MAY 24, 2012 – JTMP has been a participant in the State Department's International Visitor Leadership Program for 3 years now, where citizens from around the world involved in the arts get to come to America and visit to learn about the role of arts in the US. This year we had visitors that came from Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Jordan and Tunisia to see how Justice Through Music Project uses art to raise awareness on issues, and to bring about social change. This year's contingent had musicians, playwrights, and people involved in art production. We gave them a presentation and showed them many of our musical art videos that deal with politics and issues, while we spoke about how we operate and produce our art videos. We then showed them how we use this art on our website and YouTube channel to raise awareness on an issue to help bring about positive social change.
The program also hopes to spur and support cross-cultural dialogue, and we experienced a great debate and discussion with the group. We even had one person ask us if the US government interfered with our free speech, which of course we explained as long as its peaceful and legal, a free society must have the free flow of thoughts and ideas, and no restrictions on expressions of art. We even had a great discussion on the role of the US interfering or getting involved in foreign countries, which there were many different opinions, but that was good. We showed them how a free society respects different opinions and solves things peacefully. We talked about how JTMP thinks the best way to bring about peace and social change in a country is for those citizens to be educated and informed, and have a free flow of opinions and dialogue, and be free to set up peaceful democracies. We explained how we feel art plays a big role in democracies, as they are the canaries in the coal mine, and can speak out about issues in unique way and sometimes see or sense problems such as civil rights issues in society before others do.
We chatted after our presentation, and answered many questions, as they were all curious about life in America, our freedoms, and how art plays a role. All of them come from emerging democracies, and most were from the Arab Spring countries setting up democracies for the first time and holding their first free elections, such as Egypt did today. We took photos, and even had the Tunisian guitarist play a few jazz riffs, and promised to stay in touch and continue to network using the Internet and work together on our shared social, political, and cultural goals.
For more information on the US State Department's International Visitor Leadership program, go to: http://exchanges.state.gov/ivlp/