diana Taylor is the author of the award-winning Theatre of Crisis: Drama and Politics in Latin America (1991), Disappearing Acts: Spectacles of Gender and Nationalism in Argentina’s ‘Dirty War’ (1997), and The Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas (Duke U.P., 2003), which won the Outstanding Book from the Association of Theatre in Higher Education, and the Katherine Singer Kovacs Prize for Best Book in Latin American and Hispanic Studies from the Modern Language Association. She has recently published several books in Spanish: PERFORMANCE, Buenos Aires: Asuntos Impresos (2012); Acciones de memoria: Performance, historia, y trauma, Peru: Fondo Editorial de la Asamblea Nacional de Rectores (2012); Estudios avanzados de performance, Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Económica (co-edited, Marcela Fuentes, 2011). The Archive and the Repertoire will appear in Portuguese in the UFMG Press (Brazil, 2012). She has edited over a dozen books, has lectured extensively around the world, and is the recipient of many awards and fellowship, including the Guggenheim Fellowship in 2005. She is founding director of the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics, funded by the Ford, Mellon, Rockefeller, Rockefeller Brothers and Henry Luce Foundations.


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