The benefit event was attended by half community members and half high school students. The majority of the audience was unfamiliar with the conflict in the Congo. It was for this reason that my chapter sought out Omékongo. We wanted to find someone who could present the complicated situation in the Congo as creatively as possible. We were particularly impressed by Omékongo’s credentials; he has recorded CD’s, written books, and performed in over 16 countries, among other accomplishments.
Omékongo’s performance surpassed any of our expectations. He began the performance with a moving poem that reminded the audience of the fact that this deadly and horrific conflict in the Congo does not define all of Africa. He then began to talk to the audience about his own background and connection to the Congo. Although Omekongo was born in the United States, his parents are of Congolese origin. They fled the Congo after protesting Mobutu’s regime.
The depth of Omékongo’s knowledge of the conflict in the DRC and his passion for ending the conflict were obvious throughout his performance. Omékongo used his poems and interwoven commentary to powerfully explain the specifics of the conflict to the audience, touching on issues such as the historical roots of the conflict, and the roles of rape and conflict minerals. He explained to the audience how the minerals in our cell phones, computers, and other electronic devices directly connect us to the conflict, and he left the audience with the sense that because we are so connected to the conflict, we can use our power as consumers to put an end to the usage of conflict minerals by corporations.
By the end of the event, we had raised over $2,000. More importantly, Omékongo had created a room full of new activists who were familiar with the specifics of the Congo conflict, aware of their connection to the conflict, and ready to start working to end the conflict. Yet, while having Omékongo perform in our community was a truly incredible experience, it was not cheap. My chapter spent many months fundraising to accumulate enough money for his plane fare and hotel room.
This is why I believe that the opportunity to have Omékongo perform at no cost is of such high value. For every $5 you donate to Genocide Intervention Network by May 15th (put "STAND raffle" in the "in honor of" box), you will be entered into a raffle for your chance to win a visit from Omékongo. Check out these awesome fundraising resources, and click here to publicize any fundraising events on the STAND website. By participating in this campaign, your chapter is not only supporting GI-NET, but is gaining the opportunity to win a free performance by one of the most inspiring activists and artists I have ever had the honor to meet.