Rap Comes to Remittance Justice Campaign

New Orleans   On ACORN International’s Remittance Justice Campaign too often “civilians,” regular citizens, don’t have a clue about the predatory costs of moving money backwards and forward between where families and workers are now and their home country.   All of this made it exciting to get emails in recent days from ACORN Canada organizers, Jill O’Reilly in Ottawa and John Andersen in Vancouver, that a popular Somali-Canadian rapper maned K’naan had put out a song on YouTube about remittances, called “Fifteen Minutes Away.”

The politics weren’t perfect but he hit the high note, that it was “whack” to see how much it costs and implicitly that remittances were necessary for survival, which made the predatory practices of Western Union possible because a financial lifeline could be just “fifteen minutes away.”  K’naan’s rap includes “protest poetry,” so we have high hopes for him in the future.  Our favorite lines were right up front:

Yeea,
Im sending this one out to anyone who’s had to wait on a money transfer, yea its kinda whack when they charge you like 10 percent on the dollar but you know how good it feels when they say..

(chorus)
You can pick it up today, its 15 minutes away.
You can pick it up today, its 15 minutes away.

Below find this catchy theme song for the Remittance Justice Campaign, and the Wikipedia entry on K’naan which makes it clear that this is an artist of the people, who still “gets it!”  We’re reaching out, but we need a lot more like him!

K’naan’s Wikipedia Entry:

Born in Somalia,[3] K’naan spent his childhood in Mogadishu[4] and lived there during the Somali Civil War, which began in 1991. His aunt, Magool, was one of Somalia’s most famous singers.[5] K’naan’s grandfather, Haji Mohammad, was a poet. He is Muslim,[6] and his name, Keinan, means “traveller” in the Somali language. He spent the early years of his life listening to the hip-hop records sent to him from America by his father, who had left Somalia earlier. When he was 13, K’naan, his mother, and his three siblings, older brother, Liban, and Sagal left their homeland and joined relatives in New York City, where they stayed briefly before moving to Canada, to the Rexdale neighbourhood of Toronto,[7] which has a large Somali community. His family still resides there.[8] There, K’naan began learning English, partly by listening to hip hop albums by artists like Nas and Rakim. Despite the fact that he could not yet speak the language, the young K’naan taught himself hip-hop and rap diction, copying the lyrics and style phonetically.[9] He then also began rapping.[10] While growing up in Rexdale, K’naan lost many friends to murder, suicide, prison and deportation.[11]

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Effectiveness of Non-traditional Direct Action Kony Campaign

New Orleans    In organizing, even in the smallest space of a neighborhood, we have always argued that you have to “create a happening” where the coming new organization seems to be everywhere on the tip of tongues, laundromat posters, telephone poles, mailings, and whatever tools could be assembled.  The same is true of a political campaign where immersion and momentum are essential in creating a sense of urgency, momentum, and even inevitability.

In the new world of modern communications and emerging campaign tools, I’ve kept an eye on the Kony Campaign being mounted by the young, upstart Invisible Children organization with an open mind to learning whatever is possible.  I knew it was something serious not when it got millions of hits on YouTube because with all respect so do some cat pictures, but when established international NGOs started criticizing them.  Then I saw a Kony 2012 campaign packet on the dining room table of some friends in Madison.  I started noticing that there were different posters and exhortations on all of the community bulletin boards at Fair Grinds Coffeehouse.  Something was happening here.  This guy, Joseph Kony and his ragtag 300 person Lord’s Resistance Army,  had to be “dead man walking!”

Now with a hundred American military advisors on the ground helping, the effectiveness of the campaign seems verifiable.   And, truth to tell, this could not have been about the video piece.  That’s sizzle.  This group had to have had steak to leverage a bill through Congress – how many groups can make that happen these days – and trigger the authority of military involvement, which is almost impossible to achieve.  The video was from 2012.  But, Invisible Children managed to pass the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Action in 2010.  The US has spent almost a half-billion in this area of Uganda now!  They may be one-hit wonders, but they are teaching here, and I’m ready to be a student.

Here’s a quote from a story in the Times:

Yet no other American military project in sub-Saharan Africa has generated the attention — and the high expectations — as the pursuit of Mr. Kony, partly thanks to a wildly popular video on Mr. Kony’s notorious elusiveness and brutality, “Kony 2012,” that set YouTube records with tens of millions of hits in a matter of days. Gen. Carter F. Ham, the overall commander of American forces in Africa, has a “Kony 2012” poster tacked to his office door. As one American official put it: “Let’s be honest, there was some constituent pressure here. Did ‘Kony 2012’ have something to do with this? Absolutely.”

To me that sounds like an endorsement of campaigning strategy AND tactics.

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