ASPIRE

Academy for Social Purpose in Responsible Entertainment

 

Peter Samuelson, MA, President

peter.samuelson@aspirelab.org

 

Dr. D. Andy Rice, PhD, ASPIRE Fellow at UCLA

andyrice@ucla.edu

 

The Academy for Social Purpose in Responsible Entertainment (ASPIRE) partners with universities, community organizations, scholars, and activists to advocate for sustainability and social justice through media-focused teaching and research.  ASPIRE teaches digital media production to undergraduates of all majors to enhance their lifelong capacities to undertake social issue advocacy.

Abigail Disney

Abigail Disney is a filmmaker, philanthropist and activist based in New York City. Her innovative filmmaking and advocacy bolsters women’s leadership in all public spheres and highlights the power of non-violent organizing for peace.

Working with award-winning director, Gini Reticker, she produced her first filmthe acclaimed documentary Pray the Devil Back to Hellto tell the inspirational story of the Liberian women who came together to end their country’s brutal civil war and bring peace to their shattered nation. After winning best documentary at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival, Pray the Devil Back to Hell was viewed across the US in theaters, on public television and at over 500 community screening events. The film played in 60 countries around the world, and is broadly credited with helping its lead figureLeymah Gboweereach international recognition before she received a Nobel Peace Prize in 2011.

Abigail participated in screenings of Pray the Devil Back to Hell in over 30 countries. During these events, she recognized the critical need to amplify the voices of women fighting for peace on the frontlines. She founded Peace is Loud in 2009 to generate a groundswell of people committed to building a culture of peace. Since then, Peace is Loud has inspired action through live events and media that spotlight the frontline leadership of women peacebuilders worldwide.

The success of Pray the Devil Back to Hell also inspired the creation of a five-part film series for PBS: Women, War & Peace. Together with Gini Reticker and Pamela Hogan, Abigail created the groundbreaking series to ask us to look at modern warfare through women’s eyes. Women, War & Peace travels from Liberia to Bosnia, Afghanistan and Colombia, and features an overview hour looking at the proliferation of weapons as it impacts women. The series premiered on PBS in 2011 and won two Overseas Press Club Awards and a special honor from the Television Academy. Peace is Loud is now coordinating thousands of US and international community screenings of the series to bring the film to diverse global audience. She is currently at work on a new film, also for PBS, highlighting the key role of women in the Arab Awakening, as well as taking her first stab at directing on a feature-length documentary about the gun culture in America.

In partnership with Leymah Gbowee, Abigail is co-founder of the Gbowee Peace Foundation, USA. Established after Madame Gbowee accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011, the Foundation raises funds to support women peacebuilders and girls’ education in West Africa.

Along with her husband Pierre Hauser, Abigail is Founder and President of the Daphne Foundation, a social change foundation that makes grants to grassroots organizations working with low-income communities in New York City. Since 1991, the Daphne Foundation has made millions of dollars in grants on issues including women’s rights, AIDS advocacy, children’s health, labor conditions, violence, incarceration and community organizing. The Foundation provides ongoing general operating support to its grantees, along with grants for technical assistance, infrastructure improvement and resource development.

Abigail is a frequent and sought-after speaker on women’s leadership and peacebuilding around the world. She has screened her films and given keynote addresses everywhere from Stanford University and YouTube to West Point Academy and the UN Human Rights Commission. She has recently been recognized through the Womensphere Global Award for Media Leadership 2013 and was an honoree at the Young Women's Leadership Network (YWLN) 2013 Power Breakfast for her philanthropic efforts to help women and girls and sharing the voices of women from around the world through film and activism. She has also been honored with the prestigious International Advocate for Peace (IAP) Award from the Cardozo Law School’s Cardozo Journal of Conflict Resolution, and the Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York, Vanguard Award 2013.

Over the years Abigail has made it a priority to serve the community, working on the boards of many organizations and foundations. She currently serves on the boards of the Global Fund for Women,

Shining Hope for Communities, Soliya, The Roy Disney Family Foundation, and The Peace Research Endowment; as well as serving on the DCTV Cinema Advisory Council, Breakthrough Global Leadership Council and the YWCA World Service Council.

Abigail received her Bachelors degree from Yale University, her Masters degree from Stanford University and her Doctorate from Columbia University. While pursuing her Ph.D., Abigail taught English and American Literature at Iona College and wrote a dissertation on the role of romanticized violence and war in American life. She lives in New York City with her husband, four children, cat, dog, guinea pig, rabbit and an immortal turtle named Alfred.