Meridian Exchange | June 2020


Meridian remains committed to serving as a platform to elevate a diversity of voices and catalyze critical conversations that help bridge divides and enhance shared understanding among people, nations and cultures around the world. As the movement for racial justice grows in the United States, we are committed to fostering safe spaces for dialogue to be better allies in this fight. Through more than 40 programs over the last 12 weeks, Meridian has continued to connect government, business and diplomatic
leaders to collaborate on these challenges and other global issues.

U.S. Mayors navigate domestic crises

As cities across the nation confront both new challenges posed by COVID-19 and the historic protests for racial injustice, Meridian gathered Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird of Lincoln, Nebraska; Mayor David Holt of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; and Mayor Paul Kanitra of Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey to discuss what local governments are doing in response to these crises in America. Pandemics know no borders, which means that local government officials must coordinate with their neighbors and with other levels of government as they work to manage their responses. On creating policy changes and initiating dialogues around anti-racism and discrimination, Mayor Leiron asserted that "America has a shameful 400-year history of allowing African Americans to be dehumanized. This isn't a single moment. We must begin that dialogue towards a future that is more humane, more fair, more peaceful, more just." Learn how these Mayors are addressing pandemic policies, police reform, revenue shortages and more here.

Strengthening global diplomacy through hip hop

COVID-19 has shaken nearly every industry, including the arts. While the field has been adversely affected, the artists have persevered. Next Level is using hip hop to create connections around the world while promoting conflict transformation, entrepreneurship, artistic and professional development among younger and underserved audiences. The third of a four-part virtual program series, Next Level Live!, took place on June 11 with Next Level Director, Junious Brickhouse; and Next Level Founding Director & Professor of Music at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Mark Katz; moderating a discussion with dancer Melanie Aguirre and beatboxer Baba Israel. Brickhouse began the program by addressing the current unrest in the nation, saying, “At Next Level, we're looking at the way we operate and how we can do better. The solution comes from all of us working together and creating standards to remove racism and not tolerating it.” Aguirre and Israel spoke of their commitment to community, building relationships, bridging gaps and the shifting focus of hip hop to the digital world. The session concluded with performances by both Aguirre and Israel. View the full program here.

Balancing U.S. foreign policy priorities amid COVID-19

The global pandemic has had every nation in the world scrambling to address the crisis and reassess priorities. On May 19, 2020, Meridian hosted Antony Blinken, former Deputy Secretary of State and former Deputy National Security Advisor to the President for a virtual convening. Blinken discussed a range of global issues, including the prior and current handling of Syria and Afghanistan, and how a Biden Administration might respond. The conversation was moderated by CBS News Senior Foreign Affairs Correspondent Margaret Brennan and examined the American and Chinese responses to COVID-19 and how it has impacted the role of the U.S. on the international stage. On the economic crisis, resurgence of terrorists groups and proliferation, Blinken said, “We have to make sure that even as we're dealing with COVID, we don't take our eyes off these other balls that could have a way of bouncing in very bad directions.” Watch the full conversation here.

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