Friday, 27 February 2009

Derrick Ashong Thursday Touches Down in The UK & Heads Straight To Parliament

Derrick N. Ashong (aka DNA) a Ghanaian born Harvard graduate is an artist, activist and entrepreneur. DNA rose to prominence in 2007 during the American primaries when a reporter approached him outside the Kodak theatre in Los Angeles and began aggressively asking questions as to why he supports Obama. Many have accused the reporter of initially targeting Mr Ashong (who was dressed in jeans and a baseball cap) based on a preconceived stereotype that his attire must therefore equate to a lack of knowledge about Obama's policies, and that the real and only reason a Black man that looked like him could possibly support Obama is because of his race. If this was the case then boy did the reporter get it wrong!!! DNA owned the interview and has received over one million views on Youtube since! Very impressive for a guy who was just chilling by the roadside!

The security to get into parliament was very tight. Once through, my friend and I located the Grand Committee room (where the talk was held) and made our way to the front to take our seats. As we settled DNA came over, said hi and thanked us for coming. Dressed in his trademark casual attire consisting of jeans, top and his signature African choker he comes across as a very polite, warm character and has a presence that makes you feel instantly relaxed and at ease.

DNA's core theme centered on how art and the media can be used to facilitate positive change within society. He states: "Art and media can bridge the gap, teaching people how to embrace their own differences and commonalities". He goes on to talk about Africa and gives his perspective on why Africa is in it's current situation, adding: 'No society can develop without an understanding of it's own worth", he adds that for any country to develop the people must "believe they have the power to save themselves and believe there is something worth saving", both factors he feels are missing in large quantities throughout Africa and the Diaspora. What is impressive is that instead of just talking about the problems he also spends equal time discussing tangible and measurable solutions. DNA believes that there is an extremely important topic that seems to be neglected when discussing Africa and its development. That is that an overwhelming amount of natives that leave to go to foreign countries to learn new skills need to remember that they have a bigger obligation than just themselves, and put long term benefits over quick rewards by investing back into their native lands. I definitely agree that this area of discourse is not discussed as much as it should be.

One of the best parts of the talk for me was when Mr Ashong announced and explained the concept of a new reality TV show based on social responsibility. The unique show, which will be piloted on The Oprah Winfrey Show this summer, helps people deliver change within their society whilst teaching others to do the same. This is done by sending a production team to the successful candidates country and assisting them to make the change within 6 days. On the 7th day there will be a big party to celebrate the achievement and people from all over the world can tune in to watch the development live and interact . The great thing is that it empowers people of all ages and nationalities with the confidence to seek and deliver the change they want without having to solely rely on the government. Imagine extreme house makeover. Now, imagine extreme society makeover!

I left Parliament feeling very uplifted with an amazing sense of self-obligation that in order to change the things in society that i do not like i myself must stand up and do it. In the words of Derrick Ashong: "some of the changes we seek can be made by we the people."

This guy is definitely one to watch!!!

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