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'Every Person Has A Story' raises funds, shares mission

Shelly Runyon | 12/21/2011, 8:22 a.m.

Rapper-activist Emmanual Jal sings in front of an audience at the “Every Person Has A Story” fundraiser. (Shelly Runyon photos)

More than 400 people visited Faneuil Hall’s Red Line bar earlier this month to attend the largest fundraising party “Every Person Has a Story” (EPHAS) has ever hosted.

For a voluntary $20 donation at the door, patrons could support the organization and get a chance to meet and listen to rapper-activist Emmanual Jal.

The fundraiser served a dual-purpose: to spread EPHAS’ mission of giving children the opportunity to educate the United States through photography while empowering them and their community — and to celebrate the Top 25 Images of 2011 Gallery.

The gallery features the most popular photographs provided to EPHAS from students in Cambodia, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and the United States.

The event raised about $6,000, and the proceeds will be split between the artists’ communities and the organization. Jal played a special role in the evening by sharing his experiences as an activist in South Sudan, where EPHAS is about to bring their program.

“Emmanual started two schools and orphanages in South Sudan,” said Ryan Ansin, executive director and founder of EPHAS, “and we are going to be working with the population that he already works with in those areas starting this March. We will be able to watch the beginnings of a new country just through the eyes of those who are experiencing it. It’s just really wild.”

During the event, Jal sang and rapped to the audience, while flashing cameras documented the dancing and celebrating. Placed throughout the venue were original photographs that were available for sale.

The photographs, provided by a teen or pre-teen, told stories captured with a $40 point-and-shoot digital camera. Some patrons mingled and examined the photos, while others danced. With more attendees than any of EPHAS’ previous events — the crowd was so thick that the walk from the front of Red Line to the back was nearly impossible.

“It was a great success as far as spreading our story and building awareness,” said Ansin. Events like these, he said, help supplement the funds raised online through donations and the sale of the photographs.

The funds support the organization’s programing, including three-day photography workshops where teens and pre-teens in the United States and various international locations learn the skill of self-documentation.

“We go and we train for three days or more in each location and we train a local artist to continue running our curriculum,” he said. “It’s all about the subject matter and [the students’] ability to be creative themselves …  They are given the equipment to tell their story in a much better and more honest way than we ever could.”