Photo: Vanessa Vick
During my visit, I stop in at the Hadassah Primary School on Nabugoye Hill, an area where many of the cooperative farmers live. As I enter the compound, Jewish, Muslim, and Christian students, boys and girls alike, welcome me with calls of "Hello!" "Shalom!" "How are you?" "Shalom!" In each class I ask the children to raise their hands if their families grow coffee. Nearly all of them do, their faces bright, their uniforms crisp, if a bit scuffed from playing.
I couldn't help but smile, knowing that the rich cup of black coffee I'd nursed in the morning was partly the reason some of them were in that classroom, why they had lunch and mosquito nets, why they were understanding the mosaic of religions around them.
JJ offers to play me one of the songs he wrote to urge people to plant coffee again and grow it organically. "Music is often one of the best ways to communicate in these small villages," notes Rabbi Jeffrey Summit, an ethnomusicologist who helped bring JJ and Sinina to the United States this year to accept the Dr. Jean Mayer Global Citizenship Award from Tufts University. "They sing about the dangers of AIDS; they sing about fair trade, and planting quality coffee, and the impact of getting a good price."
I've traveled the world and seen nothing so good as coffee, JJ sings, strumming on his little guitar. Our only solution is to grow coffee. Brothers and sisters come, grow coffee.
"It is simple to cause peace," JJ explains. "We use what we have to make our enemies into our friends. You don't need PhDs. We have coffee."
We Hear You!