Cedi steps forward from out of the banquet hall of artisans and patrons, a bead-maker from Ghana with an irrepressible grin. By his side, a jeweler from Mali, a weaver from Uruguay - all mounting the stage after traveling far from their homelands to this place - the largest Artisan Market in the world - where they have been invited to represent the finest in their field of craft; the finest anywhere.
What they have come to do on this evening is not to wave their own flag but rather to trace their journey back to the beginning, back to the time in years past when there was nothing, and then there was a seed of hope planted in the form of a micro-loan, which is the receiving of a possible future, and with a very small loan indeed, each of them began the work of their hands and imaginations which led them here.
It is a word now common to us - a micro-loan - but it is only a few years old, and was championed - this word and this remarkable idea - by Mohammed Yunus who founded the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. His was a small idea, based on his watchful eye, that the poorest of the poor often need only a small loan of capital in order to unleash the creativity and skills that live within; only a small and repayable loan to buy a tool or a sewing machine and make of their lives something prosperous and even generous and beautiful. $50 maybe. Or $500. Just that.
Mr. Yunus was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for this small idea, which caught the imagination of the world and led to microcredit possibilities in over 100 developing countries, his own bank lending billions of dollars to 7.5 million of the poorest of the poor, 97% of whom are women - because he saw that they suffered disproportionately from poverty and because, he also saw, they are more likely to invest their earnings back into their families amd communities than are men. Consistently, 98% of the loans are repaid in full.
So, on this evening at the One World Dinner at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market, Cedi and his friends have the honor of honoring the man with the small idea that made of their lives something very large and almost, you might say, rich. Mohammed Yunus, the Market's Honorary Chair, is called to the stage by these artists because his idea is a chisel which breaks open countless impenetrable reasons for poverty and allows a shaft of light to enter a life. Just to witness this small moment, on this evening surrounded by 150 artisans from 51 countries many of whom are here because of some seed of hope someone planted in them, leaves me quietly, tearfully, rejoicing.
And while my eyes are still moist, there rises to the stage a beautiful woman who has spent many years there . . . a soprano of renown and accomplishment in performance halls around the world. Monica Yunus, daughter of the Nobel laureate, rises to sing, and what she chooses to sing for this occasion honoring her father is a song called Joy.
I went looking for Joy,
Slim, dancing Joy,
Gay, laughing Joy,
The lyrics are taken from a poem by one of my favorite poets, Langston Hughes, written almost 100 years ago:
And I found her
Driving the butcher’s cart
In the arms of the butcher boy!
Monica Yunus' voice soars over the evening in an explosion of joy, her arms outstretched to the world which her father has made a better, by far, a better place. And she reminds me, again, like Cedi does, and his recycled powder glass beads, that joy is found in the simplest things, in surprising ways, in tiny seeds. If you and I will only go looking for it.
All the Best,
Susan Hull Walker