Alicia Keys Brings The Refugee Crisis Into Clear Focus In A Powerful Short Film

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Today marks the official first day of summer, but it is also World Refugee Day. First observed as such in 2001, June 20 signals a global effort to raise awareness of the challenges faced by the millions of displaced people around the world, and this year’s date comes during a time when the Syrian refugee crisis has dominated headlines for months. While the issues of refugees have long since been an issue undertaken by governments, the contemporary political climate has brought attention to the strife in the Middle East, where civil war has forced 13.6 million Syrians to be displaced or in need of humanitarian aid, but the country is far from the only one dealing with such a tremendous tragedy. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, “65.3 million people, or one person in 113, were displaced from their homes by conflict and persecution in 2015,” and that figure is likely to rise once 2016’s events have been taken into account. The figures are daunting, but campaigns like Alicia Keys’ “We Are Here Movement” are helping to educate and engage people about humanitarian issues, one song at a time.

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Launched after she released her 2014 song “We Are Here,” the Movement focuses on not only refugees but also equality, justice, women, children, climate, and other pressing matters. As it’s June 20 today, We Are Here’s most recent piece of awareness-raising art focuses on the global refugee population in the form of a short film called “Let Me In.” According to Keys herself, the film was made because she wants “us all to imagine if we were the refugees, if we were the ones torn from the arms of our families and loved ones. While some seek to stoke the flames of division and turn us against our fellow neighbors, we’re here to make the case for love and compassion.” In it, Keys plays a doting mother in Los Angeles, raising a family in a place where bombs are dropping and as the war lands on her front door, she sets into motion an escape plan, taking her family to safety in Mexico. Separated from her daughter, Keys launches into song, a mournful Gospel-influenced plea for acceptance.

The plot line is helpful in bringing some proximity to an issue that is often discussed as happening “over there,” far from the familiar sights of American life, as the United States and her neighbor to the South deal with the sensitive relationship countries who share a border are often forced to embrace. The United States has never been the point of exodus in a major refugee crisis, and so a film like “Let Me In” is a powerful tool for visualizing just what a scenario here would look like. But visualizing is only part of the solution. To get directly involved with efforts to help the world’s refugees, fans are encouraged to sign a petition and donate.