Tue, Oct 22


Ladies' Library Association

Women Leading the Way - Kalamazoo’s Legacy of Exchange, Past and Future

Join us at the coolest venue in Kalamazoo as we explore the deep roots of public diplomacy and international exchange, through the prism of women pioneers, and reflect on the current state of citizen diplomacy in Kalamazoo, with a keynote from one of our strongest partners in Washington, DC.

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Women Leading the Way - Kalamazoo’s Legacy of Exchange, Past and Future

Time & Location

Oct 22, 2019, 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Ladies' Library Association, 333 S Park St, Kalamazoo, MI 49007, USA

About the Event

It has been Colleagues International’s honor and privilege to serve the Kalamazoo community in international engagement and exchange for nearly 50 years. At this celebratory event at the Ladies’ Library Association of Kalamazoo, join us over dinner to explore the historic and contemporary connections that Kalamazoo has established around the world, and how women have been and continue to play an important role in our global interconnectedness. 

View event invitation here

Katherine Brown, President & CEO of Global Ties U.S.,the largest and oldest citizen diplomacy network in the United States, of which Colleagues International is a proud member, and through which we undertake most of our exchanges. Dr. Brown, will keynote our event, sharing the important role that Kalamazoo plays in citizen diplomacy and how we fit into the big picture of making the world a better and safer place for all. Dr. Katherine Brown is also an Adjunct Assistant Professor at Georgetown University's Center for Security Studies. Before joining Global Ties U.S. in 2018, Katherine was a Public Policy Manager at Facebook, Inc., where she was also in residence as a Council on Foreign Relations' (CFR) International Affairs Fellow. From 2013-2016, she served as the Executive Director of the United States Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy at the U.S. Department of State, an office authorized by Congress to appraise and strengthen U.S. engagement activities with foreign citizens. Katherine previously served in the U.S. government as an assistant to the National Security Advisor at the White House; as a communications advisor at the American Embassy in Kabul; and as a Professional Staff Member at the Committee on Foreign Affairs at the U.S. House of Representatives.

Sonya Bernard-Hollins, Founder, Merze Tate Explorers; Strategy and Engagement Manager, Public Media Network, is a 1993 graduate of WMU. She learned of Merze Tate in the university’s archives while researching African American Firsts of WMU. A native of Kalamazoo, Sonya developed a passion as a young girl to share the stories of others as a journalist. For more than 20 years she has worked as a professional journalist as well as served as a freelance writer for local, state and national magazines such as Black Enterprise.  She has earned awards for her writing by the Michigan Press Association and others. She has been recognized for her professional and community service by such organizations as the A. Philip Randolph Association (Battle Creek Chapter), American Business Women’s Association (Battle Creek Chapter), WMU/KVCC, Focus Program Alumna of the Year, and Heritage Battle Creek Sojourner Truth Anniversary Committee. She is also currently the editor and publisher of Community Voices online and print magazine. Sonya founded the Merze Tate Travel Club in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 2008 with seven girls interested in traveling around their community and world to discover other women who have left an impact on the world. 

About the venue: The Ladies’ Library Association (LLA) of Kalamazoo building is the first in the United States of America fully owned and operated by women from day one -  in 1879 (a legislation change was required, and fought for, to make that possible). The LLA is also the third oldest women’s club in the country and was the first lending library in Kalamazoo. You will have a chance to tour this historic gem of a building.

Live music: Negar Afazel(Violin) + MJ Epperson(Bass)

This violin/bass duo presents music ranging from folk music from around the world, jazz, tango, and everything in between, arranged/original by themselves. These two musicians met at WMU, and have made their mark on the Kalamazoo music scene.

Negar Afazel, originally from Tehran, Iran, has served as the concertmaster for WMU's University Symphony Orchestra for the last 3 years, and recently performed Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto in D major with the USO after winning this year's concerto competition. Besides classical, Negar is a very diverse musician who has collaborated with jazz and tango ensembles, new music composers, and local hip-hop band Last Gasp Collective. She has formed two chamber groups during her study at WMU: Quartet du Monde and Atlas Trio. Before moving to Kalamazoo, she studied music for 2 years in Germany and got the chance to perform at the Orfeo Music Festival in Italy, Montecito music festival in California and Electronic Music Midwest festival, alongside many solo recitals in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Originally from Ann Arbor MI, MJ Epperson has spent over a decade composing and performing many kinds of music. Now based out of Kalamazoo, MJ is studying music composition at WMU. They were awarded the “Best Undergraduate Jazz Arrangement” from the 2019 Downbeat Magazine Student Music Awards. A wide breadth of opportunities have allowed MJ to become a versatile musician, composing for many different chamber and jazz ensembles, as well as solo and electroacoustic pieces. MJ has also performed with many vocalists and jazz ensembles around the Midwest and internationally, including a recent tour of Colombia with the Western Jazz Quartet.

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  • Individual Ticket


    This ticket includes dinner, wine, and the opportunity to tour the Ladies' Library Building.


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