Chris Cornell used his influence to help children and refugees. That's a rock star move.

The Soundgarden and Audioslave singer died at age 52.

Blessed with the voice of an angel, it's easy to forget Chris Cornell had the heart of one as well.

On May 17, 2017, the singer known for his work with bands like Soundgarden and Audioslave died a "sudden and unexpected" death following a Detroit concert. Cornell's death is being reported as an apparent suicide, leaving behind his three children and wife, Vicky.

As a rock star, he influenced the lives of millions with his art. Lesser known, however, is the life-changing work he did for others offstage.


A 2015 portrait of Cornell. Photo by Casey Curry/InVision/AP.

In April of this year, Cornell traveled to Greece to help refugees. That's just the kind of man he was, using his own resources to help others.

On April 10, Page Six reported Cornell departed from the London premiere of a film to go to an Athens refugee camp.

While there, Cornell met "refugee families and [heard] firsthand the harrowing stories of their escapes, the separation of children from their parents and the stress and uncertainty of day-to-day life," the news outlet reported.

Since 2012, Cornell helped lead the Chris & Vicky Cornell Foundation, a charity dedicated to raising funds to support children facing homelessness, abuse, poverty, and neglect. He'd often set aside a portion of his tour income to go toward the foundation, which would then go to support a variety of child-specific causes.

In the weeks leading up to his death, Cornell was making the rounds on TV shows ranging from "CBS This Morning" to NBC's "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon" performing the title track from "The Promise," a film about the Armenian genocide, an issue close to his heart. All proceeds from the song's sales go to the International Rescue Committee.

The man who inspired countless people to pick up a guitar and start singing can help inspire the world to do something just as important: pay it forward.

"I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time to make a career doing something I love," Cornell said, according to a story with Alternative Nation. "Not every kid gets those opportunities. I’m in a fortunate position to use music to support important causes that help foster change."

If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

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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."

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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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