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Jazz singer Lisa Simone opens the World Forum for Democracy

The daughter of Nina Simone performed at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg on Wednesday, and talked about her mother's legacy.

Lisa Simone, daughter of musician and American civil rights activist Nina Simone, performed at the Council of Europe's 2017 World Forum for Democracy (WFD) on Wednesday.

openDemocracy is reporting from the WFD in Strasbourg, France which this year is focused on the question: Is populism a problem?

“My mother stood, in her own way, for justice and civil rights," said Simone. "To be here doing what I love, singing songs that hopefully uplift lives and hearts and souls, is how I choose to carry out this legacy."

Simone grew up on the road with her mother travelling for performances around the world. At the age of 18, she joined the US air force and served in the military for 11 years, including during the first Gulf war.

Now 55, she said: "The one thing that I say, everywhere that I go: if Mother Earth, if she decides, that she doesn’t want us here anymore, it doesn’t matter what colour we are, what language we speak, where we come from, we’re all going together.”

Lisa Simone performs at the WFD 2017. Lisa Simone performs at the WFD 2017. Photo: Khulan Baasanjav.

Politicians, researchers, and youth participants from across Europe and beyond have travelled to Strasbourg for the event this week. Through plenary sessions and workshops it is looking at "the role of political parties and media in the context of rising populism."

The WFD says: "A growing disconnect between citizens and political elites and dramatic changes in the media ecosystem are a challenge for democracy as we know it. At the same time, new political and media actors and practices are emerging, offering new opportunities for members of the public to participate in political life."

Sessions focus on topics including how to respond to populist discourse and action, fact-checking and fake news, participatory democracy and civic education.

On Thursday attention will also turn to "the female face of the far right," how and why women appear increasingly engaged in right-wing politics, as members of parties and as voters. Speakers include policy analysts, academics, and student activists.

About the authors

Khulan Baasanjav is a film director, independent artist, and writer. Currently she teaches film directing and screenwriting at the School of Broadcasting and Media at the Mongolian State University of Arts and Culture. Visit her website:

Lara Whyte is a reporter and award-winning documentary and news producer focusing on issues of youth, extremism and women’s rights. Originally from Belfast in northern Ireland, Lara is based in London. She is 50.50's special projects editor working with our feminist investigative journalism fellows and tracking the backlash against sexual and reproductive rights. Find her on Twitter: @larawhyte.

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