Inflammation and stories on pop culture

One in three Senegalese girls are married before the age of 18, while the number worldwide nears 14 million. These girls are at a higher risk for abuse, health complications and dropping out of school. Tall as the Baobab Tree is being screened in villages in Senegal to promote dialogue and understanding between generations. This internationally acclaimed film is set in the Senegalese village Sinthiou Mbadane and follows two sisters who are the first from their family to attend school.

1. Respect for Elders vs. Dreams for the Future

In the film, the older sister, Coumba tries to save her younger sister, Debo, from being sold by their father into an arranged marriage. New and old worlds collide as the sisters struggle with whether respecting their elders has to mean betraying their own future. In countries like Senegal where education is becoming more accessible, it is important to engage in dialogues about the dangers associated with child marriage.

2. Dialogue can Positively Influence Attitude

The dialogues about child marriage have the potential to change the attitudes of village elders and leaders, who play an important role in determining the fate of children in the community. The film and the surrounding dialogues help girls in Senegal to realize that they are not alone in their struggle. The dialogues presented by the film are respectful towards girls and families, with the ultimate goal of bridging the generational misunderstanding.

“The main experience that this film focuses on is educating versus early marriage, which seems, in my experience, to be the single biggest challenge that this younger generation faces, coming from these traditionally conservative, rural villages,” said director Jeremy Teicher.

3. Grow Roots at Home to Strengthen Your Community

Because of poverty, a family may feel obligated to either send their children from a village to a large city to find work, or to marry off their daughters to older, wealthier men. With the help of Plan International (, children in Senegal have been able to stay in their home villages and either learn or work. The organization help set up training courses in needlework, hairdressing and metal work in villages to give children vocational opportunities. In this way, the children are able to grow up to be supporters and active community members in their villages.

Haley Sklut

Sources: The Guardian, Tall as the Baobab Tree, Voice of America
Photo: View of the Arts

The 2014 Sundance Film Festival encourages storytellers to share the strength of those living in poverty. The Sundance Institute aims to “harness the power of independent film,” and drive a global conversation on poverty.

Partnering with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the institute calls for short narrative or documentary films. In three to eight minutes, these films should celebrate the innovation and perseverance of those in poverty.

The Institute also partnered with to manage submissions. Filmmakers can submit projects through 1 July 2014 at no cost. Sundance awards winning films 10,000 dollars and the opportunity to premiere at the 2015 Film Festival. To apply, visit

The 2014 Sundance Film Festival featured the first five films on January 21. The Institute and Gates Foundation plan to release these films online throughout the year.

After My Garden Grows, directed by Megan Mylan
A young girl plants “seeds of independence and financial freedom” in a rural, male-dominated region of India.

Am I Going Too Fast?, directed by Hank Willis Thomas and Christopher Myers
This experimental documentary featured the intersecting lives of shopkeepers, craftspeople and ordinary citizens in Nairobi, Kenya. The sweeping transformation of technology, cell phone banking and micro-finance brought these men and women together.

Kombit, directed by Jeff Reichert and Farihah Zaman
In aftermath of the Haitian earthquake, men and women united to start a micro-garden.

The Masterchef, directed by Ritesh Batra
Akhil, a young shoeshiner, aspires to become a gourmet chef. One day, he has a “chance encounter” with the most popular Indian television chef.

Vezo, directed by Tod Lending
Narrated by a nine-year old girl, this documentary tells the tale of a village close to starvation until it adopts sustainable fishing practices.

The Faces of Global Poverty: 15 Must-See Short Films
Colours in the Dust
Blood Brother Trailer
Rural Poverty in Their Own Words: Ghana
In Your Hands
Syrian Girl Chooses School Before Marriage
The Thread
Pupils Speak Out About UK Child Poverty
Afghan Girl:Teacher? Engineer? Sheppard?
Hope on a Bicycle
The “Poster Girl for Starvation”
Stay: Migration and Poverty in Rural Mexico
Coal Boy
Four Men, 28 Days: Haiti After the Earthquake
Human Rights and Poverty in Ireland

Ellery Spahr

Sources: Why Poverty
Photo: Flipkey

Music exists everywhere in daily activities. People listen to music when driving, studying, or relaxing as well as in commercial. Music has the ability to move people in many mysterious ways. The purpose of this article is to discuss the role of music in economic development.

Music is one of the biggest industries in the world. According to International Federation of the Phonography Industry, the music industry sales was $5.8 billion, and performance rights revenue is growing the fastest to $943 million( up from $862 million in 2011). In the emerging world, people are exploring different kinds of music to fit their taste.

In addition, with the increasing use of the internet, it is easier to spread and create a new movement in music. Africa music can get bigger and gain more popularity around the world. Apart from record sales for African music, music can draw other kind of revenue such as concerts, tourist, and sales of band merchandise. The growth in these sectors will create more jobs in the local job market and in Africa as a whole.

Besides, the monetary effect of music on the economy, music can also have an effect on people’s mindset.

Music is the way for people to express and share themselves with others. When people are able to share their opinion with others, African musicians can encourage people to try harder and overcome daily life challenges and reach for higher goals.

Music can also draw attention to African countries and show citizens in developed countries that African is a growing continent not just a sad story for the world.

Nowadays, in Africa, many people are creating labs so that locals can produce music to spread the music effect to others. With low marketing cost, music can produce a steady stream of revenue for the economy and represent Africa in the eyes of people globally.

Phong Pham

Sources: SXSW, Billboard, EthPress
Photo: USAID

“I can’t do this all on my own” are the familiar musical lyrics that introduced each episode of “Scrubs” during it’s nine season run.  Though “Scrubs turned actor Zach Braff into a television and indie star, his new film project certainly shows how Braff cannot achieve his artistic goals “on [his] own.”

“Wish I Was Here” is a film written, directed and starring Zach Braff, picking up on the themes he first explored in his well-received debut film “Garden State” back in 2004.  The film follows a thirty-something actor, played by Braff, searching for a purpose in life and struggling to make ends meet for his two young children.

Other actors featured in the film include Kate Hudson, Anna Kendrick, Jim Parsons and “Scrubs” co-star Donald Faison. The film premiered to a standing ovation at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.

What makes “Wish I Was Here” unique, however, is the fact that fans independently financed the film.  Braff, moreover, launched a Kickstarter campaign with a stated goal of $2 million since, according to the film’s Kickstarter page, Braff rejected traditional funding methods to avoid “signing away all artistic control.”

Braff also saw an opportunity for his fans to have a direct impact on the filmmaking process.

Incentives for donating to the film range from a production diary at $10 and a meet and greet with Braff for $600 to being cast in the film as a featured extra for $7,500.  These incentives, matched with the originality of the fundraiser, led to a final total of $3,105,473 donated by 46,520 individuals.

Though a $10 donation to Zach Braff’s film garners a production diary, 80% of the world’s population live off of less than $10 a day, with 660 million living on less than $2 a day.

What could you buy for the fight against global poverty with a $10 donation?

With $3, you could buy a bed net to protect one of the 18,000 children who die daily from mosquitos carrying deadly diseases while for $8.50, you could feed an entire family in a developing nation.  Though Braff’s film is no doubt an artistic achievement, it is easy to wonder what kind of impact his 46,520 backers could have made for global development.

Taylor Diamond

Sources: Kickstarter, UNICEF, Global Issues
Photo: Bustle

Lady Gaga is known for many things. Glamour, fame, sexuality and vocal talent are a few of the adjectives that come to mind. Celebrities like Gaga are so scrutinized for their phenomenal antics on stage and in magazines that people often don’t consider what they are doing off stage.

For instance, Gaga donated all of her online store profits to help the Haiti victims after the earthquake in 2010. In 2011 she designed a prayer bracelet to fundraise for victims in Japan after an earthquake and Tsunami. To help fight HIV/AIDS, the pop-star helped create a lip stick sold under the line Viva Glam through MAC cosmetics. The proceeds were given to an HIV/AIDS foundation. Most recently, Gaga has collaborated with the charity named Sandy Hook Promise, to benefit the charity founded to aid victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

On December 14, 2012, a young man killed twenty students and six employees at Sandy Hook Elementary school. A little over a year has passed since that tragic event, currently considered to be the second largest mass murder by a single person in the history of the United States. Sandy Hook Promise is an organization that was founded after the tragedy to offer support to families affected. Lady Gaga, whose real name is Stefani Germanotta, has partnered with as a way to personally contribute to Sandy Hook Promise. is a well-known site that holds numerous charity auctions. As such, Gaga is teaming up with the site and auctioning off two VIP tickets to one of her twenty-five concert shows this year, as well as a chance to meet her in person. Though the auction bids have already reached over ten thousand dollars, bidding will continue until January 14, 2014. From bracelets to limited edition lipstick, Gaga has always found a way to make her charity donations very personal. As a native of Yonkers, New York, Gaga grew up as a neighbor to Connecticut. She has professed via twitter how devastating the events in Newtown were to hear about. Encouraging her enormous fan base to bid for a great cause is just one of the ways Lady Gaga continues to help others.

– Kaitlin Sutherby

Sources: Charity Buzz, Look to the Stars, Mix Matters
Photo: Paqoo

Martin Luther King, Jr. was an American hero and civil rights activist.  His teachings are still an inspiration today and his influence is immortalized in a national holiday, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Below are some interesting facts about this great leader:

1. At 35 years old, Martin Luther King, Jr. was the youngest man to have ever received the Nobel peace prize. Currently Tawakkol Karman of Yemen is the youngest winner, at 32.

2. Dr. King worked for Economic Equality, not just civil rights. After the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, Dr. King began the Chicago campaign. It targeted the economic reality of segregation and focused attention on the plight of the urban poor in the north.

3. Martin Luther King, Jr. improvised entire parts of the “I Have a Dream” speech, including the famous “dream” passage. It was edited right up to the moment Dr. King began speaking.

4. Dr. King is the only non-president to have national holiday dedicated in his honor and also the only non-president memorialized on Washington D.C.’s Great Mall.

5. In 1963, Dr. King was named Time Magazine’s Man of the Year. King garnered a lot of attention that year for leading the March on Washington and delivering his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

6. While at Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania, Dr. King was elected president of his senior class, which was predominately white.

7. His Seminary Professor gave him a C+ in a Public speaking course! King was renowned for his great public oration, but even he didn’t master the skill over night.

8. Many Civil Rights Activists did not support the 1963 “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.” Some leaders, such as Malcolm X and Storm Thurmond, held different views on the civil rights movements and, at times, disagreed with Dr. King’s approach.

9. Martin Luther King made an impact even while in jail. After being detained for defying an injunction against protests in Birmingham, Dr. King wrote his “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” It detailed reasons for acting to change civil rights in Birmingham and around the country and became a monument of the Civil Rights Movement.

10. Mahatma Gandhi and the principle of non-violent action heavily influenced Dr. King. King was introduced to the ideology while at a lecture given in Philadelphia by the president of Howard University.

Martin Luther King, Jr. firmly believed that everyone, regardless of their background, should receive equal treatment under the law and have an opportunity to live, as well as receive education and work without being discriminated against.  This is a message we must remain committed to in our fight against the global inequality that characterizes poverty in the world today.

– Martin Levy

Photo: Richton Park Library
Constitution Center: Five Facts about Martin Luther King, JrThe King Center, BBC,

Evander Holyfield, former world heavyweight boxing champion, is taking on an even greater role in helping displaced communities of the Syrian refugee crisis.

On November 13, Holyfield announced that he would be working to aid the alleviation cause for an estimated of 6,500 refugees fleeing from the war-torn Syrian nation, those of whom have settled in Bulgaria. During the announcement, Holyfield noted, “Somebody helped me and that gives me the opportunity to help someone else.”

The refugee crisis that has taken shape out of the Syrian civil war has become staggering. It’s estimated that 9 million Syrians have been displaced out of a population of 23 million.  Syrians are settling in nearby countries such as Jordan and Turkey, most of where large camps have drawn the majority of foreign assistance — muting attention for the relatively small amount that has ended up in Bulgaria.

Holyfield and the Global Village Champions Foundation, the organization where he works as a Goodwill Ambassador, hope to raise awareness and deliver support for these refugees. To future add to the impact of celebrities bridging successful traction to raise awareness, the head of the Global Village Champions Foundation is musician, Yank Barry, from the 1960s band “The Kingsmen.”

The pairing might seem odd, but they are united in their hope to make the lives of the Syrian refugees at least somewhat easier.  In an interview with CNN, Holyfield stated, “at some point in time, when you leave this earth… they’ll say: What did you do for the least of them?”

Yank Barry may not be as well known in modern pop culture, but he has been actively philanthropic in recent years.  Barry founded the Global Village with Mohammed Ali in 1995, and they worked together until Holyfield took Ali’s place within the organization in 2012.  Since the founding of the organization, it has sent out 900 million meals to the needy around the globe and, according to Barry, including “5,000 tons of food to (Syrian) camps” since last year.

During the 1990s, Holyfield’s biggest worries were Mike Tyson’s left hook and how he would retake a heavyweight championship belt that he ended up winning five separate times.  Now, he has taken it upon himself to help the world community that he once entertained.  While recent reports have claimed that Holyfield has not retained the fortune he accumulated over the course of his boxing career, his reputable standing as a celebrity can still help causes for those that never had the opportunities he did.

While the help from private foundations like the Global Village is welcomed and inspiring for others to emulate, the global community still has plenty of work to do.  The UN says that the number of Syrian refugees registered in various EU countries ranks over 62,000 with more likely to come.  With so many of them looking for ways to get by, the hungry continue to appreciate the influencers like those in the U.S. for the help that such refugee communities could barely survive without.

– Eric Gustafsson

Sources: Fox News, CNN, Huffington Post
Photo: Vintage 3D

The Battle of AmfAR: A Documentary
In the early 1980’s, an unlikely duo swept a panicky nation off its feet and dynamically changed the landscape of the conversation surrounding HIV/AIDS.

The first, Swiss-born Dr. Mathilde Krim, realized shortly after the first reported cases of AIDS that the new disease would raise unprecedented questions and challenges for the scientific community. Krim, deeply affected by an intimate brush with the atrocities of the Holocaust, boldly pursued new avenues in research and fought tirelessly from day one to understand and ultimately defeat HIV/AIDS from both a medical and human rights perspective.

Krim was the total package, scientific excellence personified: her distinguished features, dedication to scientific excellence and heavy accent could not have been more appropriately selected from a slew of candidates out of central casting. Though her passion for bringing hope to “the little guy”-namely, minority AIDS victims, affected the American Foundation for AIDS Research’s (amfAR) activities, the academic desperately needed a sidekick.

Enter Elizabeth Taylor.

Taylor, who had often grappled with the complications of her unprecedented fame, chose advocacy over inaction in 1984, shortly after long-time friend Rock Hudson lost his battle with AIDS. Appalled by fear-fueled discrimination and hypocrisy affecting AIDS victims, she became amfAR’s principal spokesperson, determined to bust open “the huge, loud silence” in the mainstream.

“The Battle of AmfAR,” an HBO documentary released December 1 (World AIDS Day,) beautifully documents Krim and Taylor’s crusade on the front lines of science and civil rights. Two-time Oscar winners Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, creators of Common Threads, an AIDS documentary released in the late 1980’s in the “eye of the storm” that masterfully combined original news footage, exclusive interviews with the likes of Krim, Taylor and Woody Allen and scientific dialogue to inform, entertain and inspire.

Dame Taylor’s outspoken approach in her role as media liaison for the organization takes center stage in Battle. In various public appearances, she makes her mark as a beautiful, passionate and unfiltered believer (during one speech, she vowed that amfAR would “make a g– d—- difference.”) Gliding seamlessly from podiums to congressional offices, Taylor captivated audiences and politicians alike, de-stigmatizing HIV-positive status and raking in critical funds for amfAR research.

That funding, combined with Krim and colleagues’ tireless laboratory pursuits, contributed in large part to the development of antiretroviral therapies to manage AIDS. In recent decades, the disease has diminished from “maybe the end of the world” to a “manageable chronic condition”; for that, we have amfAR to thank.

Friedman and Epstein fear the development of relative complacency toward AIDS due to great strides in research, education and development. A cure, not prolonged treatment, is the goal of all AIDS crusaders, after all; that goal requires sustained and long-term support.

The Battle of AmfAR challenges the next wave of scientists and advocates not simply to emulate Taylor and Krim, but to dream bigger then even they could have imagined.

Casey Ernstes

Sources: The Battle of amfAR
Photo: HBO

Published in 1943 amidst the chaos of the Second World War, Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is classified as a children’s book. Being both the most sold and most translated French piece ever written, however, the novella about a peculiar young boy is much more than that. Told from the point of view of a pilot stranded after his plane crashes in the Sahara desert, it is an emotional, deeply meaningful and philosophically-loaded journey.

More than half a century after being written, The Little Prince still has a few things to teach anyone willing to listen. A tale of love, sacrifice, loneliness, greed and the importance of staying true to oneself, it is a profound study of human nature, told in the simplest of jargon and skillfully presented through the unlikely platform of fairy tales.

The Little Prince himself is a confused character: traveling in space away from his home planet, he is driven by heartbreak from caring for someone who was too vain and spoiled to love him back – a beautiful rose which mysteriously came to grow on his planet.

The Prince’s journey takes him to many planets; he encounters various characters who through their actions symbolize vanity, redundancy, close-mindedness and others alike. As shown through the eyes of, essentially, a child, these and other vices seem all the more pointless and illogical. For example, on one of the destinations our hero encounters a drunkard. He tells the prince that he drinks so that he may forget his shame. “Of what?” asks the Prince. “The shame of drinking!” the drunkard retorts. Commenting on the weirdness of adults, our boy leaves the man alone.

Eventually he reaches Earth, where he meets the narrator and later on, a lonesome fox. The Prince always brings up his rose, obviously angry and frustrated, but also increasingly worried about her. The fox comes to tell him a simple truth: “You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed. You’re responsible for your rose.” The value of this quote can be translated as such: this world is our rose. To neglect any part of it is to betray the ties we’ve established – it’s selfish as it is unthinkable.

Another essential thing the fox tells us is that “the most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched; they are felt with the heart.” That is, materialistic things can never bear the same importance as kindness, selflessness, friendship and affection. If more people could live by these words, issues such as global poverty would doubtfully be as prevalent.

Visiting a train station, the Little Prince gets to witness in awe, the locomotives go by, speeding away in the distance. People are in a hurry to get somewhere, but what important things are they pursuing – he wonders? “’They are pursuing nothing at all,’ said the switchman. ‘They are asleep in there, or if they are not asleep they are yawning. Only the children are flattening their noses against the windowpanes.’” Surely, these passengers have lost their ways. Consumed by greed, or perhaps laziness or conceit, they waste their lives away in an endless road leading to nowhere. Children are innocent, selfless; that’s why they are superior to the adults in this quote’s context.

Inspirational and pure, The Little Prince’s tale should be known to everyone in the world. Too often we are too blinded by materialist concepts to see the beauty of other human beings. Truth is, each and every one of us was once an innocent, hopeful, positive and loving child – channel that child more often and influence others to do the same.

– Natalia Isaeva

Sources: Good Reads, The Little Prince

Money is not the only way to contribute to charities, although it is arguably the most effective – unless you are a celebrity. Apparently just being associated with a charity is enough to boost donations by $100,000 per year. Research from the Rutgers’s Business School found charities with celebrity endorsements received a 1.4 percent increase in donations over charities that were not associated with stars.

In that respect, the popular celebrity news website, The Daily Beast, found out who the most charitable celebrities were in regards to lending out their name and fame. Using an in depth survey with forty-eight characteristics via E-poll market research, a list was created with the top celebrities in the charitable running. The list was narrowed after secondary research on, a site that tracks how many charities celebrities are actually supporting. Using Traackr to record the number of actual hits on Google, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and personal blogs, the list was further weighted to reflect the celebrities’ personal effort put into promoting their respective organizations.

Elton John was at the top of the list with support towards a whopping forty-eight charities. Furthermore, his foundation to help treat AIDS victims, Elton John Aids Foundation, is one of his personally founded charities. Though it may be due to the passing of many of Elton’s close friends of because of AIDS/HIV, he hosts enormous galas open to his multitude of famous friends as fundraisers for his organization.

Second on the list is Angelina Jolie, recognized worldwide for her long list of humanitarian efforts. She has visited various nations such as Tanzania, Iraq, Afghanistan, Jordan, Egypt and Costa Rica, even during times of conflict and war. Taking a hands on approach, she has provided care and aid to refugees in the aftermath of natural disasters, apartheid, oppression and more. She is the founder of the Maddox Jolie-Pitt, named after her first adopted Cambodian son, an organization which serves to implement sustainable community improvement policies for women and children in Cambodia. Angelina and Brad Pitt sold the first images of their newborn twins to People and Hello! Magazines for $14 million, utilizing the entire sum of money for the Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation.

Following Angelina on the top 25 list is Bono, the incredible U2 front man, Oprah Winfrey and Ellen Degeneres. Some of the most famous stars on television and film are giving huge chunks of their success away to help others, thus becoming role models in the world of charity and fundraising. It is simultaneously inspiring and humbling to recognize that people have the ability to help those in need no matter how famous, wealthy or well off we are in their own lives. Celebrities have a name and a face but their actions are worth so much more than that, and anyone can take action against global poverty.

Kaitlin Sutherby

Sources: Marie Claire, The Daily Beast, Look to the Stars