Diamonds: a war’s best friend

Call to mind a token rap music video. What do you see? More than likely you picture cars, money, girls who seem to have forgotten half their wardrobe and most importantly, bling.Bling is one of the most prominent aspects of the rap and hip hop world. However many people don’t know or care that many of these diamonds come from a horrific background full of turmoil.Kanye West’s lyrics sum it up, “Good Morning, this ain’t Vietnam still/ People lose hands, legs, arms for real/ Little was known of Sierra Leone/ And how it connect to the diamonds we own.”Conflict diamonds come from volatile areas of Africa like Sierra Leone, and their profits are used to fund civil wars. These wars have disastrous effects on communities.Raquel Cepeda realized there was a severe lack of knowledge on the subject, which prompted her to film the documentary “Bling: A Planet Rock,” which was shown in the Maple Ballroom on Thursday, Nov. 8.Cepeda’s documentary takes U.S. rappers such as Raekwon and Paul Wall over to Sierra Leone to help them understand where conflict diamonds come from and the effects they’ve had on the local communities.The film is a visually and mentally assaulting experience filled with terrifying images and horrific scenarios. This only works to the film’s advantage, impressing upon the viewer the harsh reality of the situation. As the group travels through Sierra Leone they experience the effects of conflict diamonds first hand. They witness the grueling, exploitative process of collecting raw diamonds – like sexual abuse and forced amputation – used as acts of terrorism.After seeing the devastating effects of conflict diamonds and witnessing the hardship people suffer, the group leaves Sierra Leone in a much more somber state than they had been in upon arrival.They returned to the U.S. clearly affected and began to take action. Raekwon has decided to take Wu-Tang on tour in Africa and Paul Wall fired DeBeers as his diamond provider when he found out they could possibly use conflict diamonds. Feel like getting involved? Cepeda suggested contributing to Ishmael Beah’s foundation, which can be found online at www.beahfound.org.There is also a follow up presentation on Wednesday, Nov. 12 called “Peace and Turmoil.” It will be held in the Chittenden Bank Room in the Davis Center at noon.Still feeling removed from the situation? Think it doesn’t concern you? I challenge you to watch “Bling.” It will open your eyes.