SILVER SPRING, Md. — The Ambassador of Burkina Faso, Seydou Kabore, visited the Takoma Park Community Center last Thursday for a screening of a documentary hosted by the city.
The documentary, Burkinabè Rising: The Art of Resistance in Burkina Faso, directed by Iara Lee, focused on the artistic cultural resistance which led to the people’s uprising against former President Blaise Compaoré in October 2014.
The uprising was widely considered to avenge the death of former President Thomas Sankara, who is believed to have been assassinated by Compaoré in 1987.
The documentary was followed by a panel discussion with notable guest speakers from Burkina Faso and closing statements by the ambassador.
“It was a very spontaneous getting together of many different people. As I looked for a speaker to address the political and cultural context of Burkina Faso, I was put in touch with a series of people. Through those contacts I learned that the family of Thomas Sankara lived in the D.C. area,” said Kerry Danner, PhD, who organized the event.
Paul Sankara, Co-founder of the Committee Against Impunity in Burkina Faso and the brother of former President Sankara, attended the event and joined the panel for the subsequent discussion.
Other panelists included Burkina Faso native and policy analyst for the Africa Faith and Justice Network, Barthelemy Bezamo, and Sams’K Le Jah, a reggae musician, political activist and radio host.
“Bezamo knew the Ambassador, and he was pivotal in inviting the Ambassador to come to the event. As a final surprise the Ambassador arranged for Sams’K Le Jah to come to the screening as a gift to the community. Le Jah was a key organizer of the non-violent resistance in Burkina Faso that lead to the ousting of Blaise Compaoré joined the conversation,” said Dr. Danner.
Many of the attendees were already acquainted with Burkina Faso and its history.
Dr. Danner said, “It brought out many, many people with connections to Burkina Faso. Or the Ivory Coast, or West Africa or the legacy of Thomas Sankara.”
“I lived in Burkina Faso and travel there but at the same time didn’t know it the way I wish I had. So I came to learn about the country and the history and I also came to hear the panelists,” said Natasha Sakolsky, an attendee of the screening.
“The movies and the story is very appealing. I’m very happy, what was presented [in the documentary] was very close to reality,” said Telesphore Kabore, who also attended the screening.
During the panel, Bezamo said, “everything was quite interesting to see: how artists, performance and visual arts were able to sustain a resistance for 27 good years.”
Former president Thomas Sankara “ended genital mutilation in his country, he raised the literary rate from 40% to 75% in just three years, and he vaccinated most of his population,” said Dr. Danner.
Le Jah continues to educate people about the legacy of Thomas Sankara through his music and annual visits to Sankara’s grave.
In the Ambassador’s closing remarks, Kabore said, “the youth are really really impacted by Thomas Sankara, who has changed the minds of many, including myself”.