The ContraBanned: #MusicUnites showcase at SXSW believes that building a more diverse and empathetic world starts with listening to each other’s voices. As agents, managers, presenters, promoters, journalists, artists, and audiences, we all have a part to play in amplifying this exchange. We need to make it our mission to use whatever power we have at our disposal—the power of media, the power of capital, and the power of music—to promote communication, collaboration, and understanding. At this critical cultural moment, the ContraBanned: #MusicUnites showcase gave a platform to artists from the diasporas of the often misunderstood and misrepresented Muslim-majority countries.

On Friday, January 27th, 2017, the White House issued an Executive Order banning entry to the U.S. for ninety days to the citizens of seven majority Muslim countries—Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen—and banning entry to Syrian refugees indefinitely. Though the initial Executive Order has been temporarily suspended, it continues to have massive social and political impact.

For those who work to promote cultural diversity and inclusion in America, its impact has been disastrous. Artists are wary of coming to the US, hearing horror stories of airport detentions and cancelled visas. Arts presenters, labels, and agents are reluctant to risk working with foreign artists for fears of shifting immigration policies, which could scuttle a long-planned project.

This ban comes at a time when access to positive presentation of cultural diversity is more important than ever. ContraBanned: #MusicUnites affirms that music is universal, and can be a tool for positive change.