Visa Woes for Bed-Stuy African Art Museum

Friends of Sironka Dance Troupe have run into Homeland Security red tape threatening their October performance at the Brooklyn Museum for the Bedford Stuyvesant Museum of African Art (Photo courtesy of BSMAA via Our Time Press)

Amid headlines this year of visa denials this year, Vira Lynn Jones is experiencing firsthand the frustrating process of applying for a visa.

The executive director of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Museum of African Art (BSMAA) is working to bring six Kenyan dancers of the Maasai ethnic group to perform at BSMAA’s Fourth Annual Nelson Mandela Humanitarian Award event on Oct. 14 at the Brooklyn Museum. The Friends of Sironka Dance Troupe have traveled to the U.S. since 2002 to perform, with their last stateside performance in 2012.

Jones details the back-and-forth communication with Homeland Security to Our Time Press, regarding the paperwork for the visa application. She has been coordinating the process with Nicholas Sironka, a Maasai artist from Kenya currently living in Washington state.

Last week, Homeland Security returned the paperwork to BSMAA for the second time. “The government agency claimed that the performance contract for the dancers was missing. It also wanted more information about BSMAA, where the group was performing, at what venue and what they were going to be paid,” said Vira. “Why didn’t they ask for this information the last time the documents were returned. Nicholas told me this information was never requested in the past. I feel that time is running out for us. The Maasai dancers have been practicing since early March. Periodically, they have been sending me Facebook videos of them practicing. We will all be devastated if the visas are denied.”

For Jones, frustration is not only limited to the visa application process. When encouraged to reach out to public officials representing Bedford-Stuyvesant, their responses were not what she had hoped for. Read more at Our Time Press.

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