While Denisa Bratu and Gabriel Uifălean travelled to New York to represent the Romanian youth, they met Trevor Arnett, a young singer who realized out of the blue that the artistic world can play a major role in tackling global issues. Impressed by the way that his songs open a new window that shows a world that we often ignore, the Romanian UN Youth Delegate team decided to go a little bit deeper in Trevor’s story and share with you his experience as an artist who advocates for human rights.
Below you can read the interview given to Irina Preoțescu, Public Relations Adviser @UN Youth – Delegate Romania:
Irina Preoțescu: Tell us a little about yourself. How old are you? Where are you from? What do you study? What do you do in your free time?
Trevor Arnett: I’m 32 from Baltimore, Maryland (about 30 minutes from Washington DC). For undergraduate degree I studied mass communications as a major and sociology as a minor. For graduate degree I studied strategic communications. I also did a certificate program in media advocacy. In my free time I love to go to the beach, roller skate, and play video games.
I.P. : What sparked your interest in the Sustainable Development Goals?
T.A.: I’ve actually been working on issues that connect to the MDGs and SDGs for years, but never knew about the SDGs until 2016. So I wouldn’t actually say there was a spark, I rather found a United Nations mechanism under which to present the work I’ve already been doing and formalize my community engagement to be in line with the language of the UN.
I.P. : How did you start to perform songs that tackle important societal issues?
T.A.: In 2013, I happened to be at a health conference in Ethiopia where I met a guy by the name of William Otuck. He and I became very good friends through the years. Over time, he told me he was a singer and that he wanted to produce a demo song that young girls could perform; it had a message focused on lack of access to contraception and lack of access to education. We worked on a demo together and tried searching for female artist to perform it but we had no luck. I felt the song was really great and powerful and that we shouldn’t let it go to waste. I told him we should change the lyrics and perform it ourselves. So, what started out as us writing songs for others to use and perform, turned out to be the launch of our careers as advocacy artists.
I.P. : Where do you performs these songs? Where could people listen to the music you make?
T.A.: Since the end of 2015 I have been performing collaboratively with William Otuck as well as solo. We’ve had the opportunity to perform all over the world from USA to Indonesia to Denmark and more. Most recently, in the past six months we have been teaming up a lot with the United Nations. We’ve done multiple United Nations General events and the opening for UN Women’s CSW Youth as well as solo performances by me at both the 2016 Summer UN Youth Assembly and the 2017 Winter UN Youth Assembly. We have some tracks on Soundcloud and on Youtube.
I.P. : Which are the most important SDGs in your opinion? Are there other ways through which you are contributing to the UN 2030 agenda?
T.A.: I work on many of the SDGs like 3 (Good Health and Well-being), 4 (Quality Education), 5 (Gender Equality), 10 (Reduced Inequalities), and 17 (Partnership for Goals). I believe that the SDGs 5 and 10 are very important as meeting equality and reducing inequality is critical in reshaping the globe, but truly believe that SDG 17 is the most critical as it focuses on collaboration across disciplines, industries, and demographics to form comprehensive and strategic partnerships to meet all of the goals. Though we have individuals, entities, and subject expert groups working on each goal, we still cannot achieve them in isolation and goal no. 17 is to unite us among that commonality of reaching all goals.
I believe that the SDGs 5 and 10 are very important as meeting equality and reducing inequality is critical in reshaping the globe, but truly believe that SDG 17 is the most critical as it focuses on collaboration across disciplines, industries, and demographics to form comprehensive and strategic partnerships to meet all of the goals.
I.P. : Which is your favorite from all the songs you’ve composed? Why?
T.A.: It’s actually quite difficult to make this decision! Even though I am most well-known for my song called “Girls” I would have to say my favorite track is one called “Young and Alive”. It’s my favorite because the topics I discuss in my verse range from youth leadership to youth governance to youth employment. Also, a large part of my fan base is African and that track features two African artists, one of which happens to rap part of his verse in Swahili. I haven’t been able to perform it as much as I’d like (so many requests for “Girls” song), but “Young and Alive” is certainly my favorite.
I.P. : What are your plans for the future?
T.A.: Doing more music collaborations to expand the reach of my music is my primary focus. I have two major collaborations lined up. One with Tasya Kamila, Indonesian pop singer and SDSN Youth Ambassador, and another with Yvonne Chaka Chaka, South African soul singer and UN Goodwill Ambassador to South Africa. I am also currently managing a network of young people doing community development all over Africa. So, in addition to expanding the reach of my music, I’d like to provide more technical resources to the members of the network so that they may continue scaling their projects and initiatives.
Last but not the least, we are very happy to invite you to follow Trevor here!
The article was edited by Irina Preoțescu and Andreea Tătaru – PR advisers @UN Youth Delegate – Romania.