Theresa Thanjan recently completed an educational documentary called ‘Asian Youth Unite Against Hate Violence’, a collaboration with the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund. The video informs young immigrants about their rights if they are victims of bias attacks.
Born and raised in New York City, Theresa Thanjan is an award winning filmmaker and immigrant rights activist. She has worked as a community organizer for Catholic Charities, and then transitioned into program supervision and management. She was the Director of Youth Programs at South Asian Youth Action, Interfaith Neighbors and Citizens for New York City. During her ten years in the non-profit sector, she personally trained hundreds of urban youth in the areas of civic engagement, leadership, advocacy, voter registration, prevention of bias crimes, conflict resolution and diversity. As a social worker, Theresa has received a number of awards including the Caring for Children Award from the Coalition of Asian American Children and Families, as well as the Best Youth-Led Community Service Program from the New York Life Foundation and Outstanding Activist of the Year from the World Malayalee Council USA, North America.
After the 9/11 attacks, Theresa was troubled by the extreme backlash faced by Muslim immigrant communities in the US and the devastation caused by the domestic ‘security’ measure – Special Registration. At this time, Theresa was selected to the Artist Mentor Project, a program of Film/Video Arts in the Fall of 2003, thus beginning her career in media. During this time, she produced and directed her first film, Whose Children Are These? Since its release, Whose Children Are These? has been screened worldwide, winning several awards and is currently being broadcast on select PBS stations. More information can be found at www.whosechildrenarethese.com.
Since her first film, Theresa co-produced and co-directed a video called I Have a Dream and a public service announcement Rita’s Song promoting the DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act). The video makes the connection b/w the civil rights movement of the 60’s to the struggles that many young immigrants face today. The video is being used by the New York State Youth Leadership Council to promote awareness and do advocacy for the DREAM Act. As a member of the National Black Programming Consortium’s New Media Institute, Theresa was one of the producers of a five minute short called Me and My Good Hair which celebrates young African American girls and their hair.
Theresa has taken courses in film production from NYU and Film/Video Arts. In addition, she has taken courses in Digital Film Production and editing from the Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers (AIVF) and Downtown Community Television. She is a 2006 Fellow in Video from the New York Foundation for the Arts as well as a graduate of the National Black Programming Consortium’s New Media Institute. She has also been awarded grants from the Center for Asian American Media (formerly NAATA), and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. Theresa is the founder of NYC Maharani Productions, LLC, a company that specializes in producing socially conscious media.
Here is a clip from Whose Children Are These?