FROM ACT NOW: On September 22, 1961, President John F. Kennedy signed into law the act mandating a countrywide service corps “to advertise world peace and friendship.” Fifty years later, greater than 200,000 American Peace Corps volunteers have served in 139 countries all over the world. I’M a type of volunteers.
Having grown up in a post 9/11 world, I ACTUALLY do believe that if you are not a part of the answer you’re a part of the issue. And so I’ve done my best to be informed as much in regards to the history, culture, language, and religion of North Africa and the center East as possible. I studied Islam and Arabic in college. I spent a semester in Cairo, Egypt. And that i now live in Goulmima, Morocco, as a Peace Corps volunteer.
On the surface, Goulmima, Morocco, is the exact opposite of my hometown of Annapolis, Maryland. Annapolis sits at the Chesapeake Bay, is home to the united states.. Naval Academy, and is a brief drive from Washington, D.C. Goulmima is small oasis town at the fringe of the Sahara Desert. Of Goulmima’s 30,000 residents, three are white, and one is American. Me. The language is a mix of Berber, Moroccan Arabic, and French.
The religion is different. The food is different. The garments are different. The pace of life is different.
But the folks are the similar. Goulmima individuals are hospitable within the same way they’re in small town America. They would like the similar things Americans do: education, jobs, and to support their families. And in some cases, they’re inspired by the similar music: hip-hop.
I met the Louk Omar, Mnilik Irm Mohammed, and Klay (aka Joundi Smail Hafidi) here two years ago. They walked into my English class wearing flat brimmed Yankee caps, Kanye West sunglasses, baggy jeans and hooded sweatshirts. Their mobile phones were constantly blasting Jay-Z, Kanye and Eminem. They called themselves S7rawa Boys (pronounced “SaHArawa”), and told me they desired to be hip-hop stars.
I was skeptical in the beginning. I USED TO BE afraid that these guys had embraced a simplified, possibly distorted picture of yank culture. I expected them to rap at me about drugs, making money, and getting with girls. Then they told me about their their rhymes, and that i discovered I USED TO BE wrong.
In “Full Stop,” the chorus lists a sequence of gear in French (“Cigarettes, nicotine, heroin, ecstasy, cocaine”) after which in English says “QUIT SMOKING and lets do it!”
In “Get Up,” the refrain “STAND UP! Change your life with us!”
“We like Eminem because he talks about real life, and real problems,” Louk told me.
“We rap about putting an end to smoking and drug use, stopping corruption, ending the racism between Berbers and Arabs, and discrimination between rich and poor.”
S7rawa Boys asked me to help them with their hip-hop dream. They’d written songs, mixed beats, and recorded music before I met them. So I’ve tried to supply them with drive and direction to succeed in their vision. I encouraged them. I helped them set deadlines, and record and distribute their first, self-titled album. We worked together to make use of the internet to distribute their songs by creating Facebook and Soundcloud pages.
“Xavier has taught us many stuff about America and life,” Mnilik says. “He improved our English. He taught us how one can throw an American Football. And he taught us to prepare our time and concentrate on the finishing our first CD.”
It took some time, however the community has responded.
“At first some people in Goulmima responded negatively to our music,” Mnilik explained. “THEY DID NOT understand rap or hip hop. They didn’t know our music might be positive. But we’ve explained our songs. Now we have a catchy hook, good beat, and a good message. People like our music. The bottom line is that they understand the message.”
“We have realistic career goals for our future, reminiscent of being an electrician, gym teacher, or construction worker,” Joundi says. “But we also dream of recording in a qualified studio and singing in front of tens of thousands of individuals. If successful as a rap team, we wish to travel the arena and feature a good influence on how people treat each other.”