Educating and Engaging Citizens Nationally

Falun Gong: Forum and Rally

On July 18, Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (VOC) Executive Director Marion Smith spoke at a rally on the US Capitol West Lawn, where thousands gathered to mark the 20th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party’s Campaign to Eradicate the Falun Gong — a state-sanctioned human rights atrocity that continues to this day. Other speakers included Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) and Steve Chabot (R-OH) and former Canadian Secretary of State (Asia-Pacific) David Kilgour.

Earlier, on April 25, VOC Director of Academic Programs Dr. Murray Bessette spoke at a forum on Capitol Hill to mark the 20th anniversary of the Falun Gong Appeal — the day when 10,000 Chinese citizens held a peaceful sin-in at Communist Party headquarters in Beijing to protest the beating and jailing of dozens of Falun Gong practitioners. Other speakers included US Commissioner on International Religious Freedom Gary L. Bauer and blind human rights lawyer Chen Guangcheng.

Teacher Workshop at Harvard University

On June 8, VOC hosted a teacher workshop and screening of the film Ashes in the Snow in Harvard’s Tsai Auditorium, in partnership with Harvard University’s Davis Center for Russia and Eurasian Studies and Dr. Mark Kramer, editor of The Black Book of Communism and member of VOC’s Academic Council.

Dr. Murray Bessette and Dr. Włodzimierz Batóg, VOC Senior Research Fellow in Polish Studies, presented our new curriculum focused on the Baltic Deportations and lectured on the impacts of the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact to an engaged audience of teachers and community members who requested we screen the film for students next academic year.

Polish Studies Conference in Chicago

On May 2-3 at the Blackstone Hotel in Chicago, VOC hosted a conference called “Toward Freedom: Celebrating Central and Eastern European Independence,” highlighting episodes in Polish history to show how competing totalitarian movements sought to crush the free individual and how free government can be reestablished in their wake. Topics included political prisoners in communist Poland, civil society’s role in bringing down the Iron Curtain, and daily life under communism.

Keynote speakers were Dr. Padraic Kenney, professor of history at Indiana University, and Dr. Mark Kramer, Director of the Cold War Studies Program at Harvard University’s Davis Center and editor of The Black Book of Communism.

VOC Memorial Day Update

Last year, we reported that Virginia became the first state to join the federal government in officially recognizing November 7 as “Victims of Communism Memorial Day.” Since then, Alabama and Utah have joined Virginia as a result of VOC’s work, having passed legislation informed by our government relations team.

VOC’s bill language was adopted as official model policy by the American Legislative Exchange Council. Similar resolutions have been introduced in Illinois, Missouri, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Texas. Our goal is to see VOC Memorial Day recognized by all 50 states.