Meet the Celebrities Who Climbed Kilimanjaro to Awaken the World to a Water Crisis
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How do you draw the world's attention to a deadly global scourge? Call up your friends and climb a mountain (it could help if your friends are mega-celebrities and MTV wants to make a film about it.) This is how Kenna set out to illuminate the global clean water crisis. Calling it Summit on the Summit, the Grammy-nominated recording artist assembled a team of celebs, activists, and experts, including Jessica Biel, Emile Hirsch, Lupe Fiasco, Santogold, Alexandra Cousteau, and plenty more, to scale the punishing peak of Kilimanjaro, Africa's tallest mountain.
TreeHugger: Kilimanjaro is no joke. This is the tallest mountain in Africa--it's considered the tallest free-standing mountain in the world. What's it like to climb a beast like this?
Kenna: Hell comes to mind. Lupe Fiasco, who climbed with us, said that climbing to the top of Kilimanjaro was a crucible made in the pits of hell. It was not a comfortable thing to attempt. We all had reason to do it and a serious hope that we would all make it to the top, but we all knew there was a really good risk that we wouldn't be able to make it.
That's what this is about in the first place: doing something extreme to bring attention to something that has champions, but doesn't have a voice yet. The only way to do that really is to push the envelope and force some perspectives.
TreeHugger: I understand your father was a big source of inspiration for you in all this. Tell me about that, and why Kilimanjaro?
Kenna: I can start by saying that I tried to climb Kilimanjaro five years ago and I only got to 18,200 feet and ended up coming home. I went by myself, it was a personal mission of my own. It's a two-pronged inspiration because my dad had always wanted to climb Kilimanjaro. I went in the first place to fulfill my dad's dream in some vicarious way for him. But at the same time I did it to kickstart a journey for me on my album. And when I didn't get to the top I obviously had a vendetta with the mountain.
Then about three years ago my dad came to me and told me he had saved about $10,000 to go dig a well in Ethiopia, where I'm from. Of course I'm going to ask the question "why," since I had no real clue about the global clean water crisis. He shockingly explained that he had water-borne diseases when he was a child, and that his brother died, that his friends died, that his family members died. This was something that he felt very strongly about: getting clean water to children in Ethiopia.
I just ended up, first of all, feeling like a bad son for not knowing all this already, and then taking on a real fervor to figure out what this was about, if it was much wider-spread than just my dad's story. I learned a great deal about it and, with my vendetta, pushed it together into one strong agenda for making some noise for clean water.
TreeHugger: Tell me a little bit about this cast of characters you brought in to help you with this mission.
Kenna: It was a much more spiritual thing than trying to pull people together to just do something. It really came together on it's own. I would mention that I was going to go do this, hoping that I would actually just have a back-up of allies and possible funding from friends and supporting non-profits. It ended up being every time I would mention it, someone would volunteer. Jessica Beil volunteered. I mentioned it to Lupe Fiasco, he volunteered. In the beginning, Justin Timberlake was the first person to hear about it, and he volunteered first.