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Last week, in light of the controversy surrounding supermodel Naomi Campbell’s summons to testify in a war crimes trial for former Liberian President Charles Taylor, we published a piece comparing Campbell’s level of involvement in supporting “blood diamonds” with that of hip-hop mogul’s Russell Simmons. In the statement below, Simmons defends his stance on the diamond industry in Africa.

When the Blood Diamond movie hit theatres in 2006, I had a position about diamonds and Sub-Saharan Africa, and in 2010 as there continue to be issues surrounding diamonds fueling greed and oppression of Africa, I have a position about diamonds and Sub-Saharan Africa. As simply as I can state my position on this complicated issue is if you come from a land like Africa, rich in the natural resource of diamonds, you should not be poor. Africans should have opportunities to empower themselves through education. That is my vision which is shared by everyone associated with the Diamond Empowerment Fund, the non-profit I founded in 2007 with others in the international diamond and jewelry industry which is dedicated to empowerment through education for young Africans in diamond producing nations.

I am not here to defend the diamond industry, but it’s a fact that diamonds are an important natural resource for Africa, and an important industry for diamond-producing nations. As with all natural resources around the world, here are complicated, moral questions that surround their extraction and who stands to benefit. In 2006, President Nelson Mandela personally asked me to share with those who would listen that the diamond industry provides great benefit to his nation of South Africa. At that same time, President Festus Mogae of Botswana shared with me his perspective on the fundamental role the diamond industry has had in the development of his nation into one of Africa’s most highly educated, prosperous nations, and that was powerful information for me. Yes, I do believe diamonds do more good than harm for Africa, but there’s tremendous needs that must be addressed for the people in diamond producing nations to overcome extreme poverty.

There’s so much more that must be done to help, and the Diamond Empowerment Fund is at work every day to raise awareness within the industry that there’s big need in the communities where diamonds come from. There’s a great opportunity for enlightened self interest to help improve the lives of the people where this natural resource comes from that they’ve profited from for many years and I believe the way to help is through supporting education projects like CODA City Campus and African Leadership Academy, which are opening doors for young Africans to build productive futures.

We would welcome a true dialogue on these issues with the Atlanta Post, instead of the uninformed assumptions you are perpetuating about the motives for my views and actions around promoting the good for Africa that comes

from diamonds.

Russell Simmons

What do you think of Mr. Simmons’ stance? Let us know your thoughts and any questions you may have for Mr. Simmons and stay tuned for a follow-up interview with the music mogul.

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