Mission of Hope

Mission of Hope

Linda Mason meets the women of Darfur and brings student music with her.

  Linda Mason and President Roger Brown in 1985 in Sudan, where they worked to relieve a famine then gripping the area.

At a time of global turmoil, it's easy to sometimes feel like there's nothing you can do to improve things. Linda Mason, on the other hand, often tackles such challenges. Mason has devoted her life to community service, working with her husband, Berklee president Roger Brown, to initiate overseas famine relief efforts, improve childcare and child education in the United States, and help homeless children. It may come as little surprise, then, to learn that Mason has just arrived in Africa to help women suffering through what is seen as one of the world's worst humanitarian crises, the violent ethnic conflict in Darfur, in western Sudan.

Mason is leading a delegation of three women leaders from Boston—television journalist Liz Walker; Rev Gloria White Hammond, M.D., of Bethel AME Church, in Boston; and Mason herself, who is chairman and cofounder of Bright Horizons Family Solutions. The group is traveling with representatives from Mercy Corps, a humanitarian aid organization headquartered in the United States and Scotland.

Calling it a "women-to-women" trip, Mason and her delegation will spend 10 days there, meeting with women in the region's refugee camps with the ultimate goal of raising awareness about the situation.

"We plan to spend our time primarily in the camps in the huts with women," Mason writes on the Bright Horizons website. "There we hope to take testimony from women, trying to understand what they are facing now and what they need for their future."

In addition to fact-finding objectives, Mason is also hoping to raise spirits and make connections through music. The delegation has brought to Darfur recordings of two songs, one written by Berklee student Farah Siraj, featuring a student group; and the other by Andrea Whaley, featuring students and faculty.

"We will bring this music from American women to Darfur women as a gesture of goodwill," writes Mason about the songs, "We Are All Connected" and "To the Sudanese Women." The compositions were recorded in the Berklee studios after winning a campus-wide competition. Songwriting Department chair Jack Perricone produced the tunes and faculty member Dennis Montgomery, leader of the college's Reverence Gospel Ensemble, also helped direct the production. Mason describes the songs as "incredible and moving."

While in Darfur, Mason will also use equipment on loan from Berklee to capture various field recordings, including traditional Sudanese vocal music performed by women and children. She'll bring the recordings back to Berklee, where students and faculty will add them to the student-penned tracks as part of a CD the college plans to release in the coming months. The Berklee-Sudan music project is sponsored by the Women's Network at Berklee.

Mason will write about her experiences in Darfur in an online journal being published on the Bright Horizons website. The photo below, taken during the early part of the trip, accompanies one of her journal entries.

Photos by Susan Romanski