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African Delegation Observes Mid-Term Elections in Louisville (Plus An Interview with WFPL)

Eight delegates from seven different African countries arrived in Louisville on November 4, 2018. Prior to their arrival, the group had traveled extensively across the United States – to Washington, D.C., Annapolis and Baltimore, Miami, and Colorado Springs – learning about the U.S. electoral process, election monitoring, and effective campaigning. But no amount of travel was going to wear down the group’s excitement for the big day: November 6th.

While in Louisville, the group met with several organizations, candidates, and constituents. For a compare and contrast, the group met with both the Jefferson County Clerk’s Office and Floyd County Clerk’s Office to explore the differences in election day preparation, laws, and management of polling stations. Mr. James Young, Co-Director of the Jefferson Co. Election Center, met with visitors to discuss the amount of preparation that goes into managing Kentucky’s most populated county and how residents must visit their assigned polling stations. In Floyd County, IN, the group learned from Floyd County Clerk Christy Eurton that polls are run a bit different just across the river. In Floyd County, visitors were exposed to the idea of Election Centers, where residents of Floyd County are able to vote in any Election Center and are not tied to one specific polling station.

Our group also met with local candidates of both parties. First, visitors met with Mr. Kent Hall who ran as the Republican candidate for Metro Council’s 7th District seat. Mr. Hall had previously worked in the Jefferson Co. Election Center and had a wealth of knowledge to share having help prepare for elections and now as a candidate himself. Later in the day, visitors met with Ms. Nima Kulkarni, the Democratic candidate running for State Representative in the 40th district. Ms. Kulkarni shared her drive to run, major issues, and the grassroots support for her campaign as the first Indian-American elected to Kentucky’s state legislature.

Dr. Rhonda Wrzenski, Associate Professor of Political Science at Indiana University Southeast, gave a presentation on the predictions for the Mid-Term elections and reasons for the historical turn-out of women candidates in this year’s election cycle. Students of IUS sat in on the discussion.

Bill Burton of 89.3 WFPL News met with the group to discuss the importance of transparency and media coverage during elections. Not only did the visitors have a wonderful discussion, but Mr. Burton interviewed two of the participants, which played on WFPL the morning of November 6th! You can hear the interview in the audio file below.

Interview by Bill Burton, 89.3 WFPL News:

 

A delegate from the Central African Republic shares a traditional song with trivia contestants!

The group had wonderful experiences with two volunteer home hospitality dinner hosts! They also joined WAC’s special “Election Edition” Global Trivia Night at Gravely Brewing Co. to watch results pour in. One of them even gave the crowd an impromptu singing lesson!

You can view the Facebook Album for all photos here!

 

This project was sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) and implemented locally by World Affairs Council of Kentucky and Southern Indiana in partnership with World Learning.

Visitors from Azerbaijan Explore Louisville’s LGBTQ+ Community

The City of Louisville was chosen by the U.S Department of State International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) to be a stop for the visitors of Azerbaijan coming to the United States to learn about strengthening the capacity of LGBTQ organizations. Five leaders in the LGBTQ community of Azerbaijan were chosen by the U.S Embassy in Azerbaijan to visit Washington D.C, Louisville, San Francisco, Sacramento, Miami, and New York City. The objectives of the program are below:

Two visitors prepare for Pride Parade!

  • Examine the U.S. legislative framework to ensure LGBT rights in the U.S.;
  • Explore U.S. and international initiatives to promote and protect the human rights of the LGBT community;
  • Observe how organizations monitor, influence, and advocate for LGBT rights policy at the local, state, national, and international levels;
  • Gain insight into approaches, experiences, and challenges of the LGBT community such as healthcare issues; the status of LGBT women; LGBT youth issues; and achieving economic equality;
  • Learn about capacity building in the areas of managing LGBT NGOs; public outreach and communications; government relations; and networking and alliance building

Visitors from Azerbaijan meet with Lexington Mayor Jim Gray – the first openly gay Kentuckian to run for U.S. Senate!

In 2016, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), ranked Azerbaijan as the worst country in Europe(49th) for LGBTQ rights. Just last year the police force of Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, initiated raids targeting the LGBTQ community.  Nearly 100 people were detained, many of whom identify as LGBTQ. Some of those who were arrested also claimed to have been tortured and beaten. The climate of Azerbaijan makes this U.S State Department program much more imperative; the ultimate goal of this program is to help those who are trying to improve the lives of LGBTQ community members in Azerbaijan. The World Affairs Council of Kentucky and Southern Indiana was honored to have such courageous men and women come visit us, and hoped that they could learn something new from LGBTQ leaders in a historically conservative American state.

The participants from Azerbaijan had a quick but packed stay in Louisville. In addition to participating in the Kentuckiana Pride Festival and Parade, they met with a variety of organizations and leaders throughout Kentucky who advocate and support the LGBTQ community. These were organizations such as the Louisville Metro Police Department Safe Harbor program and LGBTQ Advisory Council, PFLAG of Central Kentucky, the Fairness Campaign, and the Mayor of Lexington, Jim Gray. These exchanges helped the Azerbaijanis learn about the LGBTQ culture in the United States as well as gain insights as to what they could bring back home to help advocate for the LGBTQ community in Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijani visitors meet with LMPD’s Safe Harbor program!

Having the chance to meet with an openly gay mayor, given the current administration in the United States, seemed to be a highlight of the trip for the participants. The mayor of Lexington, Jim Gray, and the Lexington LGBTQ Community Liaison, Kenny Bishop, took the time to meet with the group to discuss the mayor’s story as well as the political landscape in Kentucky. The general acceptance that Mayor Gray has received as well as the initiatives that he and his team have brought to fruition in Lexington and Kentucky politics were a source of inspiration for the participants. After the meeting, the group drove over to the rainbow cross walks in downtown Lexington, an artistic as well as activist initiative the Mayor’s team brought to life. Although it was a short meeting, the participants, the interpreters, and myself felt very fortunate to have been able to sit down with such an inspirational and powerful figure in the LGBTQ community.

Additionally, the local leaders that met with the group also learned a great deal about the restrictive political and social landscape in Azerbaijan. As an intern listening in on some of the meetings, I saw how intrigued local leaders were a country they did not know much about, as well as the difficulties these courageous people go through to advocate and support the LGBTQ community. I saw firsthand the value of a cultural exchange as well as the exchange of information and ideas so that the Azerbaijanis and Americans both walked with new knowledge and an awareness of a new perspective.  

We hope that the Azerbaijanis had a great stay in Kentucky, and we wished them safe travels as they left to visit San Francisco. Thank you to everyone who helped made this program successful, and thank you for all that you do to support the LGBTQ community!

 

Written by: Teya Cuellar, Spring 2018 Visitor Program Intern

Wheelchair Basketball, Disability Rights and Inclusion

Fourteen adaptive sports coaches descended on Louisville from Zambia for the 2018 National Wheelchair Basketball Tournament! The fourteen coaches represented Special Olympics Zambia, National Paralympic Committee of Zambia, Ministry of Youth, Sport, and Child Development, Baeuleni United Sports Academy, and more. The coaches were invited to the United States on a project of “Disability Rights and Inclusion” sponsored through the U.S. Department of State, Sports Diplomacy. World Affairs Council partnered with FHI360 to provide an unforgettable experience for the coaches and Kentucky counterparts that they met with.

 

Following the tournament, coaches met with several local agencies, individuals, and organizations working for disability rights and inclusion in sports. The group started their local meetings with Louisville Metro Councilman Vitalis Lanshima, the first foreign-born resident to sit on Louisville Metro Council. Councilman Lanshima lost his arms in an accident while living in Nigeria. He shared his personal journey in paralympic sports, which is what ultimately brought him to Louisville through a sports scholarship with Bellarmine University.

Sports was the first thing that taught me that I could be free.

Louisville Metro Councilman, Vitalis Lanshima

Special Olympics Kentucky met with the group afterwards to talk about the organization’s history, work, challenges, and successes. Mr Hunter Brislin, Program Director of Team Sports and Coach Education, and Mr. Justin Harville, Director of Volunteers and Program Services, provided a presentation and answered questions about Special Olympics in Kentucky.

Mr. Greg Fante, Vice President of Sports Development with the Louisville Sports Commission, put together a strong panel of guests and hosted a roundtable on “Sports Tourism, Events, and Accessibility” for the coaches at the Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau (LCVB). The panel included: Ms. Vickie Lincks, Executive Director of Kentucky & Southern Indiana Paralyzed Veterans of America; Ms. BJ Levins, Recreation Administrator for Louisville Metro Parks’ Adaptive and Inclusive Recreation (AIR) program; Mr. Brad Knapp, Destination Services Manager, LCVB; Ms. Gen Howard, Senior Sales Manager (Sports), LCVB; and Mr. Dave Patrone, Vice President of Client Services, Kentucky Venues. Immediately, the roundtable talked about the logistical challenges and successes for hosting the National Wheelchair Bakestball Tournament, including transportation, venue, hotel, and more. The group was greatly impacted by the amount of collaboration and partnerships that it takes to pull a successful event.

 

The group was impressed to see that hosting events such as the National Wheelchair Basketball Tournament requires the entire city’s cooperation.

The following day was spent entirely at the University of Louisville to meet with the Department of Health and Sports Sciences and participate in a sports psychology workshop with 2nd Wind Motivation by Cheryl Hart. The last day of programming, the group visited Churchill Park School which serves students age 5 to 21 who have moderate to severe disabilities and need a specialized program. They were able to view the school’s adaptive recreation and sports, including an adaptive playground, adaptive swimming pool, bowling alley, and gym.

 

As their final meeting, the group spent an afternoon with BJ Levins and Metro Parks staff at the Louisville Metro Parks Adaptive and Inclusive Recreation (AIR) program at Berrytown Recreation Center. The group learned about the history of the park’s involvement in adaptive recreation, the plethora of programs and sports available to the community, and the administration of such programs. Then comes the fun — archery class!

 

If you want to view the group’s Facebook album for more pictures, follow this link

 

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