I think something we all seek to find – sometimes consciously, sometimes not – is inspiration. It can arrive in the most obvious forms, like the Democratic National Convention and hearing Michelle Obama speak (“Everyday, the people I meet inspire me…”), visiting an exhibition at a gallery, reading a poem written by the great Robert Frost, or seeing a theatrical performance. It sets a fire alive inside of us and it burns; it manifests with such an intensity we feel aglow with enthusiasm for life, for making the world a better place, and improving the corner of the world we live in, day by day, week by week.
What’s even more significant is when this inspiration leads us to learn something new. It may be about ourself, about someone we know, or concerning a topic that’s charted off our radar. But to encounter something so powerful we want to step outside our familiar borders and into the culture and climate of another with the hope that greater understanding will cultivate a yearning to spread peaceful messages grips my senses awake; it uncovers my dreams and lets me dream, again.
Ultimately, I’ve come to realize that inspiration comes in the form of a voice. Whether it’s through spoken word, a book, a song, or readings from the Chinese philosopher Laozi, there is an individual who is expressing thoughts from his or her perspective, in his or her unique voice. Some messages resonate with us and we carry them throughout our day as reminders on how to live or what’s important. These thoughts, messages, stories, etc., are like kindling for the fire. They are the spark that can drive our creativity, our motivation, and our desire to do social good in a world that seems increasingly burdened. They encourage us to forge connections between people in hopes these alliances will build more collaborative, communicative, and caring communities. On Tuesday, August 28th, at 285 Kent Ave., about a dozen voices were inspiration, singing for peace in Somalia through the tour, Somali Sunrise Concert Tour for Peace 2012.
For me, the Horn of Africa (primarily including Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya) has frequently been an assemblage of stories, news briefs, and reportage on the impoverished region and unforgivable acts against humanity by high-ranking government officials. I admit, I’ve often overlooked these headlines as I get lost in the media coverage. When will peace arrive? How can these communities still be in conflict? Where are the voices of those who are creating positive social change? The tour founders, Waayaha Cusub, are these voices who created a soulful synergy in the crowd on a Tuesday evening in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, promoting messages of peace.
As Daniel Gerstle, founder of Humanitarian Bazaar (and producer for the Somali Sunrise Tour) rightly expressed, the evening was “magical.” It was. For the first time in awhile I felt inspired by voices I’d normally not identified with, through music that grew from the minds of individuals who experienced formidable circumstances, were exposed to communities in conflict and extreme poverty. Waayaha Cusub. Uppanotch. K’naan. These voices carried me past 10pm, beyond 12am, and into the early hours of the morning dreaming, hoping, and thinking about peace in Africa; in the world.