An Invitation to Nelson Mandela to the Inaugural New Orleans Afrikan Film and Arts Festival sign now

His Excellency President Nelson Mandela


Mr. President,

Thousands of Louisiana citizens and particularly the youth of Louisiana respectfully address this letter to you in the name of The New Orleans Afrikan Film and Arts Festival. It is with deep emotion and a sense of great responsibility that we write to you. Your positive response to our request would have tremendous import to the entire city of New Orleans. With this letter we humbly invite you to join us as our guest of honor to open the inaugural annual New Orleans Afrikan Film and Arts Festival in October 2008.

Given the renown of the City of New Orleans as a site of artistic creativity and its historic ties to Africa and communities of African descent worldwide, the New Orleans Afrikan Film and Arts Festival seeks to enhance these bonds by showcasing and exploring the productions of black artists throughout the world in film, music, visual arts and literature. On the initiative of Indiana University Professor Eileen Julien, an African American native of New Orleans, and Senegalese filmmaker-screenwriter Joseph Gaye Ramaka, the Festival seeks to become one of Louisianas major cultural events.

New Orleans is unique among the lands of the African diaspora. To this day it resounds with the powerful, joyful and painful melodies of the turmoil of American history and remains a symbol of cultural diversity. The cradle of blues and jazz, Louisiana is the birthplace and home of Louis Armstrong and Mahalia Jackson, of visual artist John Scott, of writers Ernest Gaines, Lillian Hellman, Truman Capote, and other world-renowned artists.
We have chosen to focus our inaugural Festival on South Africa for a number of reasons. South Africa and, in particular, you, President Mandela, hold a mythic status in the contemporary black imaginary. Like New Orleans, South Africa is an historic site of both the conflict and collaboration between diverse peoples and cultures. There are striking similarities between our hybrid populations, our strong histories of rebellion against slavery and racism, and our cross-cultural collaboration.

Moreover, South Africas heroic and successful resistance to one of the worlds most violent regimes serves as a beacon of hope and freedom to the entire world. We believe that South Africas struggles and triumphs are particularly relevant to New Orleanians who are living and struggling in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which ravaged the city and Gulf Coast in 2005. We know that despite South Africas many triumphs, your country continues to suffer ongoing legacies of violence, educational and economic inequity, as does New Orleans. Finally, the Festivals South Africa focus, which will bring not only films, but also filmmakers, scholars and other South Africans to the city, will build on New Orleans Sister City relationship with Durban and enable our citizens, artists and scholars to forge ongoing dialogue and collaboration.

Mr. President, given your long established deep interest in culture and the arts as a means to build bridges between men and women and nations, your presence among us in October 2008 would be of inestimable value to all the people in New Orleans and to the success of the Festival.
The Whitney Foundation, our partner in this project, has gathered a team of architects and artists to design Nelson Mandela Square, which will include a statue in your honor. Nelson Mandela Square is envisioned as a place to celebrate every current of the human spirit. Every year it will serve as the gathering point for people of good will who will celebrate together the historical and spiritual bonds between Africa and Louisiana, through works of film, music, literature and visual arts by artists from the entire diaspora.

Mr. President, Louisiana would be eternally grateful should you come to inaugurate this place of sharing and of common memory.

We sincerely hope that, your health permitting, you will accept our young ambassadors invitation to join them in October of next year for our celebration of freedom, unity and the arts in New Orleans.

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Magdalena ClayBy:
Politics and GovernmentIn:
Petition target:
Nelson Mandela and the South African Government

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