Russell Simmons for his efforts to change the world has been given th etitle of UN Good Will Ambassador. Even a small effort of change goes along way. He may not change the world single-handedly, but it sure looks like he’s trying.
At 51, the hip-hop pioneer, entrepreneur and philanthropist has opened his wallet to causes from funding art and meditation in schools to promoting Muslim/Jewish dialogue to empowering youth to create social and political change in their communities. In May, he was tapped to be a U.N. Goodwill Ambassador to raise money and awareness to combat human trafficking.
Simmons earned wealth and fame in the 1980s building the music empire Def Jam Records, which produced such artists as Public Enemy, the Beastie Boys and his brother’s rap trio Run-DMC. Then he diversified, successfully, into fashion and finance, Hollywood and Broadway.
These days, Simmons is also the editorial director of GlobalGrind, a socially conscious social-networking site for hip-hop lovers, where he blogs about everything from the importance of legalizing gay marriage to blasting the “haters” of Kanye West’s model girlfriend.
On Saturday afternoon, Simmons will speak at the Arena Theater in Houston as part of the Brilliant Lecture Series. He spoke with the Chronicle last week. Here are some excerpts from that conversation:
Q: You were recently named the U.N. Goodwill Ambassador for the permanent memorial to honor the victims of slavery and the trans-Atlantic slave trade. What will you be doing in this role?
A: I like the idea of education — without education of past events, sometimes things repeat themselves. … Education and awareness of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. And to point out where this kind of slave trade or human trafficking of any kind or abuse of the human spirit that kind of amounts to human slavery is still prevalent.
Q: As a health-conscious, yoga-practicing vegan, what kind of health-care reform would you like to see?
A: Ask people in the aisle, if you speak to Congress. Ask them how many people don’t take money from the health-care industry. Ask them that, and then everybody can be in silence. And then you ask them, “Do you feel comfortable, we’re the only country in the civilized world that doesn’t take care of their sick?”
Q: How would you describe your personal mission?
A: To relieve suffering of people, animals and the planet. That’s a life’s goal, to get people out of struggle and to promote consciousness.
On a smaller level, giving them the opportunity to go out and achieve and giving them the courage and the confidence … to go out and achieve and change the world — be the change themselves.
Q: How and when did you come to your spiritual awakening?
A: The spiritual awakening idea I’m still working on, but I was born into a spiritual space.
When I first started practicing yoga, it opened me up a bit. Since then I’ve been chasing it for about 15 years.
Q: Do you think there is a problem with homophobia and violence in the hip-hop community, as some critics contend?
A: No! I think there’s a problem in the hip-hop community as well as our society. But they (in the hip-hop community) are less homophobic and less violent than the rest of our society. I just think the people like to point their fingers at the rappers. … The poets are always ahead of society throughout history in every society The poets are less homophobic, less sexist, less gangster, than our government.
Q: What are you going to take on next?
A: I don’t want to take on anything. I take it as it comes.
Q: How do you manage time for sleep?
A: I sleep well, and I meditate clear.
Source: Houston Chronicle