Goma is located on the eastern side of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Africa. Like many places in the DRC, the town has a reputation for being poor and dangerous. This summer, however, one viral YouTube video presented a different image of Goma and its people.

Pharrell Williams’ song “Happy” has achieved chart-topping success all around the world. Because of its popularity, groups of people have recorded their own homemade music videos for the song. One of the most viewed renditions comes from a group of people in Goma.

Kivu Entertainment Youth put the video together for the group. Their music video showcases the talented locals’ energy and happiness. The colorful portrayal of Goma starkly contrasts the public’s typical view of these people and their region.

Why does Goma carry such negative connotations?

First, the area in which Goma is located is dangerous. The area is often called the “rape capital of the world,” according to Think Africa Press. Armed bandits and rebel groups are serious concerns for those who travel the streets around Goma.

In April 2014, the United States Passport and International Travel’s website issued a statement warning visitors of the DRC to travel around Goma when only absolutely necessary. This statement replaced a similar warning that came out in October 2013.

The new statement addressed current information about the ongoing conflict between the North and South Kivu regions of the DRC. The violent disagreements between the people of these two regions have resulted in civilian casualties and displacement of families. Goma, the provincial capital of North Kivu, is in a constant state of unease due to these fights.

Political unrest also gives Goma its image of danger. Tourists in Goma are warned to refrain from taking pictures of government buildings as doing so may cause the police to place them under arrest.

A failing economy does not help Goma’s image either. Homelessness and extreme measures for survival are common. People are discouraged from driving at night because so many car robberies take place after dark.

Public transportation is hard to find because the town cannot afford to fund it. Much like the rest of the DCR, the roads are unsafe for cars, as well.

Finally, disease gives outsiders reason to fear Goma. An outbreak of measles was recently reported in Goma and has had severe effects on the local community. Other air-borne illnesses cause diarrhea and cholera in those that are not vaccinated.

With all of this information, Goma seems like a horrific place. Kivu Entertainment Youth’s video, however, promotes a different side of the Colognese people. Kelvin Batumike led the project. He told interviewers at Think Africa Press that his goal in creating the video was to bring a new image of Goma to the world.

Batumike wanted to present an area of Goma that holds the Amani Music Festival, a three-day music festival that brings all people of the area together to appreciate and enjoy music. This is a unique phenomenon considering that Goma typically cannot foster group functions without a violent protest erupting.

The attitude of the video is celebratory and makes the viewer appreciate life. Even though the people in Goma usually live in poor and dangerous conditions, they still find ways to be “happy.”

-Emily Walthouse

Sources: , U.S. Passports and International Travel

child labor
Right now more than 168 million children ages 5 to 18 are victims of child labor practices. Of these children, 85 million work in conditions that endanger their health and many are exploited in varying ways.

It is these shocking truths that have motivated the likes of Travis Barker, Pharrell Williams, Mike Einziger of Incubus and world-renowned composer Hans Zimmer, to collaborate on a song titled, “Til Everyone Can See.” The song features Minh Dang, a survivor of child trafficking.

The inspiration for the anti-child labor tune originated from their visit with the International Labour Organization. The ILO is the oldest agency of the United Nations, and their child labor program is the largest in the world. Following the visit, the artists joined the ILO campaign, Red Card to Child Labour.

The campaign’s use of the red card is intentional, as the timing of the campaign lines up with one of the most highly viewed sporting events in the world; the FIFA World Cup. This global symbol of a red card is known for being synonymous with the concepts of wrong and stop, making it an ideal symbol for the campaign.

The song was released on June 12 of this week, which is also the World Day Against Child Labor. The music, written by Einziger of Incubus and the violinist, Ann Marie Simpson, has a global vibe. However, this is not the first time musicians have used such songs to take a stand against child labor.

Similar musical initiatives include Global Music against Child Labor, through which musicians of all genres have dedicated events and concerts to the movement. The awareness these artists raise undoubtedly plays a key part in ending child labor practices.

As the heartfelt song declares “no one can be free when there is slavery…its time to do our part, give children of the world a brand new start.”

— Christopher Kolezynski

Sources: ILO, Look To The Stars, Music For Good, USA Today
Photo: Flickr