Poster illustration showing a tatooed torso with outstretched hands

Anne Frank Project’s First Post-Pandemic Festival Focuses on Healing


When Jonise Hall, ’20, took the reins as the assistant director of Buffalo State’s annual Anne Frank Project (AFP) festival this past summer, she had many challenging tasks in front of her. Choosing the festival’s theme was not among them.

“Two other staff members and I were ‘heart storming,’ over the theme, and the word healing kept coming up,” said Hall, who volunteered with AFP while a theater student and was hired as a student assistant before landing her current position. “I think the healing that AFP provides through its storytelling format is perfect as we move from the isolation of the past two years to socialization.”

AFP 2022: Healing through Stories, a free festival full of interactive workshops, performances, and more, opens Wednesday, October 12, and runs through Friday, October 14. Most of the events take place in the Campbell Student Union.

Now in its 14th year, the AFP festival features faculty and staff members, students, alumni, and visiting artists who lead participants in kinesthetic workshops that reflect the theme and the spirit of Holocaust victim Anne Frank.

“We’re all wearing the wounds of the last couple of years,” said Drew Kahn, SUNY Distinguished Service Professor and AFP founding director. “I’m happy to see how we have stories coming out of many disciplines that can be a salve, not just providing a bandage but true healing.”

“We’re all wearing the wounds of the last couple of years.”

- Drew Kahn, M.F.A., SUNY Distinguished Service Professor and AFP Founding Director

This year is especially exciting as AFP is featuring best-selling author Nic Stone as the keynote speaker and festival presenter. Stone is the first in the Donn Youngstrom featured speaker series. Youngstrom, who retired from the Theater Department in 2018, gave the college a $1 million endowed gift in 2021 to help fund AFP.

“An Evening with Nic Stone” will be held Tuesday, October 11, at 7:00 p.m. in the Burchfield Penney Art Center’s Tower Auditorium. A Q&A and book signing will follow. The talk is free and open to the public.

Stone will also kick off the festival with her presentation “On Being Human: The Power of Storytelling” on Wednesday, October 12, at 10:00 a.m. in the Campbell Student Union Social Hall. She is expected to draw on her written work to explain how marginalization is rooted in the subconscious dehumanizing of other people.

“We watched her video from the 2020 First-Year Experience conference, talking about her debut novel, Dear Martin, and she was incredibly dynamic,” Kahn said. “She’s so right for our campus and our world.”

Also this year, Holocaust survivor Sophia Veffer will speak on October 12 at 2:00 p.m. in the Social Hall. Veffer will share stories of growing up in Amsterdam, Holland, attending school with Anne Frank, experiencing the atrocities of the Holocaust, and how she rebuilt her life following the war.

Other sessions include the following:

  • “Finding Your Hero” on October 12 at 12:15 p.m. in the Social Hall. Presented by Lafayette High School teachers Dana Kemp and Matthew Lapennas, the workshop will explore Joseph Campbell’s interpretation of the mythical Hero’s Journey and help participants pursue their own “revealing and healing” journeys.
  • “Social Circus: Circus Arts for Individual and Collective Transformation” on October 12 at 4:00 p.m. in the Social Hall. Presented by Benjamin Berry, a Western New York modern hoop dancer and a circus artist who leads the Accessible Circus Project, this movement-centric workshop will demonstrate the ways that prop-based circus arts promote individual wellness and the potential for community building.
  • Reflections: Social Justice in Art and Design on October 13 at 12:30 p.m. in the Czurles-Nelson Gallery in Upton Hall. Members of the Interior Design Student Organization will present an interactive workshop, and participants can view the accompanying exhibit, featuring the work of more than 40 artists—a mix of faculty members, students, and alumni. The exhibition runs through Wednesday, October 19.
  • “You Can’t Dance Like That: Successfully Navigating Authentic Cross-Cultural Friendships” on October 13 at 3:30 p.m. in the Social Hall. Yanick Jenkins, director of Buffalo State’s Educational Opportunity Program, and Carole Miller-Canestrari, senior EOP counselor, will discuss a friendship that grew from different racial and cultural backgrounds, including conflict resolution experiences and tips for maintaining and cultivating authentic communication and navigating difficult conversations.

The entire schedule of events and more information can be found on the AFP website.

Please contact Jonise Hall, assistant director of the AFP festival, with questions.