How Artists Shape Our Future


If you’re wondering where the spiritual "after party" for the Festival will be, look no further than this party in the form of a panel discussion, where New Haven Director of Cultural Affairs Adriane Jefferson will lead a talk among many of the festival’s headliners, including theater visionary Madeline Sayet, “wild” (PRI) front man of Mwenso & the Shakes Michael Mwenso, and BLACK HAVEN queer artist and activist Salwa Abdussabur. These luminaries will discuss what a future honoring artistic equity and liberation can (and should!) look like.  

This event will be ASL interpreted. Captions will be available on Facebook Live.

Funded in part by the New England States Touring program of the New England Foundation for the Arts, made possible with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts Regional Touring Program and the six New England state arts agencies.

Salwa Abdussabur (they/them)

Singer, Songwriter, Actress, Poet

Salwa Abdussabur (they them) is a Connecticut born singer, songwriter, actress, and poet who sung background for Childish Gambino during his historic hosting and performance on Saturday Night Live to debut the “This is America” and “Saturday” Singles. They are an up and coming artist with soul and consciousness that uses their voice and floetry to both uplift spirits and voices.

Adriane Jefferson (she/her/hers)

Host, Director of Cultural Affairs for the City of New Haven

Adriane is the Director of Cultural Affairs for the City of New Haven. Prior to this she was an arts program manager for the State of CT Office of the Arts. She has been an Executive in Arts Administration for over 16 years specializing in cultural equity with expertise in program design, event & media production, grant making, external affairs, community partnerships, and new program initiatives. She specializes in professional development programming for young creative professionals, programs that amplifying Black, Indigenous, people of color and social change initiatives. She is a thought leader, adviser and educator pertaining to issues of Justice, Diversity, equity, access, and inclusion. She has dedicated her career to creating programs that result in a more equitable, vibrant, and sustainable arts landscape. Adriane has a B.A in Popular Music from Florida Memorial University and an M.A in Arts Administration from Savannah College of Arts Design. She currently serves as a councilwoman for the State of CT Arts Council and is a Advisory Board Member for New England Foundation for the Arts.

Michael Mwenso (he/him)

Musician, Curator, Leader of Mwenso & The Shakes

New York-based Michael Mwenso is a musical polymath who spent his teens as James Brown’s understudy. In 2007, he organized a late-night jam session at the famed London jazz club, Ronnie Scott’s, which led to Wynton Marsalis handpicking him to be musician and curator at Jazz at Lincoln Center. Entrenched in the company of a few dozen talented Harlem-based musicians, Mwenso soon found the musicians that became The Shakes. 
Mwenso & The Shakes specialize in musical code-switching, freely adopting and repurposing the drama, whimsy, and spirit of the Great American Songbook, African beats, funk, modern jazz, dance pop, Delta blues, and cabaret theater with equal, effortless verve. Star vocalist Brianna Thomas describes Mwenso’s Harlem-based octet as, “theater meets opera meets James Brown meets jazz meets total improvisation.” Pulling from, among other material, its 2019 live debut, Emergence [The Process of Coming Into Being] — which NPR Music hailed as “an explosion of ideas and sounds wrapped around familiar instrumentation” — the band brings a vibrant and powerful set to Duke Performances’ virtual season. 
— Eric Tullis

Madeline Sayet (she/her/hers)

Theatre Maker

Madeline Sayet is a Mohegan theatre maker who believes the stories we pass down inform our collective possible futures. She has been honored as a Forbes 30 Under 30 in Hollywood & Entertainment, TED Fellow, MIT Media Lab Director’s Fellow, National Directing Fellow, Drama League Director-In-Residence, NCAIED Native American 40 Under 40, and a recipient of The White House Champion of Change Award from President Obama. She serves as the Executive Director of the Yale Indigenous Performing Arts Program (YIPAP), and is known throughout the field for her work promoting indigenous voices and decolonizing systems. She premiered her solo performance piece Where We Belong at Shakespeare's Globe and RichMix in London this past summer to critical acclaim, becoming the first Native American playwright to have her work performed at The Globe. Recent directing work includes: Midsummer Night's Dream (South Dakota Shakespeare), Henry IV (Connecticut Repertory Theatre), Whale Song (Perseverance Theatre), She Kills Monsters (Connecticut Repertory Theatre), As You Like It (Delaware Shakespeare), The Winter’s Tale (Amerinda/HERE Arts), Poppea (Krannert Center, Illinois), The Magic Flute (Glimmerglass), Macbeth (NYC Parks), Miss Lead (59e59).

Robert Gould (he/him)

Robert Gould is a Creative Entrepreneur, Artist, Author, & Motivational Speaker. He has made featured appearances on Mtv, BET, and Country Music Television (CMT). As CEO of RG Media Affiliates, Robert’s unique passion is bridging the gap between music, media, education, and technology integration. He has been recognized by the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame for his advocacy on health & wellness within the arts. Most recently, Black Enterprise Magazine honored Robert as a leading male entrepreneur in the nation, 2019 BE Modern Man. He has served as a youth spokesperson in the United States Senate, and has held strategic operating positions with The Recording Academy (The Grammys), The Complex Group, and Broadcast Music Inc.(BMI) Robert is an alumnus of the prestigious Berklee College Of Music where he holds a bachelors in Music Business & Marketing with a minor in Global Studies. A Few of his highlighted featured industry credits include working with the likes of: Danny Glover, Ruby Dee, Kirk Franklin, Patti Labelle, Quincy Jones, Ledisi, Rae Sremmurd, Kim Burrell, Jill Scott,Drumma Boy, Le’Andria Johnson, Dallas Austin, Kierra Sheard, Makeba Riddick, Pop duo Karmin, Polow DaDon, Vashawn Mitchell, Claude Kelly, Iyanla Vanzant, Keke Palmer, and Ryan Seacrest Studios.

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