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Love Diamonds Empower Africa

citizen | 6/7/2011, 8:30 a.m.
by Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr....
Nelson Mandela asked Russell Simmons and Dr. Benjamin Chavis Jr. to help better inform the world of the good that the diamond industry has done and needs to continue to do for the development and progress of Africa. Photo by Brett Weinstein

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Dr. Benjamin Chavis, Jr. at the 5th Annual Hip-Hop Summit Action Network's Action Awards in New York City in February 2008. Photo courtesy of CPX Interactive

by Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. NNPA Columnist

I continue to be blessed with the opportunity to work directly with Russell Simmons, that extraordinarily successful global entrepreneur and philanthropist. Over the past 20 years or more, I have observed how Simmons continues to grow and evolve in terms of his caring, consciousness, and a commitment to good corporate social responsibility. Ten years ago we co-founded the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network (HSAN). Then later we co-founded the Diamond Empowerment Fund (DEF) along with others from the jewelry and diamond industry. This mission of DEF as a global nonprofit organization is to raise money to support educational initiatives that develop and empower people in African nations where diamonds are a natural resource.

I am writing this column from Las Vegas, Nevada while attending the 2011 JCK Vegas Show, the premiere annual trade show of the jewelry and diamond industry. It is amazing to see thousands of business leaders from throughout the international supply and production chain of the industry gather to display the best practices and products. While in Vegas, I was reminded, however, of what Russell Simmons said about diamonds, after our fact-finding mission to Africa five years ago. Russell affirmed, "Diamonds equal love."

James Baldwin, more than anyone, helped me to understand the power and responsibility to use the pen as an instrument of social change and consciousness raising. That is exactly the reason why I have now decided to write about "Love Diamonds."

What is a love diamond? A love diamond is a diamond that is not only "conflict-free," but also it is a diamond that empowers the people from where the diamond was extracted. In other words, when a consumer purchases a diamond, that consumer should want to know with confidence and certification that the purchase of that specific diamond will in fact contribute something back to the economic uplift, education, and empowerment of the people where that diamond was originally mined.

The Kimberly Process (KP) was established as an inter-governmental joint industry process to ensure the sale of conflict-free diamonds. As we learned from participating in a recent World Diamond Council panel on the KP, it is not a perfect process, but it is a much needed process that is being strengthened to greater ensure the distribution and sale of conflict-free diamonds that in turn brings more economic sustainability to diamond producing nations.

A love diamond represents the love and affection of the giver to the receiver. A love diamond gives love. A love diamond represents the luxury of giving to others. A love diamond also represents the love and care for improving the quality of life of the people where diamonds come from. A love diamond helps to transform the wretched rough of the earth into precious jewels of humanity.

Wow! Some would say this writing sounds more like poetry than prose. It is poetry! A poet takes license to make love using words.

A love diamond represents the love of African people, and the love of all people throughout the world. Thus a love diamond transcends race and class whereby a common good and well being for all people is engendered. Nelson Mandela asked Russell and me to help better inform the world of the good that the diamond industry has done and needs to continue to do for the development and progress of Africa. We are keeping our commitment to Mandela through DEF by raising global awareness and financially supporting students at the CIDA City Campus (College) in Johannesburg, the African Leadership Academy from across Africa, and the Botswana Top Achievers Program.

Symbolically, a love diamond is displayed on the iconic "DEF Green Bracelet" that is being worn by some of the worlds top fashion models and numerous other high profile celebrities. The "DEF Green Bracelet" was first produced by the Simmons Jewelry Company to raise money to support DEF's scholarships for African college students. To date the sale of the "DEF Green Bracelet" has raised nearly one million dollars for DEF beneficiaries.

I agree, wholeheartedly, with Russell Simmons' inspired formula that "Diamonds equal Love." Today Africa needs more economic development. Let's work harder today to show Africa more love. Let's help provide more higher education opportunities for African students. Beneficiation of love diamonds will continue to make a positive difference.

Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. is Senior Advisor to the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) and President of Education Online Services Corporation.