Outspoken human rights advocate and film producer Thor Halvorssen sent a personal communication to rapper Nicki Minaj imploring her to cancel an upcoming concert in Angola. As president of the Human Rights Foundation (HRF), Thor Halvorssen states the dictator, Jose Eduardo dos Santos’ “policy to harass, imprison or kill politicians, journalists and activists who protest his rule,” as the reason for the boycott. Yet a $2 million dollar payment seems t have been hard to resist – as the show certainly did go on as scheduled. Despite the country’s extreme poverty, according to HRF, the dictator has gained a fortune exploiting Angola’s diamond and oil wealth.
Nicki Minaj herself grew up in extreme poverty on the Southside of Jamaica Queens, New York. Trusting that she would have an empathetic ear towards the plight of the people of Angola, Mr. Halvorssen reached out to Ms. Minaj in hopes of bringing attention to the country’s human rights indifference. Not to be singled out though, as Halvorssen points out, many other big name celebs continue to profit from performances in countries that are led by brutal regimes.
The Human Rights Foundation was founded by Halvorssen in 2005, yet he has been advocating for the rights of underprivileged societies since 1989 with loud opposition to South African apartheid. Graduating Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania did not shield him from suffering first hand the unfairness of political structures that seek to silence the peoples they govern and misuse their power. His father, a diplomat, was falsely accused and suffered torture in a Venezuelan jail, while his mother was shot while attending a peaceful political protest.
The HRF has successfully participated in attaining the release of seven dissidents, and has provided crucial information for major international human rights cases. They follow an untiring mission of freedom for individuals in closed societies rooted in a deep commitment to individual liberty in those areas that are most under threat. While the lure of a cash windfall for performances in countries such as these may seem harmless, imagine the spotlight to human suffering Nicki Minaj and others could bring in the fight against impoverishment.