Cultural Diplomacy, public diplomacy, Women

Cultural Diplomacy in Multiple Dimensions

It’s been “all Public Diplomacy all the time” this week at George Washington University, with many exciting events surrounding the IPDGC’s Hip Hop Diplomacy: Connecting Through Culture conference on Tuesday afternoon, 3/27. (Note: here’s the conference final program; check the IPDGC website soon for the full conference video.)

Tara Sonenshine

First, we are delighted to see that conference keynote speaker Tara Sonenshine, currently Executive Vice President at the U.S. Institute of Peace, has just been confirmed by the Senate as the new Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs.

Ms. Sonenshine spoke passionately at the IPDGC conference about the importance of addressing challenges to women. She emphasized the power of individuals, and the role of cultural exchange in inspiring individuals to action. She described public diplomacy as a key “inclusionary” strategy that can help put women together with powerful institutions of government and business. Getting women into such loci of power “is a national security issue for us, and for everyone,” Ms. Sonenshine noted.

Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak

After her remarks, a terrific panel took the conference floor to talk about their international public diplomacy experience sharing sports, music, and journalism skills with young women (and men) around the world.  U.S. Soccer star Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak joined award-winning hip hop and R&B artist Toni Blackman, directors of the youth media training organization GlobalGirl Media (Therese Steiner and Tumi Mosadi), rising Moroccan hip hop star Soultana, and top Zimbabwean women’s basketball coach Belia Zibowa.

Toni Blackman

Listening to this amazing panel, I recalled last week’s article by Dr. Philip Seib, reflecting on a recent cultural diplomacy conference in the U.K. Seib wrote, “Still needing to be better defined … is the state’s role vis-à-vis the cultural community and the individual artist in the course of these diplomatic ventures.” And in fact our conference was an unusual opportunity to hear vivid descriptions and powerful insights from these artists / experts, right alongside the essential policy overview provided by Ambassador Adam Ereli, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, and a valuable presentation on private sector support for international youth sports outreach from GWU professor Lisa Delpy Neirotti (rounded out by some thoughts of my own on the interrelationship of media and cultural exchange in public diplomacy.)

Amb. Adam Ereli

Meanwhile, all week IPDGC made the most of the DC presence of two of the conference’s international participants. Tumi Mosadi, who coordinates GlobalGirl Media’s project in Soweto, is today joining a field trip of Washington DC high school students to NBC studios as part of the Prime Movers Media journalism training program sponsored by GWU’s School of Media and Public Affairs (SMPA). Yesterday, Ms. Mosadi had the opportunity to shadow SMPA alum Coleen King at MSNBC’s Chris Matthews news program, and she met with SMPA alum Jayne Orenstein at the Washington Post on Wednesday to talk video-journalism.

Tumi Mosadi and Therese Steiner

Also on Wednesday, Tumi and GlobalGirl Media President Therese Steiner screened a powerful GGM documentary film on the impact of HIV/AIDS on young women in Soweto at GWU’s Department of Global Health (School of Public Health), as well as at State Department’s Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator. IPDGC sends a big thank you to all our GWU colleagues for these collaborations.

Soultana at Marrakesh Lounge in Adams Morgan

And IPDGC provided night life as well: Moroccan hip hopper Soultanaperformed her work – including hit single Sawt Nssa (Voice of Women) – to lively audiences at DC venues Marrakesh Lounge and 19th Bar. (Just as a reminder of the power of international exchanges to connect and build, it was Kendra Salois, former U.S. Fulbright Student in Morocco and current Ph.D. candidate at U. Cal Berkeley, who connected the IPDGC team – not normally famed as music impresarios – with the performance organizers.  Our thanks go to Kendra and to Darby Hickey for making the performances possible.)

About Mary Jeffers

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the State Department or the U.S. Government. The author is a State Department officer specializing in public diplomacy, currently detailed to the IPDGC to teach and work on various Institute projects.

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