The White Bead: Our Dreams Light the Future

Many of our jewelry designs include a special new pure white bead. Here’s the story.Ember Arts White Bead

The women we partner with in Uganda are more than just poor women who need a hand out of poverty. We believe that they are dreamers in the best sense. Dreamers who will envision brighter futures for their families and communities and then do the hard work of making those dreams into realities.

Uganda, it seems to us, is best served by the dreams of Ugandans. So in our work with our Ugandan partners, supporting their best dreams is our mission.

Likewise, America is best served by the dreams of Americans. Just like in Uganda, our families and communities need our best dreams. It is up to us to dream up ways to improve our homes, our neighborhoods, our cities, even our country. And it is up to us to do the hard work of making those dreams into realities.

That is what the new white bead on many of our designs means. It represents your dreams. And it represents how you are connected to the women in Uganda who made your jewelry by hand. And it reminds us that, together, our dreams light the future.

Ugandan Women Respond to Kony 2012

Kony 2012 Banner

Today I showed our Ugandan partners ‘Kony 2012′. For any who don’t know, ‘Kony 2012′ is a 30-minute film by Invisible Children that became the most viral video of all time, getting over 100 million views in about one week. It aims to rally US support to stop Joseph Kony, the leader of the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army that terrorized Uganda for two decades, and continues to terrorize three central African countries.

I wanted them to see the film because it impacts them more than it does me, and so their thoughts on the subject are valuable and can help guide my own.

During the 30-minute runtime their eyes were glued to the screen of my laptop. I have never seen them so attentive. At times they would whisper recognitions and explanations to each other. When Kony or LRA victims were shown they would often sound the unique tsk-tsk-tsk of Acholi displeasure.

When the film ended I asked them for their thoughts.

It was clear that the wounds of two decades of violence are still very tender. Women immediately started sharing stories of their own families – children lost to abductions, siblings lost to violence.

And this led to their first reaction to the film and its plan: it comes twenty years too late for Uganda. You can imagine the sting. America, the world’s great super power, finally awakens to your two decades of terror and loss, only after those decades are over, only after you have started the long, slow, painful work of healing and rebuilding. And finally now they want to stop Kony.

But beyond that reaction they saw that stopping Kony will save hundreds of thousands Congolese, Central African Republicers, and South Sudanese from the sort of pain that they and their families have been through.

The Ugandan government failed to stop Kony, they said. Indeed, it seemed unconcerned with stopping him. The local peace processes failed to bring an end to the violence. The only hope, they believe, is American support and military action. And at least one of them would rather Kony be killed on the spot than given the dignity of a trial.

But whether captured or killed, if Kony was stopped in 2012, they all agreed that there would be a deep collective sense of relief in northern Uganda. They still fear him. They are scared to this day that he and his terrorizing forces will return to Uganda. If Kony is stopped, they told me, all of northern Uganda will celebrate.

Reshape the Earth at Your Feet

This is a special collaboration between Ember co-founder James A. Pearson and our good friend Cody Small at Caava Design. James wrote the following words for our friends at Invisible Children. Cody was kind enough to incorporate them into the beautiful design below.

Have you ever walked up to the ocean, right where the waves are reaching up the sand, and just planted your feet? When a wave rushes back down the shore you can feel it trying to sweep you away. It tugs at your calves. It cuts grooves in the sand around your feet.

That wave is like history, and your life is a choice: either let yourself be swept away or take a stand. Being swept away is easy and fun, but eventually you will just disappear. Taking a stand is hard, but you will reshape the earth at your feet.

Reshape the Earth at Your Feet
Click the picture for the full-size, printable version.

Hope is Beautiful

Ember Arts - Hope is Beautiful

Hope is beautiful. Hope is courageous. Hope is what compels all of us to Dream.

We made this image for you. Use the click-thru link to download the full-size image.  Be reminded to be hopeful and courageous in your efforts to follow your dreams. Our dreams make the world a beautiful place.

The ‘Eighty Four’ Necklace, or Dreams as Development

Ember Arts Eighty Four Necklace

How do you help a poor country develop? Give them credit. Western-style education. More international trade.

This isn’t development, it’s duplication. When wealthy western donors envision a better Uganda or Haiti or Nicaragua, we see something that looks like America or Western Europe, just with a different ratio of skin-tones. It’s all we know.

Power imposes itself. The American lifestyle looks like paradise to most people. Can you imagine a small-plot farmer who wouldn’t like to trade his dirty, sun-baked, subsistence labor for the endless dance party he sees in American music videos? Or even the landcruiser-driving, bar-haunting life of the international development professional? It’s the best life he has ever seen.

I had a Ugandan friend in Gulu who worked with me for an American non-profit. When he got a promotion and a raise he invited me over to his apartment to show me his new satellite television, which flashed American action movies and music videos.

Development should not duplicate American prosperity. Development should fuel the unique prosperity of the people and place that seek to develop. This is a completely different process, and will have a very different outcome.

This sort of development takes a deep understanding of the culture, needs, and opportunities of a place, the sort of understanding usually found only in people who were born and raised there. When these people dream of a better home they aren’t envisioning a new America. They are dreaming of something totally unique, something that could only come from their people and their slice of earth.

Our partnership with the Ugandan women who make our jewelry is founded on them pursuing their dreams for their families and communities, rather than us pursuing our American version of a better Uganda.

Our new ‘Eighty Four’ necklace is symbolic of this commitment. Each of our 28 partners has shared 3 dreams they would like to accomplish. That’s 84 dreams in all. The necklace has 84 beads, one for each dream.

And we added one extra bead, a pure white one, to represent the dream of the woman who buys and wears the necklace, and how she is now connected to the women who made it.

Shop online by March 23 and 50% of your purchase will be donated to the non-profit Two Wings, in honor of Ember Hero Elena Bondar. Click here to shop.