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Mandela Washington Fellowship: Two False Starts And a Breakthrough for Patrick Miller

Patrick Miller

For creative artist, Patrick Miller, the journey to the much-coveted Mandela Washington Fellowship was arduous and marked by two successive false starts.

He failed to make the cut in 2014, and his 2015 attempt was just as futile.

But Miller’s perseverance paid off this year when he won a place among 60 talented young Zimbabweans who will travel to the U.S. in June to pursue leadership studies in different fields.

Miller, who wears many hats as a content writer, performing artist, concept developer and artistic director, among others, runs an arts company called “Project iThemba.”

The artist uses his works to create awareness and cultivate leadership among the youths. But pursuing his passion was not without challenges; it took a little convincing for his family.

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“It was only until later in high school when I decided to follow my passion for the creative, but it took me two years after high school to get into a university that offered a performance degree,” Miller says.

“It took me two years to convince my family to allow me to follow my passion.”

Many people started believing in his creativity and dreams when one of his plays was shown at the Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA).

After graduating with a degree in theatre arts from the University of Zimbabwe and activism training with Hivos in South Africa, Miller set out to inspire young people and raise awareness on crucial issues.

“For me I had always been passionate about not only telling my story but telling other people’s stories in the hopes of creating and igniting positive change,” Miller tells VOA’s Studio 7.

And with that passion, a few resources and a resolve to fight the scourge of domestic violence, Project iThemba was launched in 2014.

Along with recognition from the International Theatre Institute, Miller has also co-founded and heads Zim All Access, a creative media service company, and serves as Art director for Vera, a Harare-based funky-jazz musician.

He is active in social engagement, working primarily with sexual minorities.

Miller will spend his time at Kansas State University Staley School of Leadership Studies in the state of Kansas studying civic leadership.

He will join 1,000 other young African youth from various countries for the 8-week program at different institutions of learning before going to Washington, D.C for a town hall with President Obama capping their fellowship.