Peace Bringer Spotlight
Peace Bringer Spotlight Honoree
Washington DC, USA
Mattie said we must “share peace” and we must “make peace a reality, by tending to the basic needs of others, and by reaching beyond one’s own family and community to gently touch the lives of other people who have needs — including the need for hope and peace.” This is how Mattie envisioned a person or community which exemplifies what it means to bring peace to others.
Omékongo Dibinga has been dedicated to Mattie’s dream of a bringing peace to our world since he first learned about him in 2004 when Mattie’s funeral was in the news. From that day forward, Mattie inspired Omékongo to continue to do whatever possible to be a force for peace in this world. Today, Omékongo uses his skills as an award-winning poet, rapper, diversity educator, and motivational speaker to empower audiences across the globe to take control of their destiny, and to help others do the same. His work has appeared on radio and television in more than 150 countries.
In 2011, Omékongo joined the Board of Directors of Mattie’s Foundation and shortly thereafter penned a poetic rap song in honor of Mattie. Titled “Moved By a Messenger,” 0ne hundred percent of the proceeds from the song go to support Mattie’s Foundation and the mission of peace.
Now, as we celebrate individuals and groups who share peace through poetry and the performing arts, the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation honors Omékongo Dibinga as our Peace Bringer Spotlight Honoree for our April-May post.
Below are Omékongo’s responses
to our interview questions.
What would you like to share about yourself?
My name is Omékongo Dibinga, but I also enjoy being known as “Young M.A.Y.A. Angelou.” I am a husband and the father of two girls, who I hope will “Remember to play after every storm!” as Mattie inspired.
I earned an M.A. in International Affairs from the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy and received my undergraduate degree from Georgetown University.
Currently, I am working on my doctoral student in International Education Policy at the University of Maryland. I have also studied at Harvard, Princeton, Morehouse, MIT, the University of Johannesburg and the University of Dakar.
Tell us a bit about your professional peace work.
I am the founding Director of UPstander International, and advocacy organization for youth and others. I use my skills as a rapper, poet, and youth motivational speaker to empower my fellow global citizens. My favorite subject in school was history. I love writing poetry and rap songs.Helping empower people to be upstanders and not bystanders is my job
I believe that my mission in life is to be an UPstander, not a bystander, to the challenges we face in society — from bullying and homophobia to racism and genocide, and everything in between. And I want to bring this message to others through my personal and professional life.
I am also a proud Board Member of the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation and I have served on the Board of the OrigiNation Cultural Arts Center.
I’ve been part of some cool projects, and am the author of a number of books and CDs, including G.R.O.W. Towards Your Greatness!, Poems from the Future, Pride in MY Stride, From the Limbs of my Poetree, and Put Your Shoes On! Recently I worked on an album collaboration with Sheryl Crow, Norah Jones, Angelique Kidjo, Damien Rice, and Mos Def. The album is called “Raise Hope for Congo” and is designed to raise awareness about the tragic crisis taking place in central Africa.
Tell us about peace in your personal life.
I fight for the rights of the underserved. Whether it’s writing songs for girls being killed in India and China simply because they are girls, or providing inspiration for inmates in prison, I do my best to help show the value of humanity.
I have been fighting for peace in the Congo for as long as I can remember. I also travel across America and the globe to K-12 schools and colleges to provide motivation. I work with teachers to help them reach marginalized students in their schools.
One of my personal goals is to use my music to educate new audiences on some of the crises in the world. I believe that the hip-hop community is an untapped resource for global peace but our music is often vilified rather than celebrated for the good.
Through Jeni and the collaborative work of Mattie’s Foundation with the We Are Family Foundation, I learned about the Three Dot Dash international youth peace initiative. In 2012 and again this year, I have chosen to serve as a yearlong mentor to a Global Teen Leader who participates in the annual Just Peace Summit (based on Mattie’s final book). I am very proud to be working with Sophie Umazi Mvurya of Kenya, and now Sheila Chukwulozie of Nigeria, and they develop peace projects that tend to basic human needs.
How did you learn about Mattie and our Foundation?
Unfortunately, I had not heard of Mattie until I saw his funeral on TV. What’s even sadder is that he literally lived down the street from me. But once I became aware of his life and peace mission, I became committed to learning as much about him as I could.
I made it my purpose to learn how I could continue his mission and legacy. I was so amazed at his compassion for humanity that he demonstrated at such a young age. I really wish he was still here today. We still need his guidance.
I learned about the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation by following the work of “Mattie’s Mom” — Jeni Stepanek. It is an honor to actually be involved with Mattie’s mission and the Foundation at this level of serving on the Board of Directors.
As a Board Member, my goal is to use my networks to help increase outreach for the Foundation. I made the choice to be on the Board because I wanted to help spread Mattie’s message to the best of my ability. I even wrote a rap song for Mattie in order to pay tribute (see below for more information). I am donating one hundred percent of the proceeds from the song downloads to Mattie’s Foundation in an effort to promote his message of hope and peace.
Any other thoughts you would like to share?
It’s nothing short of an honor to be recognized as a Peace Bringer Spotlight by Mattie’s Foundation — Merci!!! I don’t do my work for awards. Recognition is nice, but it’s not my goal. At the same time however, this recognition shows me that I am indeed following in Mattie’s footsteps, though he has big shoes to fill!
It is my hope that through this recognition, I can feature and further promote the song I wrote for Mattie. It can be downloaded through the link below or through iTunes. Every cent from this song goes straight to Mattie’s Foundation so that I can help bring Mattie’s vision of hope and peace to others, and make it a reality for our world.
(Click on the image below to enlarge)
Thank you, Omékongo,
for being a Peace Bringer.
Click on the links below to learn more about how
Omékongo brings peace to others:
Click on image to enjoy another poem by Omékongo