Gail Prensky — Creator, Executive Producer, and Director
As creator and director of The Jüdische Kulturbund Project, Gail brings to this project a deep and first-hand understanding of the Kulturbund’s spirit and recognizes the issues of living under oppression that continue with artists around the world today. Her interviews with the Kulturbund survivors and current-day artists form the basis of her passion and vision for this project, which is rooted in the Kulturbund’s strong regard for music and the performing arts. In 2001 Gail started researching and gathering material about the Kulturbund. Several years later she brought together select talent, partners, and like-minded supporters to make this project possible and then interviewed artists living under oppression in various countries. Her hope and dream is that the project will serve as a beacon of inspiration to all people.
Gail has written, produced, and directed a broad range of media projects in film, multimedia, books, and exhibitions for clients such as Banner Health’s Alzheimer’s Registry, the New America Foundation, the Pew Charitable Trust, Discovery Communications, National Geographic, the Smithsonian Institution, Time-Life Books, and Glaxo-Wellcome. Through her Meteopa Productions, Gail produces independent projects focusing on advocacy, art, human rights, and music themes, and cultural exchange. She is on the advisory board of the Breaking Barriers Institute to develop films about those who made an impact on civil rights in the United States. Between 2013 and 2016, Gail served on the board of The Welders, the DC-based playwrights’ collective and winner of the Helen Hayes-John Aniello Award for Outstanding Emerging Theatre Company (2016).
Gail is a recipient of the Mandela Washington Fellowship American Impact Award; an Awardee of the Reciprocal Exchange component of the Mandela Washington Fellowship (2019 and 2022); and U.S. State Department Arts Envoy Program Awardee (2019). She is also honored to be an ongoing participant in the Mandela Washington Reciprocal Exchange Alumni Ambassadors Initiative.
Mark Haney — Producer and Associate Project Director
Mark brings organizational, financial, and administrative expertise to our project team, as well as film production, and a multitude of other things. He is an international trade economist with over 25 years of experience advising companies, foreign governments, and trade associations on issues relating to international trade and economic and business trends. Among other things, Mark served as senior executive for a number of companies, including as President and CEO of the International Business and Economic Research Corporation (IBERC).
Mark is an Awardee of the Reciprocal Exchange component of the Mandela Washington Fellowship (2022).
On occasion, he sails the ocean, strums guitars and ukuleles, and performs stand-up comedy.
Achouth Deng — Photographer and Filmmaker, BULLETS TO BOOKS and
Achouth is an award-winning documentary photographer and filmmaker with over 10 years experience producing multimedia in South Sudan. In 2019, he won the Best Photographer Award from EU photo contest in Juba, South Sudan and the Oscar of African Creativity Award in Cairo, Egypt. As a professional photographer, he has produced numerous humanitarian documentary stories (both photo and video) for local and International non-governmental organizations in South Sudan; including IOM, SAFERWORLD, JAM AID INTERNATIONAL, DORCAS AID INTERNATIONAL, SAADO, LORETO RUMBEK, CROWN THE WOMAN, UNHCR, CAFOD & Trócaire and SCIAF among many others. Achuoth has also served as a Radio Creative Producer for over 5 years with a leading radio – Eye Radio. During his service, Achuoth produced numerous radio dramas, radio programs, feature stories, PSAs, etc. disseminating messages of peace and reconciliation, health and education across South Sudan Achuoth studied Mass Communications at East Africa School of Media Studies and Film Production at the Mohamed Amin Foundation, in Kenya respectively. He runs his owned media production company – AD IMAGES SOUTH SUDAN that is focused to renovating the media horizon in his country. Achuoth passion for storytelling is directed at transforming youth lives and addressing community concerns.
Lupai Samuel Kenyi — Co-Executive Producer, BULLETS TO BOOKS Theme Song and Music Video
Lupai is the founder and executive director of I AM PEACE Initiative, a youth led Non-Government Organization which operates in South Sudan and the refugee areas of Uganda with a focus on creating a peaceful environment by empowering young people to be agents of positive social change through media, arts and community outreach programs including trainings on peace building.
Lupai has worked for over 7 years as a radio broadcaster in various radio stations in South Sudan and Uganda where he focuses on youth empowerment programs (especially those in the entertainment industry) and peace building. He has worked at Radio Amani (Adjumani, Uganda), City FM, Capital FM, Classic FM, Eye Radio and Voice of the People (all in Juba, South Sudan).
To connect with as many people and share his experiences as wide as possible, Lupai was selected as a 2018 Mandela Washington Fellow under the flagship of the Young African Leaders Initiative where he completed civic leadership training at Kansas State University, Kansas and an internship at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington DC.
Lupai is also a 2018 Generation Change Fellow with the United States Institute of Peace where he met the Dalai Lama in India and learned about how refugees can still create positive social change among themselves and in their host communities. Through his media experience and the numerous Peace building and media trainings, Lupai is a public speaker, a trainer, a moderator and an event’s host (MC).
If there’s one thing Lupai wants to always do is TELL THE YOUNG PEOPLE REGARDLESS OF BACKGROUNDS that we can do it TOGETHER.
Sean MacLaughlin — Co-producer, Director of Photography, and Editor, BULLETS TO BOOKS and Director, Co-producer, Director of Photography, and Editor COVID-19; THE OPPRESSOR’S KIDS STORIES
Sean is an award-winning filmmaker and actor based out of New York. As a performer, Sean has had the honor to work with legendary Composers such as Andrew Lloyd Webber, Stephen Sondheim, Stephen Schwartz, Charles Strouse and many more. Broadway and National tour credits include THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (Raoul); EVITA (Peron); THE WOMAN IN WHITE; LESTAT; BOMBAY DREAMS; and SOUTH PACIFIC: LIVE AT CARNEGY HALL. He has been seen on film in BLUE BLOODS (CBS), FOR LIFE (ABC), SOMETHING THE LORD MADE (HBO), and more. Sean has over 50 projects he has edited produced and co-produced, but as Director of Photography he is known for THE SPECTRUM; THE KING; WISCO QUEENS; THE LIGHT WATCHER; SCRATCH THIS; and recently, with The Jüdische Kulturbund Project, Bullets To Books (which won the prestigious Ron Kovic award). Sean is a recipient of the Mandela Washington Fellowship American Impact Award; an Awardee of the Reciprocal Exchange component of the Mandela Washington Fellowship (2019); and U.S. State Department Arts Envoy Program Awardee (2019).Out of all his credits, Sean’s greatest accomplishment is being the proud father of two beautiful sons, Quinn and Jack.
Dominic Dau Deng Mathiang (DD Dawoody) — Project Coordinator in South Sudan for BULLETS TO BOOKS and Education Facilitator, KULTUR STORIES
DD is a singer, songwriter, activist, student, and entrepreneur. He was born in Wau Western Bhar El Gazal, Sudan (now South Sudan). While growing up he was involved in church choir then began creating music, leading a music group in performances of African traditional music and dance. He incorporates these influences based on his personal experience rather than theoretically approaching African music. He continues to perform with groups and as a solo artist; performance pieces are a major part of his life’s work. He released his first hit in 2011 called SOUTH SUDAN IS MY HOME and also launched an album in 2012 called INTI WAHIT. In 2016, he released his third album, I LOVE MY NATION.
Apart from working as a composer, performer, and solo musician, DD Dawoody is also a first member artist whose music videos trended on national TV (SSBC or SSTV) during the independence of the Republic of South Sudan and contributed to live performances the same day.
Stephanie Mercedes — Artist, BULLETS TO BOOKS
Mercedes is a DC-based artist who melts down weapons to cast musical installations, instruments and public works of art. She also excavates invisible missing histories. Her work fluctuates between sculpture, installation art and large scale performances. Mercedes has been funded by George Soros, Light Works, NALAC, The Foundation for Contemporary Art, DC Commission for the Arts and WPA. She has exhibited and performed at the Bronx Museum, the Queens Museum, the Smithsonian and the Kennedy Center. She has been a fellow at Halcyon Art Labs, VisArts, Montgomery College and Christopher University. Mercedes In August 2020, Mercedes started a 3-year fellowship at University of Maryland, College of Arts & Humanities in College Park, MD. Examples of Mercedes’s art are presented on www.stephaniemercedes.com.
Mawa Moses — Architect, BULLETS TO BOOKS
Architect Mawa Moses was born on October 10, 1987 in Yei, what is now South Sudan. He grew up in Uganda where his family took refuge at the peak of the political insurgency of the early 90s. For 14 years, Moses lived in the Ugandan refugee camps for over 14 years where he only saw grass-thatched houses and architecture of the time, which was seen as evidence of poverty. He dreamed of becoming a doctor, influenced by his late dad who was a medical assistant. He also dreamed of becoming an engineer as he used to draw things about houses, trees, and people, especially soldiers. His friends and he also built sand houses and houses using bricks made from old matchboxes, molded furniture, and radios from termite-mound clay. Moses thinks that was the foundation for his interest in architecture. He never knew anything in regard to architectural design until he started applying to university.
Moses completed high school in Uganda and returned to South Sudan in 2008 where he attended the University of Juba, graduating with a bachelor’s honors degree with honors in architecture. After graduating, he attended a two-year design fellowship program at the African Design Centre in Kigali, Rwanda. The fellowship program trains young graduates to understand design-related issues within the continent and beyond. While studying design and living in a war-torn country, Moses is challenged to think of an equitable and inclusive approach for designs in health, education, and housing while incorporating creativity/fabrication. His focus is on environmentally responsive and impactful research-driven design. He practices both social and commercial architecture that is purely made locally, yet globally inspiring. While currently working with the Urban South Group Ltd., Moses teaches at the University of Juba in the Department of Architecture. As a teacher, he aims to achieve a balance between the existing curriculum needs and the transformation of societies.
Cindy Oxberry — Music Education Coordinator
Cindy went to Washington National Opera at The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and began her post as a resident assistant director for Marta Domingo and her production of LA RONDINE and for David Edwards’ production of FEDORA starring Mirella Freni and Placido Domingo. For 20 years she has returned to work on such productions as DON CARLO, MAGIC FLUTE, RIGOLETTO, IL TROVATORE, IL BARBIERE DI SIVIGLIA, TURANDOT, THE TALES OF HOFFMANN, UN BALLO IN MASCHERA, HANSEL & GRETEL, PIQUE DAME (starring Placido Domingo), LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR, VANESSA, MANON LESCAUT, AIDA, NORMA, SAMSON & DELILAH, L’ITALIANA D’ALGERI, LA CENERENTOLA, A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, MADAMA BUTTERFLY, JENUFA, LA BOHEME, A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE, PEARL FISHERS, PETER GRIMES, DON PASQUALE and LE NOZZE DI FIGARO. She has also worked for Los Angeles Opera as an assistant director on LA RONDINE, LA TRAVIATA, THE TALES OF HOFFMANN, LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR and LUISA FERNANDA, starring Placido Domingo. In the summer of 2000, Cindy was invited to serve as the stage director for OPERA INSTITUTE where she still is only now as the Program Director in addition to her classroom teaching. She has also served as the stage director for CAMP FOR KIDS – both programs offered by the Education Department of Washington National Opera. Cindy’s directorial career has also flourished. She has directed several productions of THE MERRY WIDOW, around the country. Her MIKADO has been remounted in several American cities as well as several wonderful musicals, THE MUSIC MAN, CAROUSEL, CAMELOT and CANDIDE. She is honored to also be a director as major universities and colleges in the US as well. She has recently begun working in the genre of cabaret and loves it! She was most proud to be invited by Mr. Domingo to Mexico City to celebrate his 40th anniversary as an international artist. She had the honor of working with Mr. Domingo on the production of FEDORA for the International Opera Company of Mexico at the Palacio de Bellas Artes. Cindy is an Awardee of the Reciprocal Exchange component of the Mandela Washington Fellowship (2019) and U.S. State Department Arts Envoy Program Awardee (2019).
Olivia Sebesky — Animator, BULLETS TO BOOKS
Olivia Sebesky is a New York City based projection designer, art director, and motion graphics designer. Olivia creates art for theater, dance, TV, concerts and special events. She brings a background in fine art and music to her bespoke digital media work in the entertainment industry. She has designed projections for James Taylor, Aerosmith, Hootie & The Blowfish, Nike, Jordan, Soho House, Alice and Olivia, Bloomberg, The New Group, Bebe & Cece Winans, Spiegelworld, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, French Horn Rebellion, Adrian Daniel, The Nasser bin Hamad Awards, FakeOff on TruTV and more… Recent projects include BECAUSE OF WINN DIXIE, directed by John Rando, book and lyrics by Nell Benjamin, and music by Duncan Sheik, as well as Aerosmith’s Las Vegas Residency, DEUCES ARE WILD. Olivia is a classically trained painter and illustrator. In addition to her work in live production, she creates concept sketches and designs custom interior murals and artwork for private clients. Her work can be seen internationally. Olivia received the 2013 Elliot Norton Award for Outstanding Design (Chad Deity). She was nominated for the 2016 Connecticut Critics Circle Award for Projection Design (My Paris). She is nominated for a 2018 Helen Hayes Award for Projection and Set Design (ME…JANE).
Jok Abraham Thon — Education Collaborator and Inspiration, BULLETS TO BOOKS
Jok is the founder and director of Promised Land Secondary School and the Youth for Peace Through Education initiative. He is also the deputy chairman of Jonglei Youth Peace League, a group that works on reconciliation and youth empowerment. His school educates 673 students who are internally displaced within South Sudan. The school has received recognition from the government. His Youth for Peace Through Education initiative currently provides support for 67 girls who were victims of early marriage and 83 orphans. In addition, he promotes peace and education through radio and television shows and articles in newspapers. Jok was educated in Uganda when he was a refugee but returned to South Sudan for higher education. He studied Social and Economic Studies at the University of Juba and holds a diploma from the N2N Christian University of the USA in Juba. Jok is committed to changing the mindset of youth, encouraging them to become self-reliant and productive citizens who will contribute to national building, not tribal conflict. The Jüdische Kulturbund Project’s BULLETS TO BOOKS initiative is based on and inspired by Jok’s life and mission for “changing minds from bullets to books.”
Andy Truschinski is a New York City based artist. He started his career as an actor on stage (Ex: WAR HORSE National tour and THE HEIDI CHRONICLES starring Elisabeth Moss on Broadway) and has transitioned into developing scripts for film, television, and on stage. Writing projects include: THE GREEN BOAT (finalist for Space on Ryder Farm development series), ONE WHITE FACE (commissioned pilot of the book One White Face by Hilary Corna), EXPLORING MUSIC (a documentary music series), SOUNDS DELICIOUS (a cooking talk show with music), and THE ROOT OF HAPPINESS (now in the film festival circuit.)Andy is a recipient of the Mandela Washington Fellowship American Impact Award; an Awardee of the Reciprocal Exchange component of the Mandela Washington Fellowship (2019); and U.S. State Department Arts Envoy Program Awardee (2019).