Earlier this year, the bulk of the music blogosphere had M.I.A. up on a whipping post for her ostentatious behavior and hypocritical viewpoints regarding her politics. She was an easy, if not well deserved target and the whole “Truffle-gate” fiasco — however overblown it may have been — raised many questions as to where the line between politics and pop music should be drawn. Can pop music be a platform for intelligent political discourse, or is it just a laypersons’ means for digestible agit-prop hooks? Maybe the true test of authenticity is to put your money where your mouth is, and if one pop celebrity has done exactly that, it’s Wyclef Jean. He’s running for President of Haiti.
Time Magazine reports that the Wyclef Jean will announce his candidacy soon for the Haiti presidential election to be held on November 28th. Jean plans to publicly declare his spot on the ballot ahead of the August 7th deadline, though it is not official when or where he will do so.
“If not for the earthquake, I probably would have waited another 10 years before doing this,” Jean told Time Magazine. “The quake drove home to me that Haiti can’t wait another 10 years for us to bring it into the 21st century.”
Even before Janurary’s devastating Earthquake in Haiti, Jean operated numerous (alright, sometimes dubious) philanthropic ventures whose goals were focused on the betterment of Haiti and its people. The Wyclef Jean Foundation or the Yéle Haiti Foundation have steadily supported education, culture, and sustainability in Haiti’s towns throughout the aughts. The Yele Haiti Foundation’s website boasts that the Jean, a “social entrepreneur”, has created “over 3,000 new jobs, close to 7,000 children being put in school, more than 8,000 people a month receiving food and approximately 2,000 young people a month learning about HIV/AIDS prevention.” Not a bad resume for a high political office.
So out steps Wyclef Jean into the political spotlight, and he’s here to galvanize the youth of Haiti, Haitian-Americans, the U.S-led international donor community for to continue syphoning funds into Haiti, and the many fans of his music. He’s now placed himself on a short list of musicians and artists who perform their actions both on stage and off. Win or lose, Jean’s political move is an example of ascribing true meaning to an artist’s career.
“If I can’t take five years out to serve my country as President,” Jean says, “then everything I’ve been singing about, like equal rights, doesn’t mean anything.”
Photo credit: Peter Hapak for TIME