A conversation on Celebrity and international development, featuring Dikembe Mutombo, Wyclef Jean, Yele, and Marc Pollick
Born Neluset Wyclef Jean on Oct. 17, 1972, in Haiti, Wyclef Jean is a Grammy-winning musician and record producer.
Jean moved with his family to Brooklyn, N.Y., before moving again to northern New Jersey. In 1994, he married Fusha designer Marie Claudinette. In 2005, they adopted their daughter, Angelina Claudinelle Jean. The couple renewed their vows in August 2009.
Jean’s musical breakthrough was as part of the Fugees, a three-member group that included Lauryn Hill and Prakazrel “Pras” Michel. Jean is Pras’ cousin and a fellow Haitian immigrant. The Fugees’ debut album, Blunted on Reality, peaked at No. 49 on the U.S. Hot 100 and sold 2 million-plus copies worldwide. The follow-up album, The Score, sold more than 18 million copies worldwide, eventually becoming a multiplatinum, Grammy-winning album.
Jean has released eight solo albums since 1997, with another due to be released in 2010. He has collaborated with artists from Mary J. Blige, Timbaland and Celia Cruz to Cyndi Lauper, Kenny Rogers and Earth, Wind and Fire. He also covered the Creedence Clearwater Revival song “Fortunate Son” for the soundtrack of the 2004 remake of The Manchurian Candidate and wrote the song “Million Voices” for the film Hotel Rwanda.
In 2005, Jean was the main force behind establishing the Yéle Haiti foundation. In its first year of operation, the foundation, with funding by Comcel, provided scholarships to 3,600 children in Gonaïves, Haiti, after the devastation by Tropical Storm Jeanne. Since then, the foundation has grown its programs to include mobilizing community, delivering food and water, offering grants to smaller NGOs, training teachers, repairing schools, planting trees, feeding children in schools, organizing sports teams, supporting arts programming, and giving scholarships to 4,500 children and a dozen college students, among many others.
His uncle, political activist, journalist and diplomat Raymond Alcide Joseph, has been the Haitian ambassador to the United States since 2005. Together, Jean and Joseph appealed for international aid following the devastating January 2010 Haiti earthquake.
On Feb. 26, 2010, Jean won the Vanguard trophy from the NAACP for his humanitarian efforts on behalf of his native Haiti. Jean received his award at the 41st annual NAACP Image Awards and dedicated it to “all of those people you all don’t see working on the ground in Haiti and in America.”
The following night, Feb. 27, the Harvard Foundation of Harvard University named Jean its 2010 Artist of the Year. He received the group’s most prestigious medal at the annual Cultural Rhythms award ceremony.
Since the January 2010 Haiti earthquake, Yéle Haiti has redoubled its efforts in Haiti, working with 34 tent camps and other communities across the country. Included among the thousands of relief items Yéle has distributed are 84,000 hot meals, 14,400 items of canned and packaged food, 2 million gallons of bulk water (soon expanding to 1 million gallons a month), 32,850 bottles of water, 270,310 nutrition bars (donated by Clif Bar and Nature’s Path), more than 2,500 care bags with personal toiletries and assorted items, 8,455 items of new and used clothing and more than 1,500 pairs of new and used shoes, 1,000 pairs of new boots (donated by Timberland), 2,000 pairs of new shoes (donated by TOMS Shoes), 1,240 windup flashlights (donated by Eton through the efforts of Timberland) and 2,500 solar radios (donated by Eton through the efforts of Timberland).
In addition, Yéle has launched Yéle Vert, a reforestation program co-sponsored by Timberland; will further expand Yéle Corps, a jobs-creation and vocational-training program; has plans to build Yéle Kitchen, a jobs-creation and vocational-training program that will also provide food for the needy; and is in the beginning stages of providing temporary housing that has been designed to withstand hurricanes and earthquakes.
On Aug. 5, 2010, Jean relinquished his leadership role in the organization. The following day, he announced that he will make a bid for the presidency of Haiti in the country’s upcoming November election.
NBA Legend DIKEMBE MUTOMBO was born in the capital city of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Mutombo is the seventh of ten children born to Samuel and the late Biamba Marie Mutombo. He arrived in the United States in 1987 on an academic scholarship to attend Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. In his second year at Georgetown, Coach John Thompson invited the 7'2" Mutombo to try out for the university's renowned basketball team. After joining the team, Mutombo re-directed his pre-med ambitions and graduated from Georgetown with dual degrees in Linguistics and Diplomacy. He played professional basketball for 18 years before retiring from the Houston Rockets in 2009. Mutombo is fluent in nine languages, including five African languages. Mutombo is the first Youth Emissary for the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and he also served on the Advisory Board for the Fogarty International Center at the National Institutes of Health and presently serves on the boards of UNICEF, National Constitution Center and Opportunity International. In 2009, Mutombo was appointed as the NBAâ€™s first Global Ambassador.
In December 2007 and at a cost of $29 million, the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital opened in the Congo. Named in memory of Mutomboâ€™s beloved mother, the hospital has treated over 70,000 men, women and children.
After graduating from the University of Chicago, Mr. Pollick subsequently earned graduate degrees in Social Science, East European Jewish History, and Holocaust Studies. He pursued his doctoral studies at Boston University under the direction of Professor Elie Wiesel, winner of the 1986 Nobel Prize for Peace. He lectures often throughout the United States and Israel, and has taught courses on The Holocaust at the high school and university levels. In 1982, Pollick was appointed Founding Executive Director of the Zachor Institute for Holocaust Studies in Miami, Florida. One year later, he created and hosted the cable TV series, â€œWe Remember.â€ He has twice led student groups to Holocaust sites in Eastern Europe, and in 1983, led the first-ever group of children of Holocaust survivors on a â€œJourney of Conscienceâ€ to Eastern Europe and Israel. In 1989, he served as a senior researcher for the permanent exhibition of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Prior to founding The Giving Back Fund in February 1997, Marc Pollick was the Assistant Director of the Center for Jewish Studies at Harvard University and the Founder of The Elie Wiesel Institute for Humanitarian Studies.Working with Wiesel, Mr. Pollick came to appreciate the unique power and opportunity inherent in leveraging celebrity and wealth on behalf of philanthropy. He formulated the idea for an organization that would work with celebrities to use their fame for the common good, and in 1997 he established The Giving Back Fund (GBF) to provide philanthropic management and consulting to professional athletes and entertainers. By concentrating on celebrities, Mr. Pollick sought to diversify the typical donor base to include people of color, women, and young people, groups often underrepresented in traditional philanthropy. The first athlete with whom GBF consulted was Boston Celtic Captain Dee Brown, followed soon after by BC legend and NFL Quarterback Doug Flutie, and performing artists Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake. Pollick contributes frequently to major periodicals on the topic of philanthropy and writes a regular column on sports philanthropy for Street and Smithâ€™s Sports Business Journal. Pollick was recently recognized for his achievements as a recipient of the 2004 University of Chicago Alumni Award for Public Service. Upon receiving the award, Pollick commented, â€œFor me, the University of Chicago was not just a college. It was the impetus for a radical shift in my lifeâ€™s direction. Every assumption I had prior to arriving in Hyde Park was challengedâ€”from what is important in life, to what constitutes an educated person. As an undergraduate, I discovered role models who would become lifelong heroesâ€”in the persons of Jonathan Kozol, Jesse Owens (who tutored me in the long jump!), Rabbi Harold Kushner, and Elie Wiesel. I learned not only how to think, but how to employ that thought process to produce significant actions. I vividly remember coming to college as a freshman knowing that I wanted to change the world but not having a clue where to start. Without a doubt, the relationships I developed at UC and the influences I absorbed have directly equipped and enabled me to fulfill my freshman goal of wanting to make the world a bit better. I was profoundly altered by my UC educationâ€”in the classroom, on the athletic field, and in the dorms. The Giving Back Fund is the professional manifestation of that treasured experience.â€