Firefly Stories – UNSPOKEN Stories

The Utica Firefly was started in May 2011 by Geoff Storm and Ryan Miller to explore the art of storytelling, focusing on Central New York and culture and themes close to the heart of our community.  A main portion of Firefly is the live event which has been hosted by local coffehouse/venue Tramontane Cafe, although it also includes recording stories of local interest.

The second Firefly event on October 13, 2011 has held in conjunction with the UNSPOKEN Human Rights Festival. The Firefly UNSPOKEN event featured stories of refugees, resettlement, human rights, equal rights, terrible stories, happy stories, and stories that made me want to laugh and cry. One different feature of this particular Firefly were that non-locals participated; filmmakers and participants of the festival shared their stories as well.

Deb Fowler, who teaches ESL classes in Massachusetts, shared the poignant story of her Burmese student Bawi. Bawi wanted nothing more than to attend school in Burma, but because of extremely poor living conditions and the high cost of education, could only attend school sporadically. Then Bawi’s village was overcome with Burmese soldiers and Bawi was threatened and tortured. Bawi escaped to Malaysia where he had to live in desperate conditions and work to survive. Bawi sent most of his money back to cousins in Burma to provide for education so they did not have to struggle as he did. Deb wraps up her story with this anecdote:

Last May, in a small village in Chin State, Burma, there was a graduating class of six. Five of those were Bawi’s cousins.

Bawi was able to start a new life for himself in Malaysia, and now is finally getting the education he desired in America.

This story, along with other UNSPOKEN Firefly stories, can be found on the Utica Firefly Live Events website.

Firefly has created a unique way of sharing stories of Starting Over. I look forward to seeing what stories of resettlement are to be shared throughout the project.


Starting Over will be working very closely with the directors and staff of the UNSPOKEN™ Festival since the themes discussed are close to all of our hearts. A little about UNSPOKEN™…

UNSPOKEN™ is an annual human rights forum that combines film, art, music, and a conference into one festival. Held in Utica, NY in October of each year, this multi-faceted forum seeks not only to give a voice to human rights violations from around the globe, but also to offer practical solutions in order to shape a better tomorrow and give hope to the future.

2011 Film Festival (photo via Marc Goldberg)

The first UNSPOKEN™ occurred October 13-15th, 2011 in Utica. In had three main events:

1. Film Festival at the Uptown Theatre featuring over 50 short and feature length films focusing on human rights issues,  along with talks with the film directors

2. Arts Festival which included art at the DeSales Building and storytelling through Utica Firefly

3. UNSPOKEN™ Conference at Munson William Proctor Arts Institute discussing the role of culture, heritage and the arts in process of resettlement.

The 2011 festival was a great success and the 2012 festival is already being planned for October 17th – 20th, 2012.

We will be debuting the Starting Over events at the 2nd UNSPOKEN™ Festival. We will also be featuring the festival at our own event, through photo dedication during the Gallery Event.

Additionally, UNSPOKEN™ director Michael Patrei we be hosting the Starting Over children’s event, featuring a puppet show.

For more details on UNSPOKEN™, visit their website at