Remembering Adam Yauch, with Respect

In the post-1959 period a new expression took birth among Tibetans in exile reflecting the importance of nurturing the next generation. Young Tibetans were referred to as “seeds of future Tibet” and given lots of advices on the responsibility that the nomenclature came with.

A generation has changed since then but the term is still used as a slogan to encourage the younger Tibetans to be actively involved in their community, whether politically, socially, culturally or even spiritually.

I recalled this when I read the sad news about the untimely passing away of Adam Yauch, he of the Beastie Boys fame. I have had the privilege of meeting him and working with him in the course of my responsibilities at the International Campaign for Tibet. If there is any organization or individual that has single handedly shaped the mindset of a large number of youngsters regarding Tibet, that would be Adam. Helped by his colleagues, Adam used the power of music and the energy of the young Americans (and subsequently youngsters in many parts of the world) to pay attention to the plight of the Tibetan people and the injustice taking place in Tibet.

The most radical change, if you will, took place with the establishment of the Milarepa Fund and its organization of a series of Tibetan Freedom Concerts. I saw the concert held in Washington, D.C. in 1998 at close quarters. Not just the concert goers, but even nature seemed to have been energized that afternoon, what with an unexpected storm and lightning strike on the concert venue. I saw the birth of a new generation of Tibet supporters that day. It was certainly a milestone in bringing the Tibetan issue to the attention of the younger generation of Americans, and took the Students for a Free Tibet to a new level. Even though I could not generate a taste for hip hop I did buy one of the Beastie Boys’ CD that was released subsequently, looking at that as my way of showing appreciation.

One of the issues that Adam and the Tibetan Freedom Concerts took up then was the boycott of the Holiday Inn in Lhasa because the Chinese authorities were using it in their propaganda to depict a peaceful view of the situation in Tibet. Subsequently, Holiday Inn announced the ending of its involvement in that hotel in Tibet.

I have also been a witness to Adam’s passionate way when Tibet supporters launched the campaign against a proposed World Bank support to a Chinese Government project to relocate Chinese to Tibetan areas in 1999. We were together in strategizing on how best to take up the issue in our negotiations with World Bank officials and holding press conference outside their office in Washington, D.C. Everyone who had some knowledge of Adam know of his unassuming attitude. At the same time he was yet another example that a celebrity could be more than an ornament to any cause he or she endorsed, which is the general perception. During the time Adam served on the Board of the International Campaign for Tibet, I have seen him engage in deep discussions with fellow board members on different aspects of the Tibetan issue. Even as he did this I noticed that he did not forget, simple things, even if it was to put the kettle to boil for tea to the participants of the Board meeting when it was held in his loft in New York City one year.

Adam’s marriage to Dechen Wangdu la could also be interpreted as a symbol of his unification with the Tibetan people, physically and mentally. My condolences to Dechen la and her family and pray that Adam will have a speedy rebirth to continue his socially useful productive work.

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