A note from WITNESS: From the protest songs of South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle to Latin America’s nueva canción artists who sang in support of social movements, music has a long history of bringing people together, and rallying them around a cause. With the advent of music videos, musicians became visual artists as well.  And some of these artists are using this doubly powerful genre to fight back against the world’s human rights abuses. The Human Rights Channel, is recognizing these human rights defenders in a weekly series called “Rhythm and Rights.” On future Fridays, we’ll be adding a new music video to the playlist, highlighting artists who use their talents to highlight important issues.

Emmanuel Jal is inaugurating this series. He recently performed at WITNESS’ 20th Anniversary Gala, moving people to dance and to take action. And he’s doing so once again with “We Want Peace,” his newest hit.

By Emmanuel Jal
Emmanuel Jal performs for WITNESS supporters

I was a war child in the Sudan.  Now I am a peace soldier. The difference for me between love and hate, war and peace, was education. I was saved by one woman who cared and dared to make a difference. I believe I survived for a reason – to teach. To be an example of change and an example of peace.

As a child soldier I was a given an AK-47 and told that in order to survive, I had to hate. I am blessed that my experience since that time has taught me exactly the opposite.  My story is no different than the endless number of children who are victims of injustice every day. My journey as an advocate, writer and musician, has given me the opportunity to share my story – all in the quest for peace.

“We Want Peace,” a track I recorded a year ago, has a simple goal: to raise awareness of the fundamental principles of justice and equality through the power of music.  The song started as a simple idea stemming from all of the incredible support from individuals and organizations that I am blessed to know and work with. One thing was very clear – people really DO want peace – NOT war and injustice. For me, “We Want Peace” was a simple response to create an anthem that was easy to sing along to.

The original “We Want Peace” video has received tremendous support and has reached over 300,000 people worldwide.  Through “We Want Peace – Reloaded,” we hope to reach even more potential peace soldiers.

We’ve had such incredible support from people like Peter Gabriel, (who plays strings on the track), Alicia Keys, George Clooney, Jimmy Carter, Kofi Anan. With help from them and and so many more, the topic has inspired a diverse range of US based artists to jump on board to help make the “RELOADED” track.  With new lyrics by legendary Hip Hop artist, Darryl “D.M.C” McDaniels, additional support from members of Dispatch, Das Racist, O.A.R.  and Ringo Starr – we really took this track to the next level.  The video itself would never have been possible without the gracious support of Anna Gabriel, who helped to create both versions.

Now, more than ever, we need to work together to support peace. This includes the efforts of organizations like WITNESS who will ultimately help to make the world a better place for us all.

Find out more at www.wewantpeace2012.org

Emmanuel Jal is musician, actor, and advocate from South Sudan. His latest single – “We Want Peace,” from his newly released 4th album See Me Mama, is heavily influenced by his background.

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