Williams College Burkina Day

Today is the result of many months of planning and years of patiently waiting for the right way to connect with Williams College, the nation’s #1 liberal arts college, and my alma mater. 


It would not have been possible without the tremendous support of Carrie Tribble, ’13, who was the student coordinator for this series of events that included the following:

  • Dinner discussion led by Ina & I… the theme of the talk: If not Me, Who?  If not Now, When?  A Personalized Approach to Humanitarian Intervention
  • Campus-wide workshop on music and activism co-led by BARKA & Burkina Electric, a band that mixes traditional African rhythms in experimental ways with electronica breakbeats and a rare instrument-computer called the marimba lumina
  • Workshop with Mt. Greylock High School 9th graders, who are focused on community service this year, co-led by BARKA and Burkina Electric.  This was an exhilarating event with students chanting “One more song!” at the end- the first time we’ve seen an encore in a workshop!  It also opened up new possibilities in thinking about how BARKA works with and engages students.
  • Dance workshop for Kusika, Williams’ West African dance troupe led by Burkina Electric’s amazing dancers Viki and Zoko
  • And finally, the much anticipated concert of Burkina Electric on campus on Friday night, with Kusika opening for the band

Ina & I were also invited by Economics Professor Kiaran Honderich to give a presentation at her Gender & Global Economy class which enabled us to get into some of the more complex issues of international development, its challenges, BARKA’s strategies for overcoming those challenges, and issues of gender and women’s empowerment in a development context.  Ina spoke of the 13 Indigenous Grandmothers, and we taught the class about the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). We talked for almost an hour after class with some students about everything.  One of them came and found me at the concert later that night and right after Mai, Burkina Electric’s lead singer explained that Ligdi means money, he stuffed some dollars into my hand and said, “Here- Ligdi! You have to have this… you guys are special.”  It might have only been a couple of bucks, however moments like those are absolutely priceless.

One last thing worthy of note: we met with Kate Flanagan and Tara ? of the Lehman Council, and Stewart Burns of the Center for Community Engagement and discussed the formation of an ongoing relationship between BARKA and Williams students.  This would entail regular updates from the field when Ina & I are in Burkina, Williams students passing on those updates to Mt. Greylock students to keep their interest and momentum going, and then collaborating on a walk for water with Williams and Mt. Greylock HS in the Spring when we return after project implementation.  Such a relationship with Lehman Council could also help foster similar outposts of support at other college campuses, as well as possible internship and volunteering opportunities.

All in all, this was an extremely successful, well received and beautifully executed event.  It also received quite a bit of promotion from the local press:

Berkshires Week: Burkina Electric Will Light Up Williams

Berkshire Eagle: BARKA Foundation Aims to WASH Berkshire County

Burkina Electric to Bring Music, Dance, Excitement to Williams College

WAMC Interview with Ina & Esu

Published on October 5, 2011 by
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