Many people tend to harbor the notion that crises in far-off regions thousands of miles away stand beyond their reach of influence. The members of the on-campus organization Mighty Mic tend to think differently.
Mighty Mic at UCLA works to tackle human rights topics through the combination of entertainment and education in one event, an annual spring benefit concert. Featuring headliners Shiny Toy Guns and UCLA student band The Ten Thousand, this year’s concert concerns the drought and famine crisis in Somalia.
“We are so privileged here at UCLA and in California in general; we have access to food, water and other resources that are so scarce in Somalia,” said Karen Leon, a fourth-year political science and international development studies student and co-director of the concert. “Before even thinking about an education or other issues, people our own age in Somalia have to deal with trying to feed themselves and their families for the day.”
Although the lack of nourishment has brought overwhelming hardship to many people in Somalia, fourth-year English student and co-director of the concert, Kelly Rosenfeld, said the nation’s damage is a result of more than the famine or drought alone.
“All of the natural causes of the famine have been completely exacerbated by the political instability in the region. There’s been conflict between a transitional government and rebel groups fighting over control of different parts of the country,” Rosenfeld said.
Mighty Mic annually prioritizes the protection of human rights such as those in the Somalia situation; this year will mark the sixth concert. Last year’s concert focused on sex trafficking in Southeast Asia.
“We live in an increasingly globalized community. We’re citizens not just of our school or our city or even our country; we’re citizens of the world now,” Rosenfeld said. “We should be ensuring that everyone has the basic human rights they deserve.”
All proceeds from this year’s event will go toward UNICEF and Africa Rescue Committee, a non-governmental organization in Somalia that will work with the communities of those affected. UNICEF will help to provide resources and set up sustainable solutions for those suffering from the crisis.
A speaker from each organization will help educate concert attendees with informative presentations in between the musical acts.
Dylan Robin, a third-year psychology student and member of The Ten Thousand, said he also believes the turmoil in Somalia deserves more attention from the student body and the greater community.
“Somalia is experiencing the worst famine the world has witnessed in a really long time. It’s shocking how much difficulty there’s been to get the aid they need,” Robin said. “Not enough people know; the demands are super urgent. (The Ten Thousand) is happy to help in any capacity that we can.”
Last November, The Ten Thousand won Battle of the Bands, an event organized by Mighty Mic that determined who would open for the spring benefit concert. Robin said it’s an honor for the band to share the stage with a group that is as well-established and has had as much success in the industry as Shiny Toy Guns has.
According to Robin, The Ten Thousand’s style roughly emulates that of Shiny Toy Guns. The student band will play new songs consisting of dark and electronic material.
Leon said that, between the hard-rocking musical entertainment and humanitarian speakers, the issues in Somalia are bound to be lifted up into the horizons of UCLA awareness.
“A lot of people think a concert on campus thousands of miles away can’t really do anything,” Robin said. “But I think that through the event and hopefully through the eventual proceeds some change will happen. Every little bit counts.”