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Damon J. Batiste among those being honored by the Crescent City Chapter of the Links, Inc. as "CHAMPIONS FOR CHANGE"

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NEW ORLEANS - Damon J. Batiste President, Founder & Cultural Ambassador of NOSACONN Inc., is among those being honored by the  Crescent City Chapter of the Links, Inc. for making a significant difference by serving as catalysts for positive change in the New Orleans community.  The fundraising will take place on  Saturday, September 20th, 2014, 11:00 am at the Hyatt Regency New Orleans on Loyola Avenue.  This year's honorees are: Stella Pickney Jones, Amanda Aiken, Michael Hickerson, Sharon Carter Sheridan, and Damon J. Batiste.  Over 600 people are expected to attend.

Damon went to St. Stephens Elementary School and St. Augustine High School, then attended Southern University of New Orleans and the University of Southwest Louisiana.  At the age of 19, while still in college, Damon started working with the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.  He has also performed at Jazz Fest over the years with his father and uncles.  He's also played with George Clinton and the P-Funk Allstars in their HBO special in Aruba.

But Damon has committed his adult life to preserving and growing New Orleans culture and music through a variety of programs and ventures.  His accomplishments are both numerous and admirable.

In 1998, former New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial selected Damon as the New Orleans Cultural Ambassador to South Africa.  Damon was asked by the State office of Economic Development to go to South Africa on a fact-finding mission during the African Renaissance - at the end of Apartheid in South Africa.  Their goal, to develop trade and business opportunities between New Orleans and South Africa, was a great success, motivating Damon to continue pursuit of cultural bonds and trade between South Africa and New Orleans.

"Africa was being explored on just the possibilities," says Batiste,  "but I took my own initiative after visiting townships to say that, now that government has given me a chance, how can I do it and keep it going as a non-profit, where it's tied to government with relationships, but I'm not a government employee?  So I formalized, with the help of South Africans because I had to work closely with them.  It was pretty amazing to South Africans for somebody from America to just come over there.  You know, it's just taking ownership and not really asking anyone what should be done."

So in 1998, Damon created a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit organization to promote music, art, culture, film, trade and arts in education, for economic development and tourism, between the United States and Africa.  He named the organization "New Orleans South Africa Connection, Inc." (NOSACONN) and has worked tirelessly with countless ambassadors, celebrities and government officials, including former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

NOSACONN's mission is a great success story, with a long list of accomplishments.  In 2004, NOSACONN sponsored over 150 South African artists, highlighting South Africa, at the 2004 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.  Damon also prepared a mission statement for South Africa, at the end of Apartheid, which he believes resulted in South Africa hosting the 2010 World Cup.  He's made numerous trips to South Africa, and was even able to attend Nelson Mandela's 80th birthday.

In October and November 2010, NOSACONN sponsored the KCAP Drummers, Dancers and Theatrical Performers from Durban, South Africa.  They performed for the New Orleans City Council and participated in the New Orleans Halloween parade.

In December 2011, Damon traveled back to South Africa for a film festival he has been involved in developing.  That year, for the first time, both Winton Marsalis and Lil' Wayne visited South Africa during the film festival. 

One of the most exciting and promising of Damon's achievements is the NOSACONN-sponsored, "AM/PM After School Program and Summer Camps."  This unique after-school enrichment program's motto is, "Linking Worlds Together that are Worlds Apart," and is focused on academic as well as cultural arts enrichment.  The program operated at five New Orleans schools, serving over 700 students. 

Damon Batiste has since expanded NOSACONN cultural relations between New Orleans and other parts of Africa, including, but not limited to Uganda and the Congo.  But he has also started a new venture in promoting similar cultural exchange programs between not just New Orleans, but all of French Louisiana, and France. 

Once again, Damon proved successful and his programming was well received at the 2012 Aulnay All Blues Festival in France.  Damon, a true cultural ambassador of the city, presented two world premieres; New Orleans Congo Square International Music Tribute with Russell Batiste & Friends with special quests Cyril Neville, Jason Neville, Shaka Zulu & Donald Harrison, Jr., and the New Orleans Father & Sons of the New Millennium with David Batiste, Russell Batiste, Jamal Batiste, Ryan Batiste, Damon himself.

To fully illustrate this new area of the festival,; historian Freddi Williams Evans Music (University of Louisiana), whose book "Congo Square: African Roots of New Orleans" was a part of the presentation which included her book being published in French.

 The most recent trip by  the Landry-Walker H.S Brass Band Paris, was a once in a lifetime opportunity for those participates. the  "Villes des musiques du monde" (World Music Cities Festival) was a hit.

 NOSACONN is widely recognized in the field of arts, culture , education and digital media, locally, regionally and internationally as a provider and  network for job creation, tourism ,supplemental education and self-empowerment. It also serves as an incubator for economic sustainability and cultural exchange, specifically among New Orleans; South Africa; Brazil;  Paris, France; Morocco, and The Dominican Republic. It's afterschool programs in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts and math) have been central to the continuous improvement in higher student achievement in New Orleans.

The Crescent City Chapter of the Links, Inc.'s  mission is to raise money to provide scholarships to deserving children and to sustain successful local organizational programs such as our award winning International Cultural Awareness Program, and their "Links On The Move" fighting childhood obesity initiative just to name a few.   The Crescent City Chapter of the Links, Incorporated - consists of over 50 dedicated, African American Women who are mentors, volunteers, business owners and professionals.  The volunteer service organization is committed to ensuring the cultural and economic survival of African Americans.

For more information about this event, contact program chairpersons Cheryl Alexander or Tracie Boutte at 504-655-2449 or Chapter President, Margaret Montgomery Richard at 225-241-5418 of The Crescent City Chapter of the Links' Inc.