I have been in NY for less than 3 days and the change of pace from Lafayette is already overwhelming. I am in between sessions at the UN and I have got much to tell you about so here we go:
Friday, 11th of August:
For what happened before take off, read Mosi's story.
Landed in La Guardia. As I came out the gate, I literally ran into Thomas Blake, brother of James Blake ( currently ranked 7 tennis player in the world). I blurted out:" I am big fan of yours and your brother. Good luck for the US open". Then I realized that I am not 15 anymore and ran away in shame.
I also saw the crew from 3-6 mafia but I declined to make a dork out of myself again. 30 mins in Ny and 2 celebrities sightings. You gotta love NY !
Brought my sister (ranting rakoto) to fabulous-GV-lingua-Queen Alice Baker's birthday party in a trendy bar in Brooklyn. Tons of fun, booze and cool friends :). Unfortunately, jet lag is catching up with my sister so we headed out a bit early. But not before taking a few pictures:
Sunday, 12th of august
Had a joyful of a time at brunch with blogger fabulous Amrita. She wrote about the meeting and crossing over the "screen" barrier and meeting for the 1st time in real life. Meeting a fellow blogger is always a bit nerve-wrecking but one always end up having a great time, (right, Jo ?) I guess blogs do say more about who we are than we thought.
Monday, 13th of August:
9:30 am at the UN plaza: opening of the youth assembly, conference room #4:
Dr. Elaine Valdov start off the festivities: as expected, there is a strong emphasis on the MGDs and how we are not on schedule to meet them at this point. Actions have to be taken now. She says transformation is about conviction and heart. She mentions the "shine" quota that your life will be remembered for: the "shine" quota= your level of commitment to your ideas.
Nicole Martin and Melissa Elliot of the Tuscarora tribe, Chief Arvol LookingHorse, Meksya and Jason White Bear of the Sioux tribe spoke of the urgency to heal mother Earth for the survival of their culture and their way of life as well as the rest of the planet.
Melissa sent a strong message with a few words form the declaration for the Youth Unity Run. The Unity Run was set to encourage people to walk across the country in order to make the voice of the indigenous people heard. She said that she will send me a copy of the declaration of the Unity Run before the end of the day.
She does not think that having the highest rate of suicide among children ( as low as 8 year old) from her people is acceptable anymore.
Did I mention that these guys ride horseback all night to reach NY in time for the conference ? Talk about walking the walk.....
Deputy Minister Taimoor Shah Eshaq-Zai, of Youth Affairs and Culture for Afghanistan take the stage. He seems like a young and dynamic person, pleading for brotherhood and mutal help. I go up to him to greet him and take a picture when my camera runs out of battery. I am piercing through my hand with a blunt pen as I am writing this.
Kathy Ireland takes over. I was quite entertained and drawn by her speech. After a little self-deprecating pirouette that was greeted with loud applause ( she is a former model after all) she lists her keys to success, and here is the one I preferred:
1) Ask tough questions. She explains that idea this way:
if you are an NGO, you are accountable for the financial planning of your organization. In the same manner, the potential funders should have to justify why they are not funding you if your plan is worth supporting.
I then, met her again on the sidewalk of the plaza and chit-chat with her for a bit. Lovely person really, I hope she is on board with our plan.
Angelique Kidjo comes in to a great ovation. However, they really could have given her a higher chair.
It looked as if Angelique was playing peekaboo behind the desk.
However, once she stood up, she took over the room with her presence. Angelique spoke both with intelligence and heart. Her voice was broken from giving a free concert in Central Park the night before. Her beautiful voice, the one she calls "her weapon of mass-loving", called for all us to be responsible for the change we want to see.
I will stop here because Charles Forster is about to talk about "Hip-Hop and the MGDS" and Jeffrey Sachs are next.....
Charles Foster did not hold back. Jokes about LL cool J, R.Kelly and his trouble, Michael Jackson and kids, he was very real and very committed to have Hip-Hop with a positive message. He even sent out flyers asking every attendees to name the artist they would like to get involved and why.
The most passionate speaker so far has to be Dr.Bernard Amadei. He is the director of "Engineers without Borders" and professor at University of Colorado. His favorite sentence was "poverty is not an academic issue. Quit talking and do something about changing an unacceptable situation". Well, he did. He claims that his team constructed a water filter that can purify sewage water into 99% clean water fo less than $800 in Belize, Brazil.
I have to mention the few snafus that occurred during the conference.
1) A beautiful prayer by Makesha in her native Shownee language was interrupted by a rude participants who yelled: " We don't understand, can you translate ?".
2) A few speakers did not show up but they had good excuses.
3) A unofficial photo shoot took place with Angelique Kidjo in the back of the room while the speaker was trying to speak over the noise.
4) A sing-along mentioning God in all religions without citing Allah. Not to mention that the few atheists were being stared at for not singing along. Come on now, seriously.
All in all, it was a good conference though. It's all over tomorrow and I guess security had a decent rehearsal before the general assembly opening.
Tomorrow's topic : global health, AIDS and more gender issues. Hummmm....
Got a little late here, but just in time to hear a bit of marketing at the UN: Charles Foster, "the hip-hop MDG" unveils a new clothing concept: "spinwear". Basically, clothes you can wear backwards: didn't criss-cross do that already in the 90's ?
I think Charles Foster is smart though. What a great medium here to get his words spread around the world.
UNFPA director for HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia is on stage now:
Big big emphasis on communication and information management. Interesting take.
Brad Kerner, "Save the children" is next. ( Humm I wonder if this is related to the one mentioned at the purplecorner.... )
Brad compares and contrasts HIV issue in Malawi and Vietnam. Nice way to present things.
Dr. Bunny M. from UNAIDS decides to compare Senegal who was successful in maintaining a low rate of infection while Kwazulu Natal went from 5% infection rate to 30% nowdays. What did Senegal do differently ? One part of the long answer: involve religious leaders early in explaining HIV/AIDS and how to prevent it ( condoms...)