As is so often the case, music and social consciousness are linking artists together. In this instance, composer and philanthropist Peter Buffett teams with rap and R&B star Akon to support social activism around the world.
The unlikely duo remixed and released Buffett's 2007 song "Anything," attributing lyrical content to questions of individual responsibility and small-scale activism. The song poses societal questions and inspires individuals to act.
"I think music can be a great catalyst for people," Buffet explains. "Music can move people like almost nothing else. The key is to have something tangible to do after you feel the urge to do something."
The song can be downloaded online from Buffett and Akon's Web site, IstheresomethingIcando.com. The site features Action Blogs to encourage users to share stories of struggle, concern and coalition. Blogs inform readers on local and international agencies working for change.
"We're in an interesting time. We are able to see what's going on around the world like never before. And I think that's energizing people to get involved again," Buffett says. "We're still ultimately driven by self-interest. But more and more we're realizing that much of what we do affects our community, our country, our planet. We can't just think about ourselves anymore."
The Web site dedicates efforts not to one particular cause but acts as an arena for online conversation about issues affecting local and global communities. The site's interactive design is the perfect starting place for individuals who want to act but don't know exactly where to begin.
"The Web site has a variety of links to portals for social action. It's a way for people to talk about their interests, favorite charitable organizations, other things on their mind that involve social action," Buffet says.
While Buffett is no stranger to charitable giving, his interest in global action increased after a recent visit to post-war Sierra Leone and Liberia.
"The spirit of the people is extraordinary," he says. "The city was completely torn apart by war and yet everyone is trying their best to make their way in the world. Somehow -- as cliche as it may sound -- hope really does survive there."
Akon, a Senegal native, saw footage of Buffett's trip to Africa and eagerly wanted to collaborate on a project to increase awareness and improve conditions throughout the global community.
"We were introduced by a mutual friend. I had no idea who he was! But he really liked my music and was really drawn to the song and its message," Buffett says.
Buffet, with his wife Jennifer, co-chair NoVo, a foundation funded by inheritances from billionaire investor and father Warren Buffett.
"It's an enormous responsibility to give away money effectively," he says. "And so I became socially active out of a responsibility to do the right thing with the gift that I was given."
The foundation focuses on diminishing inequalities for women and girls around the world and actively supports American Indian causes, environmental activism, services to central city communities and rebuilding in Sierra Leone and Liberia.
Buffett lived on Milwaukee's East Side for over 15 years and could possibly be one of the most generous central city philanthropists in Milwaukee's recent history. His charitable donations to Milwaukee are highlighted by a 2004 donation of over $1 million to the Next Door Foundation at Metcalfe Park.
OnMilwaukee.com staff writer Maureen Post grew up in Wauwatosa. A lover of international and urban culture, Maureen received a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
After living on the east side of Madison for several years, Maureen returned to Milwaukee in 2006.
After a brief stint of travel, Maureen joined OnMilwaukee.com as the city’s oldest intern and has been hooked ever since. Combining her three key infatuations, Milwaukee’s great music, incredible food and inspiring art (and yes, in that order), Maureen’s job just about fits her perfectly.
Residing in Bay View, Maureen vehemently believes the city can become fresh and new with a simple move across town.