Arts

Concert promotes awareness of women and children’s issues in Ethiopia

Photo: Eric Davidson

University of Ottawa students and alumni working with an international charity brought in Juno Award-winning icon Jully Black for a fundraiser to combat poverty and inequality in Ethiopia.

Canada’s queen of R&B raised the roof on Feb. 28 to raise money for CARE Canada’s maternal and child health work in Ethiopia. It was a swanky event, but Black didn’t let that get in the way of the show.

“Ladies, if your shoes are too tall, take ‘em off. Guys, if your ties are too tight, loosen ‘em,” she called out. “By the end of the show, everybody will be on their feet.”

The event aimed to educate people on the situation of women and children in Ethiopia. According to a UNICEF study in 2010, 68 children out of 1,000 die before their first birthday due to a lack of nutrition and access to healthy foods. CARE seeks to expand access to a healthy and nutritious diet for mothers and children.

“If we could just put ourselves in the people’s shoes that we’re raising money for, then it will be much easier for many of us,” Black said later in an interview.

While living in Canada her whole life, Black said she has met a diverse range of people from all over the world, including Ethiopia. She said, to her, that’s the beauty of living here.

Another big focus of the event, as well as other causes Black has been a part of, was the empowerment of women.

“Being led by such an amazing woman, my mother, instilled the idea of ambition, education, and wisdom at a very young age,” she said, adding that she’s happy to be able to lend her voice and her celebrity to the cause.

CARE Canada shares close ties with the U of O, with numerous students and alumni who work on fund development, often in co-op placements. The organization has worked on humanitarian projects such as economic development and emergency relief in more than 80 countries worldwide over the last seven decades.

This specific initiative in Ethiopia, known as Project ARNI,  which aims to improve lifestyles of mothers and children by advocating better feeding and hygiene practices, and improving knowledge and decision-making regarding healthy eating and living.

“It’s a project we’re really proud of,” said Darcy Knoll, a 2010 graduate and now a communications specialist with CARE Canada. “Just getting some of the results back (tonight) … we’re blown away.”

The fundraiser was one of the many initiatives to help CARE Canada reach its $4-million target. Knoll said their team is still tallying up the amount raised from the Jully Black show.

CARE Canada puts on many different types of fundraisers, but there’s something special about a concert, said Black.

“Making it a concert … it really confirms the language of music,” she said.

“I think art imitates life, and music is really telling us what’s going on in the world. And I think my purpose, being a storyteller, is to narrate what’s going on in life.”

And when she’s telling the story, that narration also comes with a whole lot of dancing.