When we think of a millennial activist, Chakabars Clarke is definitely the epitome of that. The 31-year-old Pan-African developer and Instagram activist is what people would definitely refer to as “woke.” But he sets himself apart by actually living what he speaks, unlike other "woke" people today. BET sat down with Chaka ahead of receiving the coveted Global Good Award at the 2019 BET Awards to find out how he went from being a London-based fitness entrepreneur creating “Spartanfam” to becoming a global activist.
Chaka was born in Barbados and grew up in England. After joining the military and serving active duty in Iraq for four years, Chaka returned home to find that a close friend of his was murdered. Chaka decided to make a shift, realizing his life was more valuable than what he was doing with it, and moved to London starting Spartanfam, which promotes an "anytime, anyplace, anything" philosophy to working out; no expensive diets or equipment -- just bodyweight.
He outgrew that path fairly quickly when he realized that he had greater potential and purpose for helping others.
Chaka went on to create IHeartAfrica, an organization founded to help preserve orphanages and medical centers in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in 2017. With his mission to help people and build a better future, Chaka raises funds with the help of donors, including celebrities such as Lenny Kravitz, Michael B. Jordan and Colin Kaepernick, to continue to build a sustainable future for orphaned children in Africa. He is on the front lines of issues that affect Black people first-hand and is educating us by touching on issues from health care, socio-economic class, human rights and the importance of a vegan diet. Chaka wants “our” people to thrive as a culture.
When you speak to Chaka, you’re immediately drawn in. He has something about him where you’re hanging on to his every word and wanting to learn more about his organizations.
Read below to learn why he truly deserves the 2019 Global Good Award.
BET: I know you have the two main projects: We Will Rise Together, with the initiatives in Jamaica and Ghana, and Ecovillage, in the Demoratic Republic of Congo. What is your overall goal with these different projects?
Chakabars Clarke: My overall goal is to try and create as many economies based on abundance, rather than economies that are based on scarcity, which is economies that are based on capitalism and the exploitation of Africans. For example, we were once futurists…and I want to get back to that. I want to get back to us not just trying to build a large Instagram following or building a big business to make money but, rather, build the future of humans. We need to free ourselves from these chains. Bob Marley said we should emancipate ourselves from mental slavery in order to get to the point where everything we do is sustainable.
BET: There's a stigma where organizations don't actually use the funding to support people in need, the money is mis-managed or either it goes directly to the organization. How can someone decide that your organization is the right place to donate, volunteer, or be of service?
CC: Due diligence. We just finished a project in Jamaica where we built a library, and we put all of the receipts of the cost online so that people can see the impact their donations made. Also, it depends what resonates with you. For example, we have projects in Ghana, Congo, Jamaica, Somalia, Haiti and Ethiopia. In the near future we will be creating volunteering so that people can get involved and choose from these various projects.
BET: How do you adjust your lifestyle and finances in order to sustain since you're traveling to all of these different countries?
CC: When I first started doing it, I was a personal trainer and I had some money saved up from clients I trained to help me travel. However, some people also helped me out, such as American singer-songwriter Lenny Kravitz, British professional boxer Anthony Joshua, actor Jussie Smollett, former American football quarterback Colin Kaepernick, British professional basketball player Luol Deng and many more. I also started a fruit company, Fruits and Roots. I structured the company so that the charity owns 20 percent of the shares and profits. I also use some of the remaining profits to accommodate for travel and food. Apart from that, I don’t have a car, I don't have a house…I don't know what else I need money for. So I just go from place to place, getting stuff done. I've adjusted my lifestyle to fit the projects rather than, which a lot of humanitarians do, is they adjust the projects to fit their lifestyle.
BET: In regards to health care in the United States, do you believe it's important to enforce health education as a part of the government instead of organizations similar to yours who are taking on the burden of helping other countries with the issue?
CC: To me, the government means mind control. I believe we need to control our own minds. We start giving space to people who can have control over our lives – whether it's our food, health care or education. I believe if we get back to building our own systems that serve us, we'll do better. When we run our own food, we're not going to have all these GMOs [genetically modified organism] and pesticides. A lot of the Black food places that I've seen opening up, for instance, Shareef Abdul-Malik started We Buy Black, he wants to start this thing called Soul Foods Market. I believe they've nearly reached their targets to have the first Black organic supermarket superstore. I would like to have my fruit in that superstore, because I want to be able to get these fruits to people. I started the fruit company not because I needed money, but because I wanted to be able to heal people. So now, how can I make sure I have the ability to respond to my people? I can't do it if it's for a system that’s not created by us, for us, by our own designation. I need to do it under our own systems that benefit us and are created in our own image.
BET: In regards to your nomination of the Global Good Award, how does it feel to be recognized for the great work that you're doing?
CC: Most of my heroes are revolutionaries who have passed on. While living, I believe they never took time to go, "Do you know what? I've done it" or "I'm doing this." It was that continual, perpetual, "I need to do more," which made them the brilliant people that they are. So, I never really sit and go: "Yeah, man, I've done this," because there's so much work to be done. It is a nice feeling though, to be able to speak to millions of Black people and be able to say to them: "Come and join me, come and get involved." However, I don't believe that I have any more power than anybody else. In fact, I think that everybody has power. Unfortunately, a lot of the time they just don't realize the power that they have. If you route your identity in struggle, then economic progression and forward progression is going to be very difficult. We need to route our whole identity into success. And if we route identity in success, then everything that is successful is going to be normal. If we route identity into humanity, then everything that is human is going to be normal. So this is normal.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.