Photo: www.peace-not-war. org

This summer, we will feature the words from enthusiastic winners of What About Peace? contest and we’ll share their thoughts behind the incredible art they presented and what this big win means to them. These anecdotes not only showcases their art pieces but also encourages fellow students to come up with great entries for the new school session. The following is the third installment of our What About Peace? winner story series.

The world seems to be a messy place these days. It is indeed in a state of turmoil. Many U.S. observers look at the world- downing of Malaysia airliner being a target of ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, deadly violence in Gaza, deteriorating civil war in Syria-and see a planet unraveling. The tumult is scary and to see thousands of innocent lives confronted with bloodshed is indeed heartbreaking.

While friends and family gather around the streets, hold candle light vigils calling for peace, one of our winners of the ‘What About Peace’? contest also extends his ‘Peace Anthem’. His message has a different style altogether but it completely resonates with the present situation.


 16 year old Mac R Whaley from Minnesota, USA writes:

Without world peace the world is falling to pieces
Without our beliefs, man, nobody preaches
Without a cease fire, the fame never ceases
Without the death of war, the death number increases
Why’s the world gotta be like this?

Through his beautifully crafted poem with rap lyrics, Mac questions the present state of affairs and encourages all to take action.

Mac R Whaley was the winner in the written category of our ‘What About Peace’ contest. He is no ordinary writer but is a rapper in the making. He writes verses to instrumentals and pens down his experiences in life. He says his strength lies in hip hop music which is definitely evident from his poem. What needs an applaud here is that he is only 16 and is coming up with his mixtape titled ‘A Record of Therapy’ next month.

Congratulations on your great win! Tell us your first reactions when you got to know that you have secured the first prize.
I was told through my friend Brennan. He texted me after I was getting fitted for a tux saying “You won 300 dollars”. I was incredibly confused and he told me it was through the WAP contest. I thought it was really cool.

The Peace Anthem written by you has a very different style to it. It all rhymes in a rapper style which is quite interesting. What made you write a peace message in this style?
I like to create my own music whenever I have time to. I was sitting in study hall one day and I decided that I would write for the Peace contest. I already had experience writing verses, so I thought I would do it in that structure.

If you were to define Peace in one line without using rhyming words-How would you do it?
I define peace as the period of time where two opposing parties no longer struggle against each other. Peace is a state of being, where struggles have been overcome, and agreements have been reached.

What is your preferred writing style and on what issues you enjoy writing about the most?
I write verses to instrumentals, which usually call for 16 bars. I just write to whatever the beat calls for. If it’s 20, I write 20 bars. 12, I write 12. But normally, instrumentals are 16. I write whatever I feel, or whatever is going on in my life. I cannot write about experiences I haven’t gone through, and I encourage other writers/rappers/poets to avoid doing so. In August, I will be releasing a mixtape titled “A Record of Therapy”, which will include songs about tough times of depression, anger, and, most of all, loneliness. In the past, I have written on drug use, suicide, love, heartbreak, and stories.

What do you think makes a good poem?
Although I am unfamiliar in the art of poetry, I enjoy hip-hop music. I critique verses, songs, and even full albums based on 4 components- lyrics, flow, delivery and production.

What do you like to do when you are not writing?
My two favorite things outside of writing are sports and hip-hop. The two intertwine together. Much like sports, hip-hop has a sense of competition and debate that I find in no other genre of music today. Some of my favorite albums are The Eminem Show by Eminem, Illmatic by Nas, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by KanYe West and Together/Apart by Grieves. In order to improve myself as a lyricist and technical rapper, I have to study those who succeeded as such. My influences are Nas, Grieves, Tech N9ne, Eminem, and Slug of Atmosphere.

As I finished interviewing Mac, my belief in music and its power to bring peace only grew stronger. No matter what language we speak, what color we are, the form of our politics or the expression of our love, music proves: We are the same.

We wish Mac R Whaley success in his life and may we all take a step forward to pray for peace and make this world a peaceful and beautiful place for all…


What About Peace? is a Global Exchange international arts contest for youth ages 14–20 to express ideas and thoughts about peace by responding to the question, “What About Peace?” through artistic expression.

This post was written by social media intern Sakshi Pathania.

This guest post comes to us from Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi. A graduate of UC Berkeley, he received his MA degree from NYU Tisch School of the Arts. Prior to graduation, the Pan-African Film Festival honored Eli with the Student Filmmaker Award for his first solo feature length film, Inventos: Hip Hop Cubano. Eli continues to utilized music as a tool to provide insight into culture and socio/political community struggles.  In 2010, he released his second film, Home Grown: Hip Life in Ghana. His current production Revolucion Sin Muertos “Revolution Without Death” captures a youth movement in Comuna 13 in Medellin, Colombia, where Hip Hop is utilized to empower a Peace Movement. 

Tengo Talento is about the new generation of talent in Cuba. World renowned artist take to the streets to find the next talent in their field. Travel on a journey from Havana to Santiago searching the next stars in Jazz, Hip Hop and Rumba.

We are a collective of visual artists, musicians and producers developing an internet audiovisual and radio program series on the new generation of Cuban talent. We want to motivate and encourage all young people to pursue their dreams and tell amazing stories full of passion, creativity and sacrifice. We intend bring you on a journey to find the next generation of Cuban talent!

We invite you to meet:

Julito Padrón, one of the most outstanding Cuban trumpeters. He introduces us to a young man who is only 15 years old with a spectacular sound that promises to be a big star.

Yrak Saens is one of the pioneers of rap in Cuba. He makes up one half of the group Doble Filo. He takes us on a journey to Santiago de Cuba to find a new sound and discover the the new talent of Hip Hop Cubano.

Jennyselt is a dancer of Afro Cuban Folklore, with great prestige within Cuba and internationally and currently dances with the group Yoruba Andabo. She seeks her successor to keep the legacy of Afro-Cuban culture, dance and religion alive. Jennyselt takes us to the side of Havana that is rarely seen by tourist, Juanelo. Where there is a community project teaching the next generation of dancers.

The release of the Jennyselt video will appear shortly on our website!

Thanks Eli for sharing your new project with us, we can’t wait to follow the series and see more Cuban talent!

The following guest post is the final post in a series written by Rachel Jackson who is Global Exchange’s ‘Radical Oklahoma’ Reality Tours Trip Leader, which just ended. Read parts I, II, III, IV, and V of the story.

This Land is Your Land

Stage at Annual Woody Guthrie Festival.

This evening I am writing the last installment for the Radical Oklahoma – Red State Reality Tour from the Pastures of Plenty, just about stage center.  Right now at the 16th annual Woody Guthrie Festival, we’re listening to Griffin House from Springfield, Ohio, singing a song about who & where he comes from.  This is something Woody taught all of us to be proud of.  Sitting here tonight, after two days full of Okemah, in the long glow of a wide sunset, it’s easy to be proud of Oklahoma.

The last two days have been a whirlwind of song.  Hot as it is during the day, folks walking up and down West Broadway here in Okemah are pretty much bound to smile as they pass you on the sidewalk.  All the volunteers that make the festival happen, from urban hipsters to local old timers, love to stop and talk about the man who has inspired it all.  Musicians gather on the streets and play their hearts out.  This festival makes everyone feel good, like they belong, just like Woody would have wanted.

During the festival, the small town of Okemah swells with musicians, folk aficionados, unionists, and Okies from all over the country, both actual and honorary, who come to celebrate the life and legacy of Woodrow Wilson Guthrie.

Site of Woody Guthrie's childhood home on W. Birch St., Okemah, Oklahoma. Tree sculpture by Justin Osborn.

Site of Woody Guthrie’s childhood home on W. Birch St., Okemah, Oklahoma. Tree sculpture by Justin Osborn.

Another stop on the Okemah pilgrimage is the site of Woody’s childhood home, on a hill at the intersection of South 1st Street and West Birch.  The house is no longer there, but some of the stones from its first story still stand.  There is an effort to get the home rebuilt, but as it is, this spot, shaded by trees that were in the yard when Woody was a boy, seems to be a perfect and simple tribute.

Local folk artist Justin Osburn lives across the street. He is the artist who carved the only landmark on the home place’s site, a cedar tree trunk inscribed with Woody’s initials, “Okemah,” and “This Land is Your Land” along with a musical staff.

His yard, across the street from the Guthrie home place, is filled with woodcarvings for sale. Justin is full of local knowledge, everything from who-owns-what to god-knows-where.  He can point at any tree and tell you what kind it is, where it comes from, and how it got here.

That’s the kind of knowledge that comes from paying close attention to place, to the lives, histories, landscapes, and cultures that make a particular space happen. Oklahoma is its own set of stories, multiple narratives about and from the same swath of land.  Spending these last few days in the Indian Territory Triangle has taught us to look closer, past what we are told to see, to let go of what we think we know, and marvel at what we don’t.  If you think Oklahoma is homogenous, fly-over country, with little cultural or political relevance, you’d best think again.

Tonight, sitting stage center and listening to the music inspired by Woody Guthrie, I feel that it just might be the most important spot on earth– at least for me.

Rachel Jackson is a PhD Candidate and Dissertation Fellow at the University of Oklahoma in the Composition, Rhetoric, and Literacy Program, Department of English. She researches and theorizes the impact of suppressed local histories of resistance on Oklahoma’s current political identity. She is from Oklahoma.


mainFurthering the media frenzy following Jay-Z and Beyonce’s recent People-to-People cultural exchange to Cuba, a conversation has sprung up about travel to Cuba, through recorded and remixed lyrical songs.

Jay-Z started off with the first track “Open Letter.” In this freestyle rap, Jay-Z responds to some of the criticisms of the trip: “politicians never did sh-t for me/except lie to me, distort history.” In regards to the “legality” of traveling to Cuba he responds: “wanna give me jail time and a fine/Fine, let me commit a real crime.” Artist Common later contributed to a remix of the Jay-Z track, speaking to the political nature of discussion about Cuba, calling Cuba “a political triangle, Bermuda” and again states “it’s so political, I don’t trust figures.”

Cuban American artist Pitbull also crafted a response. While professing many sentiments common to the Miami anti-Castro establishment, such as hoping for a “free” Cuba, Pitbull also states: “I ain’t here to hold a grudge,” and tells Jay-Z and Beyonce not to worry about the trip, saying “it’s on me.”

Cuban Rap and R&B artist Danay Suarez

Cuban Rap and R&B artist Danay Suarez.

Importantly, Havana born Cuban artists Danay Suarez and Kokino also responded, speaking to their experiences as Cubans who have grown up on the island. Danay paints the Cuba she knows in complex terms where Cubans are “victimas de una libertad incompleta/victims of an incomplete liberty” and there are “millones de profesionales sin gloria/millions of professionals without glory.” She also sings that Havana is a very special place, “hay pocos sitios como la habana, se hace contacto directo con las personas/there are few places like Havana, where you make direct contact with the people,” and is “mi lugar preferido/my favorite place.”

Cuban rap artist Kokino. Photo by Tom Ehrlich.

Cuban rap artist Kokino. Photo by Tom Ehrlich.

Kokino takes on a fairly aggressive stance, criticizing Pitbull and by extension the Miami establishment, claiming “tu no has hecho nada para los cubanos/you haven’t done anything for Cubans.” He also expresses the sentiment that to understand Cuba, one must live the experience: “hay que estar presente/vivir donde vivimos/estar en la caliente/con apagones, con mas dolores,” translated as “one has to be present/live where we live/be in the heat/with the electricity blackouts, with the pain.” While acknowledging hardships in Cuba, Kokino expresses his own style of patriotism as well, saying “yo vine a comerme yuma/el yuma no me va a comer a mi,” translated as “I came to eat the U.S./the U.S. is not going to eat me.”

While the artists have different backgrounds and perspectives in regards to Cuba, common themes emerge. First, none of the artists, including the more conservative Pitbull, question the validity of traveling to Cuba or see it as an act that should be illegal as Miami hardliners would like to maintain. They also reference the role of politics in distorting U.S.-Cuba relations and in influencing representations of Cuba in the U.S. media. Ultimately, the media attention given to the trip and the commentary and questions raised by these artists allow the Cuba dialogue to move beyond the choir and to the general public. Together, we can amplify this conversation and make sure our voices are heard to demand a more sane and just policy towards Cuba! Will you help us spread the word?

Take-ActionTake Action!

Help us tell Beyonce, Jay-Z, and others with influence to join us, the people, in asking President Obama to end the embargo, lift the travel ban, and get Cuba off the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism. Share this post widely in your community by email, Facebook, and Twitter.