West African singer, songwriter and UNICEF International Goodwill Ambassador
Three-time Grammy Award winner Angélique Kidjo is one of the greatest and most unique artists in international music today, a creative force with thirteen albums to her name. Time Magazine has called her “Africa’s premier diva”. The BBC has included her in its list of the continent’s 50 most iconic figures, and in 2011 The Guardian listed her as one of their Top 100 Most Inspiring Women in the World. Forbes Magazine has ranked Angelique as the first woman in their list of the Most Powerful Celebrities in Africa. She is the recent recipient of the prestigious 2015 Crystal Award given by the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland and the 2016 Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience Award.
As a performer, her striking voice, stage presence and fluency in multiple cultures and languages have won respect from her peers and expanded her following across national borders. Kidjo has taken the West African traditions of her Beninese childhood and cross-pollinated them with her myriad musical influences, spanning R&B, funk, jazz, gospel, pop, Latin, reggae, and so much more. Along with her own wide-ranging catalog, Kidjo has collaborated with virtually every major artist of the era, including Bono, Peter Gabriel, John Legend, Gilberto Gil, Alicia Keys, Dave Matthews, Philip Glass, Ziggy Marley, Henri Salvador, Herbie Hancock, Roy Hargrove, Dr. John, Cassandra Wilson, Branford Marsalis, Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij, and the San Francisco Symphony, among many others.
Her star-studded album DJIN DJIN won a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary World Album in 2008, and her album OYO was nominated for the same award in 2011. In January 2014 Angélique’s first book, a memoir titled Spirit Rising: My Life, My Music (Harper Collins), and her twelfth album, EVE (Savoy/429 Records), were released to critical acclaim. EVE later went on to with the Grammy Award for Best World Music Album in 2015.
In 2015, Kidjo released Sings with the Orchestre Philharmonique Du Luxembourg. The visionary songwriter and vocalist teams with the ensemble’s renowned conductor and composer Gast Waltzing to create an historic work that beautifully blends the classical music traditions of Europe and the powerful rhythmic excitement of the sounds of her native land. SINGS has garnered Angelique her 8th Grammy win (for Best World Music Album). Angelique has gone on to perform this genre-bending work with several international orchestras and symphonies including the Bruckner Orchestra, The Royal Scottish National Orchestra, and the Philharmonie de Paris. Her collaboration with Philip Glass, title IFÉ: Three Yorùbá Songs, made its US debut to a sold-out concert with the San Francisco Symphony in June 2015.
On May 5th 2017, Kidjo presented a full-length performance of Talking Heads Milestone album Remain In Light at Carnegie Hall in NYC. The performance by Kidjo and her band, complete with powerful new arrangements, earned her critical acclaim by media outlets like The New York Times and The New Yorker. The full length reimagining of Remain In Light, produced by Grammy Award winner Jeff Bhasker (Jay-Z, Kanye West, Marc Ronson, Fun), will be released at a later date.
Angelique is a committed philanthropist and champion of women and children’s rights around the world. She cofounded the Batonga Foundation in 2006, which equips Benin’s most vulnerable girls with knowledge and skills they need to become agents of change in their communities and in their own lives. Growing up in Benin, Angelique was one of few girls who had the opportunity to pursue an education. She invented the word “Batonga” as a defiant response to classmates and critics who told her girls did not belong in school. Today, the Batonga Foundation takes a data-driven approach to foster change by creating a new paradigm in which all girls are valued and where their economic, social and civic potential is expanded. She also travels the world advocating on behalf of children in her capacity as a UNICEF and OXFAM Goodwill Ambassador.
Partner, The Inspired Philanthropy Group
Monica is an independent consultant with a focus on systemic approaches to poverty alleviation, gender parity, and environmental justice. She is Chair of The Global Philanthropists Circle, an initiative of Synergos Institute, a network of international families focused on solving complex issues related to poverty and social injustice. She is Chair of The Garrison Institute, a non sectarian social beneficiary organization and retreat center that shares ancient and scientific contemplative practices to promote resilience and strengthen compassion social action in the world.
In 2006 Monica cofounded Inspired Philanthropy Group, a boutique philanthropic consulting group aimed at helping people unleash their time, passion and assets to do good in the world. In 2002 she helped create and roll out the “Six Villages Campaign” helping vulnerable populations affected by HIV for FXB International. She was a founding vice chair of Women Moving Millions, a campaign and community of women dedicated to using their funds and influence to elevate the status of women and girls.
Monica serves on the boards of her family foundations, The William H Donner and Donner Canadian. She lives in New York with her husband Josh and is the proud mother of two young women and a seven year old son.
Partner, Phillips & Cohen LLP and Director, Opportunity Fund
Mary Louise Cohen is a founding partner of Phillips & Cohen LLP, and has represented whistleblowers for more than 25 years in lawsuits brought to remedy fraud against the United States. Her firm has recovered more than $11 billion for state and federal governments in cases filed under the False Claims Act. In 2007, Mary Louise joined with Angelique Kidjo to create the Batonga Foundation to promote and support secondary education for girls in Africa. In 2010, together with Dr. Aziza Shad of Georgetown University, she founded the Aslan Project to improve survival rates for children with cancer in the developing world. Mary Louise graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School and obtained her undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill.
Songwriter, arranger and composer
Jean Hebrail has been Angelique Kidjo’s life partner and composer since her breakthrough album Logozo. After finishing a Masters degree in Philosophy at the Sorbonne University in France, Jean met Angelique in a Paris Jazz School where he was studying bass. He served as Angelique’s musical director and bass player for many years before focusing on arranging and composing most of her albums.
Jean has also written many songs used in movies, commercials and video games.
Since 2002, he has been coordinating Angelique’s charitable work with UNICEF, OXFAM and other organizations.
Director, Business Development and Diversification, FHI 360
Aleta J. Williams is currently Director of Partnerships for FHI 360 and in this role leads efforts to maintain and initiate external partnerships, which are key to achieving the organization’s goals in human development. Williams has held several leadership roles in both the private and nonprofit sectors.
In London, she launched GRM International’s (now Palladium Consulting) new education practice and served as its first director for global education. For the U.S. Agency for International Development, Williams provided policy recommendations and managed country-level activities under President George W. Bush’s US$600 million Africa Education Initiative, as well as a US$200 million investment in 21 bilateral education partnerships.
For President Bill Clinton’s Education for Development and Democracy Initiative, Williams managed a portfolio that included projects on information and communications technologies, democracy and governance, and economic development.
Williams began her career at McKinsey & Company, where she was an information associate and researcher covering general practices and the energy sector. Her diverse professional experience includes producing an award-winning documentary series, Readers are Leaders, and working under the tutelage of civil rights leader, Dr. Dorothy I. Height.
Williams has a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and a Master in Public Administration from George Washington University. She is the proud mother of a daughter, Denver and a fierce advocate for women, girls and youth domestically and internationally.
Professor of Law, Director of the Rule of Law Collaborative, University of South Carolina
Joel H. Samuels is Professor of Law and Director of the Rule of Law Collaborative at the University of South Carolina. With more than 20 years of experience working on development issues across Sub-Saharan Africa, Joel joined the Batonga Foundation Board of Directors in January 2017.
As Director of the Rule of Law Collaborative, Joel oversees programming focused on rule of law development across the globe. In addition, he regularly lectures to U.S. Government officials from the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Department of Justice and the Department of Defense on rule of law development abroad.
Joel has also worked at the World Bank in both Washington (in the Office of the Vice President for Africa) and in Zimbabwe (at the African Capacity Building Foundation) focusing on capacity building in economic policy analysis and development management. During that time, he was a member of the World Bank team that drafted the Initiative for Capacity Building in Africa, a cornerstone document in the World Bank’s initial efforts in that arena. During his time in private law practice at Covington & Burling, Joel was involved in the ad hoc arbitration of the Eritrea-Ethiopia boundary dispute and led the team that drafted a new Civil Service Code for Eritrea.
Honored by the USC School of Law student body in 2007 and 2016 as the Outstanding Faculty Member for teaching excellence, Joel received his A.B., magna cum laude, in politics from Princeton University in 1994. He received his J.D., cum laude, from the University of Michigan Law School in 1999, where he was a Clarence Darrow Scholar. While at Michigan, he also earned a master’s degree in Russian and East European Studies.
Contemporary visual artist, Benin
Romuald Hazoumè is one of Africa’s foremost contemporary artists and a master of diverse forms of media. Hazoumè creates masks, photographs, paintings, sculptures and multi-media installations that include sound and video components. Using the ubiquitous plastic petrol-can as his unmistakable iconic signature, Hazoumè, during his artistic career, has created a series of monumental installations that act as metaphors of African place, history, and identity. Whether taking aim at endemic political corruption in Africa or addressing the global indifference compounding environmental disasters, Hazoumè creates visually striking works capable of compressing bewildering details into complex, yet nuanced metaphors that contain many powerful ideas. Hazoumè was the Arnold Bode prize-winner at documenta 12, and his work has been shown in major international galleries and museums, including the British Museum, London, the Metropolitan, New York, GOMA, Brisbane, NMAfA, Washington DC and most recently the Kunsthaus Graz, Austria.
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