On March 22, 2012, Sri Lankans Without Borders launched an ambitious and unique diaspora community program in the form of the Samadhana 2012 Benefit Reading Series.
Held over five evenings through the year in Toronto, Samadhana 2012 brought together 20 authors, poets and spoken word artists of Sri Lankan origin from Canada and the United States to share and celebrate stories of many shapes and hues.
There were powerful readings and transformative conversations with Sultan Ameerali, Randy Boyagoda, R. Cheran, D’Lo, Farzana Doctor, Ru Freeman, V.V. Ganeshananthan, Aparna Halpé, Zulfika Ismail, Koom Kankesan, Isankya Kodithuwakku, Gitanjali Lena, Anand Mahadevan, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Nayomi Munaweera, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Shyam Selvadurai, Meena Serendib, Hasanthika Sirisena and YaliniDream. Over 250 guests attended the reading series which gained the attention of Canadian and international media including The Globe and Mail, Radio Canada International, OMNI News, TamilCulture, The Hindustan Times, The Sri Lanka Reporter, iSrilankan, Young Asia Television Sri Lanka, The Weekly Voice, Asia Writes, Times of Sri Lanka, and rabble.ca.
As part of Samadhana 2012, we raised funds for children’s literacy programs in marginalized communities in Canada and Sri Lanka. We donated all the net proceeds of:
* $1,002.49 to Frontier College to help continue delivering Aboriginal Literacy programs for over 2,550 children in aboriginal summer literacy camps across Canada and;
* $1,002.49 to Room to Read for its Sri Lanka Library Fund which was matched by the charity thereby doubling the impact of our giving!
Yet another important aspect of Samadhana 2012 was our partnership with PEN Canada on its Empty Chair Campaign. Despite the conclusion of the armed conflict in Sri Lanka in 2009, freedom of expression continues to be curtailed in Sri Lanka and journalists face censorship, threats, forced expulsions and even death. Our partnership with PEN Canada was in support of the many courageous men and women who continue to speak out and write about post-war realities in Sri Lanka as exemplified by Prageeth Eknaligoda, Gnanasundaram Kuhanathan and Frederica Jansz.
It is also important for us to recognize that Samadhana 2012 would not have been possible without the support of a great many partners, sponsors and friends. These include Citizenship and Immigration Canada, ING DIRECT, Lanka Gardens, J2 Products, Chapters Indigo, Sherwood Digital Copy and Print, Three O’ Clock Press, TamilCulture, The Sri Lanka Reporter, South Asian Journalists Association - Toronto Chapter, Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention, BuildChange, DesiLit, McMaster Sri Lankan Association, NetIP Toronto, Networking for Rights Sri Lanka, Ryerson Sri Lankan Students Alliance, South Asian Visual Arts Centre, Sri Lanka Islamic Foundation of Ontario, Tamil Cultural Association of Waterloo, Tamil Literary Garden, University of Toronto at St. George Tamil Students Association, and York Sri Lankan Students Alliance. We remain grateful to all of them for recognizing the value of this reading series.
In the end, the Samadhana 2012 Benefit Reading Series was programmed based on the simple yet powerful idea that words are the first step in helping to heal and build bridges. It meant to inspire others in the diaspora, especially young people, to gain the courage to reach across communities to share their stories and engage in honest dialogue about who we are as a people and the experiences that bind us - of the painful past and the many injustices of the present. We did so because we sincerely believe that it is only in such cross-community engagement can we find common ground to build a meaningful and purposeful future that brings about peace and reconciliation on the basis of accountability and justice for all people.
Finally, we would like to take this opportunity to share all of the Samadhana 2012 readings and conversations for those of you who were unable to attend:
We hope you will be inspired to share your own stories.
Thank you again for joining us on this journey. We hope you will join us for many more in the future.