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BC Groups Help Raise Awareness, Funds For The Congo

Heights Staff

Published: Sunday, December 4, 2011

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01

Robsham Theater played host to the Concert for Congo on Friday night in a lively event featuring some of Boston College's top performing groups and prominent advocates for change in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Sponsored by BC for Congo, Artists Striving to End Poverty at BC, and the Arts and Social Responsibility Project, the gala raised awareness about human rights violations occurring within the country and funds for Panzi Hospital, a treatment and care center for survivors of rape, located in Bukavu, DRC.

The Concert for the Congo weaved informative bits on the Congolese conflict, like statistics on the exceedingly high incidents of rape in the country and discussions on the role of trade in so-called "conflict minerals" like gold, diamonds, and coltan in fueling the country's civil strife, amongst a bevy of energetic performances. Campus artists like the BC Acoustics, Madrigals, F.I.S.T.S., Synergy, Against the Current, B.E.A.T.S., Fuego del Corazon, Sarah Goldstein and Yuriy Pavlish, and PATU took the stage in support of the event's awareness-raising mission. They were accompanied by special guests Omékongo Dibinga and Alexandra Hellmuth, a Congolese spoken word artist and Student Youth Coordinator for the Enough Project, respectively.

Dibinga struck a commanding chord with his unique blend of motivated poetry and advocacy. Through steady, mesmerizing rhythms, the artist communicated his thoughts on the ways in which Western policymakers and media mischaracterize the Congo, the nature of the country's "forgotten" struggle, the role of foreign enterprise in inflaming the conflict, and his personal desire to have been able to do more for his Congolese compatriots afflicted by war, oppression, and disease.

Hellmuth played the more policy-minded counterpart to Dibinga's impassioned artistry, describing her efforts with the Enough Project and the steps Americans can take to positively impact the bitter and deadly divides within the DRC. She emphasized swaying American leaders to take a more active role in working to ensure liberty and security within the Congo and urged the crowd's technology users to pressure big electronics corporations to clean up supply chains that stem from the Congo's divisive "conflict mineral" trade. She also stressed the role of young people in spearheading these movements, as well as BC's opportunity to be at the forefront of the advocacy with efforts such as Friday's concert.

The event marked the culmination of years of research, organization, and advocacy for BC for the Congo's members. Kasey Brown, chair of the Concert for Congo Planning Committee and A&S '12, became a key driver in the group's earliest efforts after becoming aware of the dire consequences of the Congo's internal strife in 2010.

"Two summers ago, I was on vacation with my family, and I saw a report on the news about a massive rape campaign in Eastern Congo that took place just a few miles from a U.N. peacekeeping base," Brown said. "I was so shocked. I didn't understand why it had happened, nor did I understand why the international community hadn't done something about it. When I returned home, I started researching what happened in the village of Luvungi and learned that these attacks were happening all the time. I found out that Congo is the most dangerous place on earth to be a woman, and when I heard stories about the horrific brutality and violence directed towards [women], I felt called to do something about it."

Brown began to research the conflict in the Congo more thoroughly and connected with other BC students interested in the conflict on campus. After the group presented a documentary on rape in the Congo on campus, to widespread acclaim, BC for Congo was born.

As for current efforts to resolve the conflict and the success of the concert, Brown was upbeat.

"Over the past few years, we have seen some electronics companies take the first steps towards cleaning up their supply chain and investigating where they are getting their minerals," Brown said. "We have also seen some exciting efforts from college students, cities, and states to become conflict-free. The more pressure we, as consumers, place on corporations to become conflict-free, the less rebel groups will profit from their conflict minerals.

"I could not have been happier with how [Friday] night's event turned out," she said. "We hope that the concert on Friday is just the beginning of a movement here at BC to raise awareness about the conflict and advocate for a conflict-free campus."

Brown stated that the club is always recruiting new members and emphasized that this status of "conflict-free campus," or a campus that does not purchase electronics with supply chains that finance war in Eastern Congo, as a top goal of future BC for Congo action.

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