Last Thursday, McGill students came together to make poverty history by enjoying live music and dancing the night away in one of Montreal’s swankiest clubs.
“I feel that music is a way to get in touch with a lot of people and really hit them; hit them deep,” said the director of Make Poverty History McGill, Nejeed Kassam.
The university organization used last summer’s Live 8 concerts as a mold for their own, hoping to bring students out of their end-of-term funk in the spirit of charity and fun. The Live 8 concerts also benefited the Make Poverty History campaign, and may be what the campaign is most known for, along with the white wristbands that became a fashion must-have.
The campaign started in the U.K. in 2005 as a common banner for organizations that felt world leaders weren’t acting quickly enough on their promise to halve world poverty by 2015. Although the Live 8 concerts did not achieve their main goal of pressuring leaders to take concrete measures at the G8 Summit, they did manage to bring the issue to public attention. With famous names like Bono of U2 and Nelson Mandela backing the campaign, the media took notice.
Make Poverty History believes poverty can be reduced through set measures such as the cancellation of the third world’s debt, more and better aid, and developing a trade system that does not exploit the poor to the benefit of the rich.
Most of the proceeds from McGill’s Live Aid will go to Oxfam, which manages the campaign in Canada. Kassam said he wanted to widen the scope of the campaign on a local level, including trying to create scholarships to help fund McGill students’ trips to Africa for hands-on charity work.
The concert started with some shuffling of the lineup. The headlining band, Throwback, broke up the day before the concert, throwing a bit of a stick into Kassad’s spokes. Nonetheless, the audience seemed pleased with the three other bands left on the bill.
The most energetic moment came as Kweku and the Movement took the stage with a funky mix of covers and originals. Lead singer Kweku Sam Kwofie said he was familiar with the charity, but his band members pled ignorance. Bassist Anna Ruddick said with a laugh that they had not even known they were playing at a charity event.
The two other bands were Sire and Hearts of Palm, both playing sets of good, old-fashioned rock n’ roll.
The evening’s host, Justin Trudeau, urged students not to be the leaders of tomorrow, but to “be the leaders of today!” Trudeau wanted to get on board with the project as soon as Kassam approached him about it. Currently doing his masters in environmental geography at McGill, he saw the opportunity to reach out to a large audience and tell them to get involved.
“Consistency, and the accumulation of small actions we make, can have a real impact, and real consequences,” Trudeau said. “We need to start thinking long-term. Society is all about instant satisfaction, and we absolutely have to stop doing that.”
For some audience members, the music was as much of a reason for coming as the charity was. English literature student, Hillary D., said she had come to watch Kweku and the Movement, but the charity was another incentive. She thought the concert was a good initiative because it would raise awareness of the charity among people that had not heard about it before.
One of the people she could have been talking about was McGill engineering student Andrew Mills, who had not even heard of the campaign and was only there because his friends dragged him along.
“Two of my friends tried to sell me tickets, so I guess that means there is involvement,” he said, adding that he thought the drinks were too expensive for a charity concert.
Organizers have yet to confirm how much money the concert raised but hope to get as much as $10,000.