The Lantern Talks
Art. Advocacy. Conversation.

Latest Events

July: Music and conversation with Grammy Award-winning and celebrated singer — and human rights activist — Lila Downs.
7/29/21, Noon ET, 9 a.m. PT
Presented by the

The Lantern Talks

A series of online conversations that bridges art with advocacy in the fight for the rights of refugees. Join us for coffee and conversation.

Summer Series - July Event

July: Music and conversation with Grammy Award-winning and celebrated singer — and human rights activist — Lila Downs; special guest host Lomi Kriel, an award-winning reporter with the ProPublica-Texas Tribune Investigative Initiative; and Katharina Obser, acting director of the Women's Refugee Commission’s Migrant Rights and Justice Program.

The July Lantern Talk will focus on the situation at the US/Mexico border and the changes under the Biden administration for families seeking asylum.

Noon ET, 9 a.m. PT
Thursday, July 29, 2021

Multiple Grammy winner and celebrated singer, Lila Downs is one of the most powerful artistic voices that exist today. With a symbolic stage presence and emotional storytelling through song, her singing transcends all language barriers.Born in Oaxaca and raised in Oaxaca and Minnesota, Lila Downs is the daughter of a Mixtec Indigenous woman and Anglo-American father. A passionate human rights activist, her lyrics often focus on stories ranging from social injustice to the suppressed Latin American stories of women of Indigenous and working-class origins. She has written narratives of Indigenous resistance protecting the original vision of the sacred plants and food of her Oaxacan culture.

Lila Downs

Lomi Kriel headshot.jpg

Lomi Kriel is a reporter with the ProPublica-Texas Tribune Investigative Initiative. Previously she was a reporter at the Houston Chronicle covering immigration, often focused on the Texas border. Six months before the Trump administration announced its family separation policy, she uncovered how the government was secretly using the prosecution of illegal entry to detain parents until deportation and send children to federal shelters. Her stories resulted in the release of one mother and helped spur a pivotal ACLU lawsuit largely ending the practice. She received the 2019 George Polk Award for national reporting, in part for her continued work on family separations.

Lomi Kriel


Katharina Obser is the acting director of the Women’s Refugee Commission’s Migrant Rights and Justice program, where she advocates for the rights of women, children, and families seeking protection. She writes and presents frequently on immigration detention and refugee protection issues, and has researched and authored numerous reports on asylum, detention, and case management alternatives to detention in the US, as well as the European refugee response. She previously researched and advocated on immigration detention issues at Human Rights First, and coordinated its pro bono legal representation program for indigent asylum seekers.

Katharina Obser


About The Lantern Talks

The Lantern Talks is series of online conversations that bridges art with advocacy in the fight for the rights of refugees. Building on the success of the Lantern Tour (and as we continue to have to put the tour on hold due to COVID-19), the Lantern Talks will continue to advance WRC’s art and advocacy model of engagement.

The primary goal of the Lantern Talks is to create an informative and entertaining format of art, advocacy, and discussion (online for this year) that will engage audiences with all aspects of refugee issues. The Lantern Talks will feature filmmakers, musicians, journalists, and more.


Previous Events

Conversation and Reading - June 2021

A conversation and reading with the legendary author, advocate, and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Isabel Allende and Sarah Costa, executive director of the Women's Refugee Commission. Special guest host is global women's rights advocate Kavita Ramdas.

Join us for a discussion about Ms. Allende's two latest books – “The Soul of a Woman” and “A Long Petal of the Sea” – and how the refugee experience is unique for women around the world.


Kavita Ramdas, director of the Women’s Rights Program at the Open Society Foundations, is a global advocate for gender equity and justice. Previously, she led the Ford Foundation’s operations in South Asia and was senior advisor to the Foundation's President. Under her leadership as president and CEO, the Global Fund for Women became the largest public foundation for women’s rights in the world. Kavita founded KNR Sisters, an independent consulting venture, and SEERS, the Social Entrepreneurs in Residence Program at Stanford University. She serves on the board of trustees of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

Kavita Ramdas


Isabel Allende is the author of 25 best-selling, critically acclaimed books, which have been translated into more than 42 languages. She devotes much of her time to human rights causes. Following the death of her daughter in 1996, she established a charitable foundation, which has awarded grants to more than 100 organizations worldwide on behalf of women and girls. Barack Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2014, and in 2018, she received the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters from the National Book Foundation. She has also received PEN Center USA’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Raised in Chile, Isabel now lives in California.

Isabel Allende


Sarah Costa is the executive director of the Women’s Refugee Commission, a leading global organization advocating for the rights and protection of women, children, and youth displaced by conflict and crisis.

Sarah Costa

Music and Conversation - Feb 2021

Music and conversation with musician Thao Nguyen and Joan Timoney, Vice President of External Relations at the Women’s Refugee Commission. With special guest host Grammy Award-winning musician Steve Earle


Join us for a discussion about the current situation for refugee women and girls around the world and a musical performance by Thao Nguyen.


Steve Earle is one of the most acclaimed singer-songwriters of his generation, with multiple Grammy Awards to his name. His songs have been recorded by Johnny Cash, Joan Baez, Emmylou Harris, and The Pretenders, among others. Steve has published a novel and collection of short stories; produced albums; and acted in films, television, and on the stage. He currently hosts a radio show for Sirius XM. In November 2020, he was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, and in January 2021 he released his 21st studio album, J.T., as a tribute to his late son Justin Townes Earle.

Steve Earle


Thao Nguyen, the proud daughter of Vietnamese refugees of war, is a songwriter, musician, and producer based in the Bay Area. She has been recording and touring for over 15 years, solo and with her indie rock band Thao & The Get Down Stay Down. Her music has been described by The New Yorker as "music that makes you move from your bones out...[it's] keenly intelligent and original." Thao was the subject of a PBS documentary “Nobody Dies,” which followed her on a trip to Vietnam with her mother. She is an advocate for many causes, including prison reform, refugee and immigrant rights, and LGBTQ+ equality.

Thao Nguyen


Joan Timoney is the WRC’s vice president, advocacy and external relations. Prior to joining the WRC, Joan was the Vice President for Programs at the Partnership for Public Service, and worked for a number of years on Capitol Hill. She was a Peace Corps Volunteer and later served as the Peace Corps’ Director of Congressional Relations, Director of the Crisis Corps program, and the Chief of Staff.

Joan Timoney

The Undocumented Lawyer Live Q&A - Jan 2021

The Undocumented Lawyer*: Lizbeth Mateo is an immigration attorney. She’s also undocumented. When a client takes sanctuary in a church, Lizbeth’s own experience guides their fight for justice.

*2020 Tribeca Film Festival Official Selection.

A lively discussion with panelists: Lizbeth Mateo, Chris Temple, Michelle Brané, and Special guest host, Trudie Styler.