Witness Uganda educates and inspires at IWU

Witness Uganda educates and inspires at IWU

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Casey Williams, Staff Writer

 

Nearly 100 people were present for the Witness Uganda event on Sept. 9, where creators Matt Gould and Griffin Matthews discussed topics that struck a chord with many in the audience.

“It was really empowering. They were excellent speakers,” junior Kristen Cullen said. “I appreciated that they weren’t condescending.”

Witness Uganda is a musical that Gould and Matthews put together, largely inspired by the time Griffin spent in Uganda. It explores the question “Is changing the world even possible?”

During the event, Gould and Matthews spent a lot of time discussing Griffin’s experience in Uganda. Obviously, Uganda was a severe change from his native New York. Despite being African American, he was considered a ‘white’ person.

While there, Griffin learned of the hardships that the natives endured and mentioned several controversial topics including corrupt leaders, HIV/AIDS, inadequate medical care, sexuality and lack of access to education. The most important to the Ugandans was education, but for the creators it was and is sexuality.

Griffin took it upon himself to teach them. Upon his return to the U.S., he raised money to bring back ten kids to receive an American education. Eventually a poor economy and dwindling contributors made running this program more difficult.

Griffin and Matthews decided to raise more funds by creating and performing the interactions between the creators and others involved. Through a compelling story and a powerful vocal performance, they formed a musical. As the show grew, they were able to raise around $50,000 through t-shirt and merchandise sales which was given back to the kids and program.

The show is set to debut as a Broadway musical this fall, renamed Invisible Thread. Griffin referred to the show as a “thriller” and explained that it is not entirely a “feel good” experience. It will resemble a more educational and less offensive “Book of Mormon.”

Before performing their last song, Gould and Matthews asked audience to share questions and comments. After being prompted by an audience member, the creators shared that one of their students is currently finishing medical school residency. Some students have since dropped out of the program, but they are still in contact with their students and in some ways see them as their own children.

“What can we do?” asked another audience member, referring to helping other young people in Uganda in similar situations. Gould said they should ask others “how can I serve you today?” and help them accordingly. Matthews encouraged us to “take it to the streets,” when necessary, explaining that sometimes these situations need world coverage in order to receive necessary aid.

“I loved every second of it,” said Residence Director of Pfeiffer and Gulick halls, Jacob Deters.