Thursday, March 15, 2012

Helen R. Starr

jude  hrs© 03/15/2012

Metropolitan State University

At Metropolitan State University, I designed my own IDP degree, which combined coursework in Technical Communications, English Writing, and Digital Photography. I want to thank Metro for helping me create a program tailored around my needs and goals. I encourage all of you to consider evaluating how well your coursework reflects your professional goals.

In 2008, I began employing Second Life’s digital interactive world to create the “Why Now” Lecture Series featuring my mother, Holocaust survivor Fanny Starr. We have spoken to thousands of people from all over the world who have come to know my mother’s frightening history, and educating people about the Holocaust. We encountered many who never heard a Holocaust survivor speak, or those who do know what was the Holocaust, but who knew about Hitler.

The name Why Now references the growing need to educate on the Holocaust and to combat Holocaust denial and hoaxes. Holocaust denial is growing rapid throughout the world. Many persons and groups call the Holocaust a hoax and that the Holocaust survivors, museums, etc. are in it for the money. One denier called Auschwitz an amusement park. 

I have been using Second Life as an educational tool to fight hatred and anti-Semitism since 2008. The executives at Linden Labs have been both helpful and encouraging. Recently I started to use other forms of social media, Twitter and my blog.

On Twitter: A student from the United Kingdom tweeted me; she introduced herself by saying, “Hi, I’m doing a dissertation on the Holocaust and wanted an expert answer to why there was a huge surge of Holocaust material after the 1990's?"

The answer:
The Internet came to life and impacted culture, and the way we view our social surroundings. With the surge came information both true and fictional; people started sharing stories. The stories grew into a bigger awareness, and so did the deniers who support radical thinkers

Educators from around the world are recognizing my efforts, and are encouraging me not give into hate. I am reminded daily that my very public educational efforts are paying off.

Meanwhile, anti-Semitism and hatred continue to grow worldwide. To think that Hitler was their teacher, and that it’s okay to hate, bully, and kill. The Southern Poverty Law Center reports; America has 2,145, anti-immigration, and anti-government hate groups active in the U.S. It’s the highest number identified since the non-profit began tracking these groups in the early 1980’s.

The Why Now Project continues, and the next level involves collaborating with those in virtual technologies and others in academia, entertainment, and Holocaust historians.

Continued Virtual Education:
The date has not been set, and it’s in the developing stages for mid spring. Updates for Yom HaShoah, and the Why Now Project, April 11, 2013, Time 5:00 PM SLT. The avatar experience in Second Life, opened many ways to explore all the virtual possibilities in education, art, music, and other interactions that take place in Second Life. I focused on one specific mission, the Holocaust.

Here’s a brief video of what was created using virtual reality. Machinima is a technique solely created for virtual worlds. One of the biggest aspects is collaboration with people with in Second Life. I put together a team of amazing people in SL.

Why Now

I owe many thanks to my parents who I honor everyday, Amen. I owe many thanks to my friends who tell me the truth, through darkness and light. To my advisors, professors, deans, and provosts thank you for helping me achieve my American Dream.

In memory of my late father Zesa Starr, Holocaust Survivor who taught me that hatred is pure evil, and love conquers hate. In memory of my late brother, Chef Morris L. Starr, thanks for taking me to the movies.

Thank you Metropolitan State University and alumni for inviting me to speak. I haven't graduated, and you helped me feel valuable to the education world. 

I hope I inspire you to step out of your comfort zones and create goodness.

Thank you