In a special Kennedy Center Millennium Stage performance commemorating World Refugee Day on June 20, 2018, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and The Kennedy Center will present the inspiring performer Melat.
On World Refugee Day, held every year on June 20th, the world is asked to commemorate the strength, courage, and perseverance of refugees. “This not about sharing a burden. It is about sharing a global responsibility, based not only on the broad idea of our common humanity but also on the very specific obligations of international law. The root problems are war and hatred, not people who flee; refugees are among the first victims of terrorism” said UN Secretary-General, António Guterres. Previously, he was the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
Melat’s World Refugee stage performance will be emotional, lively, and aim to connect the Millennium Stage audience with those who are refugees and those who have been refugees. If the sponsor of the performance, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, is an unknown to readers, it is the United Nations refugee agency.
UNHCR’s Filippo Grandi noted that the United Nations “is navigating extraordinarily difficult waters. The combination of multiple conflicts and resulting mass displacement, fresh challenges to asylum, the funding gap between humanitarian needs and resources, and growing xenophobia is very dangerous.”
Grandi indicated that “the world has no shortage of problems, new crises erupt/old ones persist.” According to UN data, there are more people than ever fleeting war, disasters, and persecution. The UN data shows that more than 65 million people around the world have been forcibly displaced from their homes. Over 22 million of these individuals are refugees. Half of the refugees are under the age of 18.
Melat is herself the child of Ethiopian refugees who fled Ethiopia because of their well-founded fear of persecution. They made a new home in America, eventually resettling in Austin, TX. Melat is a representative of a family who had to flee their home county and build a new life in America. Melat grew up and still lives in Austin.
Melat is now is a successful performer known for her commanding vocals, striking lyrics, and stunning dynamics. She sings not only in English but also in Amharic, the language of her parents.
In a recent interview, Melat spoke of her music and singing as “a vehicle, a way to give back to those who need help both emotionally” and in other ways. She spoke with deep emotion of her parents coming as strangers to America because they had to flee Ethiopia.
She asked, “Why shouldn’t we help people who are refugees”? Mélat is noted for music built upon her own unique life experiences. As one of her recent lyrics goes: “The future ain’t promised.”
This is not the first World Refugee Day event at the Kennedy Center. In 2017 the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage welcomed singer and songwriter Thao Nguyen as the performer for World Refugee Day.
Let me add this note: Since I was the acting director of the US Office of Refugee Resettlement (before the current Administration), I am often asked what the definition of a refugee is. There is a legal definition for a refugee that the United States has agreed to: A person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.
The 2018 World Refugee Day performance on the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage is one of many around the United States and worldwide. For information about World Refugee events, the UNHCR has prepared this catalog.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees presents Mélat to commemorate World Refugee Day on June 20, 2018, at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage – 2700 F Street, NW, in Washington, DC. This event is free and tickets are not required.