We need your help.
Three Malian artists have been officially invited by Brown University and the Department of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies on a large Creative Arts Council arts initiative grant, but visa applications have been denied for two of the three artists.
These artists represent important Malian voices - two not heard very often in the USA - those of youth & women.
Those artists were SALI, DJIBI, and ALHASSANE (otherwise known as "J", Yeredon's lead djembe drummer). The intent in bringing them was that Alhassane will offer unparalleled artistry, Sali will give share with the Mande class a much-needed female perspective in Malian dance, and Djibi, who has been very active in youth arts initiatives in the past few years, will teach the students about apprenticeship and how arts are being utilized for the younger generation.
Unfortunately, Sali and Djibi's visas were initially denied based on them having too few ties to Mali. We of course understand this argument, but what is especially frustrating is that this exact reason is what gives them unique and important perspectives - being a young organizer (Djibi), female (Sali), and both artists - is particularly what prevents them from having these ties (government job, property, lots of money). As American citizens who pay for these services (Embassy, etc), it is our responsibility to speak out when we believe in an opportunity that will benefit Americans.
Sali and Djibi can offer real conversations about social change, and it's disappointing that the most important conversation of all is the one being denied.
Support for these artists has the potential to affect hundreds of Brown students this semester, and demonstrate in action rather than words the commitment of the United States to global social engagement.
The funding from the Creative Arts Council will cover all expenses related to artists' travel and residency at Brown, which is scheduled to last from February 28 through April 10. All three individuals are employed in Mali and have demonstrated commitment to their families and occupations which rules out any possibility of them staying in the United States beyond their visa expiration. In fact, their visa applications were denied before the United States Embassy even contacted the chair of the TAPS Department regarding the invitation.
These artists have been teaching Brown students for over a decade in Bamako, Mali at the Yeredon Center for the Malian Arts (http://www.yeredonmali.org/), and it is time that we return their hospitality and welcome them to the university that has been so touched and inspired by them; these two people have given so much to the United States and welcomed Brown students into their homes year after year.
Stand with art, stand with women, stand with youth - stand with the power for art to have a voice, especially in the developing world. Sign our petition and get these artists their visas to visit the USA!
These artists were invited to Brown through an incredibly generous grant from the Creative Arts Council at Brown to fund our third Rhythm of Change Festival, which has directly evolved from Bloodline and the Africanist festivals in the past. As these festivals have grown for the past three years, the Department has recognized this work with more and more support. This year, the grant provided for all of the costs of bringing three of the Yeredon artists here to the US to participate in the festival and work with students in the Mande class for a month. They are invited to Brown for February 27 - April 6 of this year.
Both Sali and Djibi are obviously of the utmost character and will under no circumstances not be on their return flights to Bamako. We should also mention that they will be able to earn $1,000 each through this festival due to payment requirements and thanks to this grant, which is a life-changer for them... but will not be able to make that money if they do not receive these visas.
Sali, Alhassane and Djibi are the invited guests of the Arts in the One World Conference sponsored by Professor Erik Ehn, the Rhythm of Change Festival sponsored by Professor Michelle Bach-Coulibaly and TAPS0330: Mandé Dance, Music and Culture, and they are scheduled to teach and collaborate with hundreds of Brown students and New England citizens this semester.