I entered the United Nations Headquarters for the first time ever this week, as an artist for the official release of the Rukus Avenue album, Music to Inspire – Artists UNited Against Human Trafficking, a compilation of over forty global artists and dignitaries, and introduced by former President Jimmy Carter, to fight modern slavery.
At this fraught time in our nation’s present, I recalled that the UN was ratified on American soil, in San Francisco in 1945, to prevent global war from ever happening again. The UN was to be, and has been, and an organization dedicated to international peace and protecting human rights.
The UN Headquarters in New York is filled with breathtaking art, gifts of goodwill from nations around the world, and as I stood, taking it all in, a senior dignitary, a Palestinian man, kindly showed me the cavernous Delegates Entranceway, pointing out Brazilian painter Candido Portinari’s Guerra e Paz. As delegates enter the UN, they are faced with “Guerra” (War), a massive mural in shadowy indigos, browns and blacks, the only light hues that of hands thrown up in supplication, and a mother’s arms holding her dead child. It is an indescribable portrait of suffering. On the other side, the side facing the delegates as they exit, is “Paz” (Peace) in whites and yellows, with splashes of bright red, scenes of children of all ethnicities at play, dancing and singing. The hope is that this is the vision our policy makers will carry forth into the world.
Considering the reason I was there, I could not leave without glimpsing the UN’s newest memorial, “The Ark of Return,” by Haitian-American architect Rodney Leon, which honors “the more than 15 million men, women, and children who suffered and died during the more than 400-year transatlantic slave trade.” At the memorial’s unveiling in 2015, former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted that, “Tragically, slavery has still not ended.”
Indeed, almost 30 million people are trapped in slavery today all over the globe, “in debt bondage, slave labor, sex trafficking, forced labour, or domestic servitude.” We were gathered together at the UN that night to launch an album into the world to raise awareness and funds to help stop this horrific crime against humanity. It was heartening to know that while we were in New York, back in Los Angeles, on the very same night, Operation Reclaim and Rebuild successfully carried out a massive human trafficking sting operation.
I was moved to hear the incredible voices of artists around the globe, to meet performers from Mexico, India, Sweden, Belgium, and America; Patricia Vonne singing “Missing Women,” Saum Ghosh and Varshini Muralikrishnan with “Not for Sale,” and Ozark Henry with “Maybe.” I was humbled to share space on this album with esteemed musicians A.R. Rahman, Quincy Jones, Sonu Nigam, Anoushka Shankar, Daryl Hall & John Oats, and many more. I was moved by each person’s desire to create from a deep place of compassion. Perhaps we are only drops in a vast sea, but collectively, we are a force.
Join us in the fight to end modern slavery! Rukus Avenue will donate all proceeds from this album to the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund, established to provide humanitarian, legal and financial aid to victims of trafficking. https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/music-to-inspire-artists-united/id1200517543?ls=1