A YouTube star goes to Kibera and uncovers a bunch of creative minds changing the future.

Jamal Edwards MBE picked up a camera at 15 and started filming. A few years later, he'd built one of the most successful YouTube channels EVER.

Hi, Jamal. Image via Jamal Edwards.


There's a reason he's considered one of the United Kingdom's most successful young entrepreneurs! He even got to interview Prime Minister David Cameron.

Today, his channel and broadcasting company SBTV highlights underground music artists and is expanding into other content. It's said to have even helped launch the career of radio favorite Ed Sheeran. #Swoon.

Recently, Jamal put his camera in a much different light.

He packed his bags and headed to Nairobi, Kenya, with Action/2015 to talk to some of the creative young people who live there in the slum of Kibera.

I tell you what: They know what's up.

GIFs via action/2015.

Kibera is considered one of the largest slums in the world. Many residents live on less than a few bucks a day. A lot of kids who live there can't afford to go to school or even see a doctor.

You'd think the opportunities in a place like Kibera would be pretty grim, but when you see it — really see it through the eyes of Jamal — it looks a little more hopeful.

They are young people doing what they can to change Kibera. And Jamal helped to document them.

There are young people in Kibera who have founded dance schools with libraries and study rooms.

Dance AND learning! A great combo.

Others are using drama and performance to raise awareness of the issues they face.

Bring on the drama, bring on the change.

They are finding creative ways to break through the barriers that have stopped so many before them. They're paving their own futures — some as young as sixth grade!

These young people know what it's going to take for them to succeed, and they're calling on world leaders to help make it happen.

They've got good timing, too.

World leaders are coming together this year to announce a new set of Global Goals to tackle the most urgent issues of our time: poverty, inequality, and climate change.

Action/2015 is right there to make sure it happens. It's made up of 2,020 organizations around the world — joined by Jamal, Kibera youth, and, hopefully, you.

Because turning words like this around is actually possible: "The problem in Kibera is school dropout. Most girls do get pregnant and drop out from school."

But change has to happen first.

One successful YouTube star isn't going to change the course of history. But all of us together can. Here's how you can take action with Action/2015 and how some of Kibera's young people are doing their part:

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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

RELATED: This aboriginal Australian used kindness and tea to trump the racism he overheard.

Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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