“We Are the World” released, 1985

On this day in 1985, the single “We Are the World” was released by the group USA for Africa as a rallying song for famine relief in Africa. The song was written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie and produced by Quincy Jones and Michael Omartian. “We Are the World” was largely inspired by the success of Band-Aid’s 1984 charity song “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” in the United Kingdom. Thus, on January 21, after the American Music Awards, 48 musically and racially diverse artists gathered to belt out the anthem “We Are the World.”

Here is the video which features artists such as Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Cyndi Lauper, Bruce Springsteen, and Ray Charles. It’s 7 minutes long (how else are they going to squeeze that much star power in one video?)  but definitely worth watching. Although some criticized the song for being self-applauding or for not exploring the reasons for the famine, the song was ultimately well-received by the public and became the first certified multi-platinum single. “We Are the World” has raised over $63 million since its release and continues to have an impact in the musical industry.

With the 1985 single “We Are the World” came a resurgence in political and humanitarian themes in music. In fact, in 2010 after disastrous earthquakes occurred in Haiti, “We Are the World” was rerecorded by new artists to appeal to a younger generation. I like the message but I’m not sure how I feel about the combined musical stylings of Barbra Streisand, Celine Dion, Snoop Dogg, Miley Cyrus, and Justin Bieber.

Have a good weekend!

September 11, 2001

On September 11, 2001, four planes were hijacked by terrorists for suicide attacks. Two of the planes hit the World Trade Center towers, one attacked the Pentagon, and one that was aimed for Washington, D.C. crashed into a field. Including those in the planes, nearly 3,000 people lost their lives in the attacks. It is the largest terrorist attack against the United States.

I lived through this tragic event in American history and witnessed the attack through my television. As a 5-year-old, I had trouble connecting to the images I saw on screen. I knew something terrible had occurred, but I was too young to comprehend the magnitude of the situation. What I really connected to was the shared sorrow of America, and the world, following the attack. Everything and everyone seemed a little darker around that time.

I am older now, and each year I am able to better understand the gravity of the events as well as the collective grief of my country, even though my own memories are fading more and more.

I will never fully understand the profound sadness of those who lost loved ones in the attacks, but each year I gain more understanding and empathy. I still cannot wrap my mind around the devastation that those four planes caused, but I keep trying.

Because there is more to the story than what a 5-year-old girl can comprehend. Because this is not just a news story but a truth that Americans have to live with everyday. Because we are living witnesses to a history that we cannot repeat. Because we are living witnesses to a history that we cannot forget.

Never forget.

Malala Day

Today is the 16th birthday of the brilliant young hero, Malala Yousafzai. When she was 11, Malala began a public campaign for girls’ education in Pakistan. She became well-known in Pakistan for her efforts, and received international attention when she wrote a BBC diary about her life in the Swat Valley.

Malala became a symbol for girls’ education. Unfortunately, her newfound fame made her a target for Taliban retaliation. On October 9, 2012, a Taliban gunman shot Malala on her way home from school. Malala survived the attack, and is thriving today. She refused to let the attack defeat her or scare her. Furthermore, other Pakistani girls and their mothers refuse to let the attack scare them away from an education either. Today, in at least one girls’ primary school, enrollment is up because of Malala’s courage.

Malala

Malala is celebrating her 16th birthday by speaking to the United Nations. She is delivering a speech and presenting a petition for aid to get all children, especially girls, into school by 2015.

Sarah Brown, founder of A World At School, and Malala’s mentor said:

What is so moving about Malala’s story is that, in spite of all the odds, she has kept on fighting not just for her own education but for the education of all children in Pakistan, and beyond … I’m so proud that she will lead 500 of these young voices in taking her campaign to the highest level at the UN this Friday. Her speech will be an incredibly moving moment in her already inspiring story.

Have a great, inspired Malala Day!

Further reading:

http://www.voanews.com/content/malala-yousufzai-to-address-un-youth-assembly/1700146.html

http://www.etfo.ca/advocacyandaction/SocialJusticeandEquity/SchoolForEveryone/Pages/default.aspx

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-23268708

http://www.standard.co.uk/lifestyle/london-life/the-malala-movement-how-the-pakistani-teenager-shot-in-the-head-by-the-taliban-became-a-global-superpower-8702632.html

Chinua Achebe dies, 2013

Though I normally write out about past historical events on the day they occur, today I am writing about something that happened today that I feel is historically relevant.

Today, influential Nigerian author Chinua Achebe died in Boston at age 82.

Photo courtesy of saharareporters.com.

Achebe is best known for his 1958 novel Things Fall Apart as well as his 1975 article  “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness”  which criticizes Joseph Conrad’s famous novella Heart of Darkness for its racism. Achebe is recognized as the “Father of African Literature” and has influenced such writers as Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Toni Morrison.

Like many others, Achebe has influenced me too. I read Things Fall Apart last year and found it to be an stunning and heartbreaking depiction of an Igbo man’s struggle to maintain his cultural identity in the face of European colonialism. It is truly a modern masterpiece that should be read by all, as its message is still very relevant.

And now, some words of wisdom:

Nobody can teach me who I am. You can describe parts of me, but who I am – and what I need – is something I have to find out myself.
― Chinua Achebe

Articles for further reading:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2013/mar/22/novelist-chinua-achebe-dies

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/huff-wires/20130322/us-obit-achebe/?utm_hp_ref=homepage&ir=homepage

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/03/22/175025166/chinua-achebe-nigerian-author-of-things-fall-apart-dies

Barack Obama is inaugurated, 2009

In 2009, Barack Obama was inaugurated, becoming the first black president of the United States.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted–for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things–some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

-President Obama in his Inaugural Address

Thank you. God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America.

Burj Khalifa Opens, 2010

Only two years ago, Burj Khalifa, the new world’s tallest building (2,722 feet!), opened in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Burj Khalifa towers over Dubai.

Remember this?

Tom Cruise sits atop the Burj Khalifa.

Yikes! Does that not just terrify you?

And here’s a picture of the highest tennis court in the world. Enjoy!

Tennis court of Burj Khalifa.