Katherine Cloutier is a 2012-2013 Fulbright-mtvU alumna, currently finishing her PhD in ecological-community psychology. Her Fulbright-mtvU grant was a participatory research project that was done in collaboration with a sexual health education program and secondary school students.
Matt Saleh is a 2015-2016 Fulbright U.S. Student in Barbados whose research focuses on collaboration and service coordination among community service providers, government agencies, and secondary schools in school-to-work transition for youth with disabilities.
After learning of the overlap between our two Fulbright projects and experiences in Barbados, we decided to sit down and try to put some of the commonalities into words for the benefit of future Fulbright Students. On the shores of Accra Beach over refreshments at the Tiki Bar, we quickly got to work.
Katherine with Lisa Thompson from PEPFAR (left); Katherine Cloutier, 2012-2013, Barbados, with previous U.S. Ambassador Larry Palmer; and dance4life partners Maisha Hutton, Leila Raphael, and Shakira Emtage-Cave (middle to right) at the 2012 World AIDS Day Event where the participatory action research project was presented by the secondary school students.
Katherine Cloutier: I came to Barbados through a series of planned accidents, I suppose. I remember walking into the office of the Fulbright Program Adviser at Michigan State University, my alma mater, and telling him, “I’m going to get that scholarship; it’s just a matter of when.” The next thing I knew, I was walking off a plane in Barbados on a humid September day in 2012, about to begin my year as a Fulbright-mtvU grantee. Two individuals from my host community partner, dance4life (a sexual health education and youth empowerment program), were waiting for me at the airport. I had never been to the Caribbean before, let alone this particular rock, but I felt so welcomed by these two. Here I am, years later, and I am back in Barbados, my second home.
Benjamin Cohn, 2014-2015, Fulbright-mtvU Fellow to Ghana (right), with friend and colleague Ba-ere Yotere on the coast of Accra, the country’s capital
My name is Benjamin Cohn, and I recently returned to San Francisco after a year in Accra, Ghana on a Fulbright-mtvU Fellowship researching the roles that music plays in society, its power to enact real change, and Ghana’s educational infrastructure. These research interests quickly led me to the Bizung School of Music and Dance in Tamale, the Northern region of Ghana. While a big portion of my grant was focused on conducting interviews, writing, and engaging in more theoretical practices (described below), my goal has always been to put my Fulbright grant to good use, which is why I am currently running a campaign for the school.
Although I am not a musician, I have worked in various aspects of “the industry” from radio to concert production and promotion. I maintain a hip-hop website and have contributed articles to many sites including Afropop Worldwide, TeamBackPack and KevinNottingham. Through my Fulbright Fellowship, I was able to immerse myself in the Ghanaian popular and traditional music scenes completely. I did camera work for educational documentaries, created a web series featuring episodic video profiles of contemporary musicians, wrote a video treatment for an up and coming artist and even found my way into the music video of the 2015 Ghana’s Best Rapper (The Ghana Music Award Winner). All of these relationships, and more, led to a serious cultural exchange any time we got together.
Jeff Roy, 2012-2013, Fulbright-mtvU Fellow to India
In honor of Pride Month, we revisit 2012 Fulbright-mtvU alum Jeff Roy’s five month reflection on his grant to India exploring how members of the LGBTQIA community in India use music and dance to navigate tradition, modernity and globalization, in order to craft a contemporary, urban identity.
Now that we’re about half-way through, I thought we would rewind the past five months and also take a look at some plans for the future. It’s a pretty good time to do this, incidentally, since it’s holiday season in just about every part of the world. Last week, Hindus celebrated one of their most cherished festivals Holi. Like many Hindu religious festivals, “playing Holi” is less of a formal display of faith and more of a street party commemorated through a bombastic display of powdered colors, water, the use of mind-altering substances (which happen to be legal on religious holidays such as this), and dancing. Though not directly related to the LGBTQ movement, the use of paints and colored powders in street-side festivities provides an apt visual for what the festival symbolizes, namely the breaking-down of social norms and acceptability, the celebration of life in various dimensions, and the arrival of spring. I avoided most of the chaos on the streets for fear of my camera getting irreparably damaged.
With ‘Music in Liminal Spaces,’ my intention is to cover a diverse array of music and dance from individuals on both ends of the LGBTQ spectrum to see how, where, and in what forms queer voices manifest in Mumbai. Being one of the largest cities in the world, Mumbai has no shortage of talent. Because of this, I have managed to cover traditional and modern representations of gendered performance, from an Indian classical music mela (‘meeting’, or ‘concert’) held in the garden of a former Maharaja, to a rock concert inside a local club. For the past five months, I was able to produce a number of videos and deliver a successful presentation of these experiences at the Central and South Asia Fulbright Conference in February 2013. Ultimately, these events helped set the stage for the work I intend to pursue until the end of my stay in Mumbai.
Fulbright-mtvU applications for the 2015-2016 competition are due tomorrow, Friday, February 27 at 5:00 p.m. EST.
Have last minute questions? Carefully review all guidelines and tips on our website and then contact Susan Muendl at firstname.lastname@example.org. Good luck!
Andrew Magill, 2009-2010, Fulbright-mtvU Fellow to Malawi
Interested in exploring how the power of music promotes peace and cultural exchange? Not a musician or a music scholar? You are still eligible!
If you’re a U.S. citizen and have a great project idea, visit https://us.fulbrightonline.org/about/types-of-grants/fulbright-mtvu-awards for more information about eligibility and instructions on how to apply.
To read more about Fulbright-mtvU students’ projects, please visit http://fulbright.mtvu.com.
To attend the final Fulbright-mtvU webinar on Thursday, February 19th, sign up here: https://us.fulbrightonline.org/component/events/855?view=event.
The February 27th deadline is quickly approaching, so complete your application soon!
Working on a Fulbright-mtvU application for the upcoming February 27 deadline? Attend this week’s webinar on General Q&A this Thursday, January 15, at 2:00 p.m. EST!
In early November, I went to an open mic for local poets at an Abu Dhabi venue called The Space. It was the fourth event in a new Rooftop Rhythms series for Arabic poetry, organized by Rooftops founder Dorian “Paul D” Rogers. The event featured about fifteen poets, who combined elements of Arabic poetry with spoken word. They were multilingual UAE residents from a variety of Arab backgrounds—Palestinian, Lebanese, Emirati, and Sudanese. Many were regulars at Rooftop events but usually performed in English. They reminded the audience of this since the connotations of writing poetry differ from one language to another. Arabic poetry is associated with mastery of Classical Arabic and a deep knowledge of the Arabic literary heritage, while spoken word favors poetic prowess that is grounded in lived experience. But the audience was open-minded, receptive to hearing Arabic poetry in a variety of dialects, registers, and styles. The evening had a warm, familial vibe, with listeners snapping fingers supportively from their bean bag chairs.
Poets and friends at The Space in Abu Dhabi (Photo courtesy of Farah Bushnaq)
I chose a poem to feature here that fits neatly into the themes of this blog. It’s by Dubai-based poet Zeina Hashem Beck, written in appreciation of the performative style of Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum (d. 1975). Umm Kulthum is one of the most beloved figures of the Arab world, and the lyrics to her songs are among the most widely memorized of Arabic poems. Zeina’s poem is called “Umm Kulthum or Al-Intithar [Waiting],” (a title that brought to my mind Umm Kulthum’s famous song, “Ana fi Intizarak” [I’m waiting for you]). Zeina is from Tripoli, Lebanon, and studied English Literature at the American University in Beirut. She is an English-language poet, with her work published and forthcoming in over a dozen literary journals, but considers herself a newcomer to Arabic poetry. Her debut poetry collection, To Live in Autumn (The Backwaters Press, 2014), won the 2013 Backwaters Prize and has been recently released. The poems of this collection describe Beirut as she sees it; a city that resembles autumn in its uncertainties and the conflicted feelings it inspires.