On the occasion of World Aids Day, the 1st of December, some of Botswana’s most popular hip hop artists joined in the Get Up and Go Tour, a campaign traveling around the country to inspire an HIV-free generation. MC/Poet Toni Blackman, the official U.S. Hip Hop Ambassador, reports from Botswana in this new series.
I first came to Botswana in 2004 as a part of my work as a Cultural Ambassador for hip hop. The first hip hop artist to be invited by the U.S. Department of State, my initial assignments were pilots for what has evolved into a comprehensive hip hop diplomacy program employed by the government. These opportunities have given me the chance to not only expand the work I do, but to build relationships independent of institutions. I’ve also been able to discover music that I might otherwise have never heard and to collaborate with artists throughout the diaspora. As a matter of fact, I’ve spent the past few months collecting files for the mix and mastering of my EP, “Travels of a Lyrical Ambassador”, to be released in 2011. It includes material recorded in Cote d’Ivoire, DRC, Senegal, South Africa, France and the U.S.
Pic: Zeus rocking the crowd with the message in Jwaneng
The “Get Up and Go Tour” launched in Gaborone and is taking us to Jwaneng, Kang, Ghanzi, Shakawe, Gumare, Maun, and concludes in Palapaye for a national World AIDS Day event on December 1st. The personnel at the U.S. Embassy really seem to ‘get it’ and have allowed the Kast Foundation to do their thing. Oftentimes government partnerships can be laden with so much bureaucracy and so many politics that the message and project goals get lost. The model for this project could be replicated in other communities around the world. The ways that hip hop can be used as a tool for social change are limitless. HIV is asking us to fight for our lives and the lives of the youth. We’re at war, but in the words of Fela, one the greatest musical warriors to have ever lived, “Music is the weapon!”
*In my follow-up post I’ll share music from these Botswana MC’s and highlight the Get Up and Go artists.
Facebook page for the Get Up and Go tour: www.facebook.com/U.S.EmbassyGaborone
Story by Toni Blackman, U.S. Hip Hop Ambassador, MC/Poet, founder of Freestyle Union, Lyrical Embassy and Rhyme Like A Girl (RLAG)
Pics by Douglas Seremane