Press Release

Seeking a voice for the silenced at the Rothko Chapel

October 12, 2017

Seeking a voice for the silenced at the Rothko Chapel

Upcoming program explores human rights in Burundi, Thursday, Nov. 2

HOUSTON – Oct. 12, 2017 – In conjunction with the biennial Óscar Romero Award, the Rothko Chapel is continuing its efforts to raise awareness about criminal justice reform – with a series of events planned that illustrate the cultural and personal ramifications of mass incarceration.

The Chapel’s upcoming program entitled “Silencing Opposition: Human Rights Violations in Burundi” will explore the social and political dynamics of Burundi, in east Africa.

Robert Krueger, former U.S. ambassador to Burundi and Tony Tate, program officer for Sub-Saharan Africa at the Fund for Global Human Rights, will lead the conversation.

The event begins at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov 2 at the nonprofit, located at 3900 Yupon in Houston. 

Krueger, a former U.S. Representative and Senator from Texas, has also served as Ambassador to Mexico, Burundi and Botswana. In addition, he was the U.S. Special Representative to the Southern African Development Community.

As ambassador to Burundi, Krueger’s convoy was ambushed in response to his outspokenness on human rights issues. Two individuals were killed and eight wounded.

Former President Bill Clinton recognized Krueger in an address to seven African presidents, saying, “Our symbols need to be people like Ambassador Krueger, who risked his life to keep people alive in Burundi.” 

Tate has worked as program officer for Sub-Saharan Africa since 2010, overseeing the grant-making programs in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda. He previously served as a program officer at Unbound Philanthropy, case manager at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the first in-country researcher for Burundi at Human Rights Watch and later was the African researcher in the children’s rights division at Human Rights Watch, where he is still a member of the advisory committee.

The Rothko Chapel’s director of public programs and community engagement, Ashley Clemmer, explained that the event is a continuation of the organization’s focus on criminal justice reform initiated with its 2017 Spring Symposium “An Act of Justice—Undoing the Legacy of Mass Incarceration.” 

The program is also part of the launch of the Óscar Romero Awards series, culminating with the award ceremony at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 12.

The Chapel awards human rights leaders who share the spirit of late Archbishop Óscar Romero of San Salvador, who was assassinated in 1980 for championing the rights of the poor and fighting unjust government tactics in El Salvador at the time, including torture and assassination. 

This year, the Óscar Romero Award honorees are two individuals working internationally and locally for criminal justice reform -- Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, executive director of Association pour la Protection des Droits Humains et des Personnes Détenues (Association for the Protection of Prisoners and Human Rights – APRODH) in Burundi and Houston-based recovery coach and peer-to-peer counselor Kathryn Griffin Griñán.  

“Building up to the award ceremony, we’ve planned programming that raises awareness on the topic of mass incarceration and creates context around each awardee’s work,” Clemmer said. “This program will give visitors a context of what is happening in the world, featuring experts who have seen the issues firsthand.”

She added that this exploration of human rights violations in Burundi is of particular interest to Houstonians since there are more than 3,000 Burundian refugees living in the city.

The final preprogramming event is “Double jeopardy: Women and the Criminal Justice System Conversation and Book Signing” with Julie Bindel, which will be held at the Chapel at 7 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 6.

For more information about the Rothko Chapel’s Óscar Romero Award, visit

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