Gonca Sönmez-Poole (Founder) has been a member of Boston’s media community since 1983. She produced stories for WCVB-TV’s news magazine, Chronicle. In 1997, her interest in international affairs led her to the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.
There, she studied international human rights, minorities and conflict resolution. When Sönmez-Poole returned to television, she worked nationally and internationally, tackling issues pertinent to minority communities on both local and national levels.
She is the writer and director of the documentary, Urban Nutcracker: The Anatomy of a Ballet, which aired on public television channels for ten years, beginning in 2009.
Today, as she researches and writes about the Armenian Genocide, Sönmez-Poole is involved with the Turkish and Armenian communities in and around Boston. She founded TAWA (Turkish Armenian Women’s Alliance) in 2012, a grassroots organization of women who met regularly for dialogue and action on matters of common interest. Her most recent efforts include the creation of www.neighborsinmemory.net and the production of a series of video profiles related to the legacy of the Armenian Genocide.
For the last three years, Sonmez-Poole has been volunteering as a literacy coach for Literations (https://www.literations.org) a non-profit organization that works to close the literacy gap of K-3 children in Boston.
Sönmez-Poole holds a B.A. in Mass Communication from Emerson College, an M.S. in Broadcasting and Film from Boston University and a mid-career M.A. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
Friends, Colleagues and Advisors
These friends, colleagues and advisors help and support NIM with the research and organizing of events that bring together different groups of people who are interested not only in the subject of the Armenian Genocide, but also in related discussions that emanate from that singular event in history.
Phil Balboni is currently the Founder, CEO and Co-Executive Editor of DailyChatter, an email newsletter exclusively devoted to world news. Previously, he was the Founder, President, and CEO of GlobalPost, the highly acclaimed international news site. He has created several other successful news organizations including NECN, the largest and most honored regional cable news network in the US, which he founded in 1992 and led for 16 years, now owned by NBC Universal.
Mr. Balboni has a long history in broadcast television news and created the nightly news magazine Chronicle, now in its 39th continuous year. He has been the direct or leadership recipient of nearly every major award in American journalism including multiple Peabody, duPont-Columbia, Murrow, and Emmy awards along with awards from the Overseas Press Club, the National Press Club, and the Chinese news agency Xinhua. He is a member of the Columbia Journalism School Board of Visitors and its Executive Committee, the Advisory Board of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School, and the Board of the Peabody Awards.
Laura Bilazarian-Purutyan is a second generation Armenian American whose life is grounded in her close relationships with her grandmothers. Both were orphans of the Armenian Genocide.
Formerly a high school teacher and youth workforce development specialist, Laura is Mentorship and Community Relations Consultant for the MetroWest STEM Education Network (MSEN). She works on strengthening access to high-quality STEM education through project-based collaborations among school districts, community organizations, government and industry.
Laura is grateful for friendships and insights gained through her participation in TAWA (Turkish Armenian Women’s Alliance), an unaffiliated two-year series of dialogues created and conducted by Gonca Sonmez-Poole. Working with complex issues, Laura serves as a “both-and” bridge. In this role, she listens, considers multiple perspectives, frames common ground, supports contemplative dialogue, and stands for restorative justice.
Lerna Ekmekçioğlu is the McMillan-Stewart Associate Professor of History at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Lerna is a historian of the modern Middle East and an affiliate of the Women and Gender Studies Program as well as the Center for International Studies. She specializes on Turkish and Armenian lands in the 19th and 20th centuries. Her work focuses on minority-majority relationships and the ways in which gendered analytical lenses help us better understand coexistence and conflict, including genocide and post-genocide.
Lerna is also interested in the history of non-Western feminisms, including Armenian, Turkish, Kurdish, Jewish, and Greek women’s movements. She teaches courses on cultural pluralism, women and war, global revolutions, and women and gender in the Middle East and North Africa. Prof. Ekmekçioğlu is the winner of the 2016 Levitan Teaching Award in the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (SHASS) which recognizes SHASS teachers “who make a profound difference in the educational experience of MIT undergraduate and graduate students.”
Her first book, which came out in 2006, was a co-edited volume in Turkish titled Bir Adalet Feryadı, Osmanlı’dan Cumhuriyet’e Beş Ermeni Feminist Yazar (1862-1933) [A Cry for Justice: Five Armenian Feminist Writers from the Ottoman Empire to the Turkish Republic (1862-1933)] . Her first monograph, Recovering Armenia: The Limits of Beloning in Post-Genocide Turkey, came out of Stanford University Press in early 2016. The book offers the first in-depth study of the aftermath of the 1915 Armenian Genocide and the Armenians who remained in Turkey.
Dr. Ekmekcioglu is currently collaborating with Dr. Melissa Bilal (visiting scholar at MIT History) in compiling a critical anthology of the history of Western Armenian feminism. Titled “Feminism in Armenian: An Interpretive Anthology” this book focuses on twelve Istanbul-born feminists who were active in various parts of the world from 1860s to 1960s. The project also has a digital humanities component, a documentary website that archives these feminists’ published and unpublished work over the years. Dr. Ekmekcioglu is also collaborating with Dr. Kent Schull (Binghamton, SUNY) for an edited volume on the entangled histories of Armenians in the 19th century Ottoman Empire.
Once a semester Prof. Ekmekçioğlu organizes the McMillan-Stewart Lecture on Women in the Developing World.
Reverend Jim Fripp Born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts, pastor Jim is Minister to Men at the Concord Baptist Church of Boston. After traveling the world for 30 years as an audio recordist for WCVB-TV, Fripp attended Boston University School of Theology and earned a master’s degree in theology with a concentration in pastoral counseling. At Concord Baptist Church, Reverend Fripp’s responsibilities include teaching Bible study, mentoring, counseling, developing curriculums and, in collaboration with theological leaders, writing and editing for a variety of religious publications.
Reverend Fripp cherishes his years of travel, crediting them for his broad and compassionate worldview. Today, he is humbled to serve his church in full commitment to his faith.
Prof. Hurst Hannum is Professor Emeritus of International Law, has taught courses on international human rights law, minority rights, public international law, international organizations, and nationalism and ethnicity. His focus is on human rights and its role in the international legal and political order, including, in particular, issues of self-determination, minority rights, and conflict resolution. His scholarly work has been complemented by service as consultant/advisor to a number of intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations, including the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and Department of Political Affairs.
Professor Hannum is the author or editor of numerous books and articles on international law and human rights, including International Human Rights: Problems of Law, Policy, and Process, Negotiating Self-Determination, Guide to International Human Rights Practice, and Autonomy, Sovereignty, and Self-Determination: The Accommodation of Conflicting Rights. His most recent book, Rescuing Human Rights: A Radically Moderate Approach, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2019. He serves on editorial advisory boards of Human Rights Law Review and Human Rights Quarterly. Selected publications available at SSRN.
Jud Nirenberg is a specialist in international human rights and international development. He has held board and managerial roles at a number of nonprofits in the US and overseas, including the US Association for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
At George Soros’s Open Society Foundations, he directed the world’s largest fund supporting Roma civil society in Europe. Later, he served as CEO and, later still, consultant to the ERTF, the largest federation of Roma community organizations. Nirenberg was elected to a ten-year term as board president of the National Roma Centre in North Macedonia in 2011 and continues to sit on its board.
He worked on asylum and refugee law at the US Department for Homeland Security. Today, he is a consultant to immigration attorneys and refugees.
Nirenberg has lectured widely on Roma issues and is both an author and editor of books on Romani history and culture. His titles include: Johann Trollmann and Romani Resistance to the Nazis (2016), Gypsy Movements (2015), Gypsy Sexuality (2011) and Samson’s Walls (2009). He is the 2017 Winner of the Romani Baxt Award.
Susan Sloane was Managing Editor of WCVB-TV’s Chronicle program for 32 years. She also worked in consumer affairs and special projects for WCVB’s news department. In 2019, Sloane was inducted into the Silver Circle of the Boston/New England chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
In retirement, she is assisting a Mexican family seeking asylum in the U.S. and educating herself on rights, rules and regulations for newcomers to our country. Sloane is a Phi Beta Kappa and a magna cum laude graduate of Tufts University.
Gina Leow (Events and Outreach Coordinator for Neighbors in Memory) is a first generation Chinese American who was raised by a Greek babysitter. Passionate about cultural understanding and inclusion, Leow is a representative of The Ribbon International, a peace-promoting United Nations non-governmental organization. She served as a Peace Corps volunteer in China and designed her own master’s degree program in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) at New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study.
As the DEI Director of Public Broadcasting Service, Leow ideates, develops, and manages PBS’s DEI strategies, policies, messaging, programs, and other initiatives. Leow is a certified restorative circle keeper; she facilitates conversations aimed at resolving conflicts and building community. In addition, she is a producer for an upcoming podcast called Coming to America and Vice President of the New York City Peace Corps Association Board of Directors.