Russell Simmons Hopes To Change The Negative View Of Africa’s Diamond Industry

The Simmons Jewelry Company introduced a plan Tuesday (Dec. 5) in New York, to

empower African communities where diamonds are a natural resource. Simmons

announced the establishment of the Diamond Empowerment Fund, hours after returning

from a nine day mission exploring the diamond industries of South Africa, and

Botswana. “I

have witnessed…that diamonds can be the difference between extreme poverty

and total stability," Simmons said "All of the HIV clinics, all the

hospitals, all the schools, all the civil servants, all the doctors, the lawyers

are funded by diamonds."The

Simmons Company’s delegation, which included Hip-Hop Action Summit Network

CEO Dr. Benjamin Chavis, found that contrary to frequent negative publicity, Africa’s

diamond industries are a critical aspect of these nations’ economies.

“I got to get

a first hand understanding of how the diamond industry contributes significantly

to the empowering of a lot of brothers and sisters in Africa where diamonds are

a natural resource," Dr. Chavis explained. Simmons

along with Dr. Chavis flew to Mozambique to meet with former South African President

Nelson Mandela, to better understand the needs of these communities rich in natural

diamond resources.

Jim Jones came out to support Simmons’ diamond initiative, wearing a large

diamond encrusted medallion. "As

rappers we spend tens of millions of dollars a year on jewelry alone," Jim

Jones told AllHipHop.com. "Not just me myself, I’m talking about as

a general effort. It’s a service that goes back to the African people that’s

been mining all the diamonds that we wear. We should learn about purchasing from

them, as opposed to just giving everybody our money because we like what we see.”

This

isn’t the first time that the Hip Hop community has been vocal about the

Diamond Industry. Kanye

West criticized the profits of conflict diamonds in his song “Diamonds from

Sierra Leon" and the Simmons Jewelry Company has maintained the use of conflict

free diamonds as well. Conflict

Diamonds, also known as Blood Diamonds, are used by rebel groups to fuel conflict

and civil war. Conflict

Diamonds have recently received increased attention, with this weeks’ release

of Leonardo DiCaprio’s latest film Blood Diamonds.

Simmons, disturbed by the negative media attention the industry is receiving,

would like to change the overall perception of Africa’s diamonds.

The company’s delegation, who accepted the Diamond Information Center’s

invitation to fact find, was accompanied by team of photographers and film producers.

“I’ve never,

ever had an agenda in any of my businesses bigger than lifting up my people,”

Simmons said in reaction to the criticism that was received for his support of

the diamond industry. “We tend to loose our focus. We have, a positive story

about African empowerment, about African self determination, about resources being

extracted as natural resources and beneficiation derived by local communities."

As a fund raising effort for the Diamond Empowerment Fund, the company has launched

a new line of jewelry called Green Initiative, from which twenty five percent

of the proceeds go to support the diamond communities. The

Diamond Empowerment Fund will support educational and skill development in schools,

colleges and other institutions throughout South Africa and Botswana.

Related Stories