Karim Diane raised $1m in aid for Africa using social media.
By Carissa D. Lamkahouan
In today’s world, no one can deny the power and ever-expanding reach of social media, least of all Karim Diane, who’s online “singing in the shower” bits not only gained him a large virtual following on Instagram and YouTube, it also provided the means for him to raise enough funds to send $1 million worth of medical supplies to the West African nation of Ivory Coast.
“It’s super cool,” Diane said of the recent campaign, which managed to secure the money in only a few months.
A graduate student in science and social media at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, Diane is also an aspiring singer and songwriter. Looking to gain exposure for his talents, he created his “Team Karim” Instagram profile in 2013 and began uploading short videos of himself singing covers of popular songs – from his shower.
“I wanted a way to differentiate myself (from other singers), and this was a fun way to do it,” said Diane, 24.
His gimmick worked and after launching his online profile, Diane – who originally hails from Washington, D. C. but is West African by heritage – soon gained more than 144,000 Instagram followers. What’s more, some of his videos have garnered more than 1 million views.
“Just from me playing around and having fun I’ve reached a lot of people,” he said.
In fact, it’s that success that got Diane and his father, a business consultant, thinking that his celebrity status could not only be used to further his career but could be used for good, as well.
Recalling a sobering and life-changing trip to the West African nations of Gambia and Senegal when he was a teenager, Diane didn’t need to think long about how he wanted to make his contribution.
“When I visited (those countries) it was made real for me,” he said of the horrible conditions he witnessed. “The extreme poverty, especially amongst children. There are literally masses of children who have no money, no homes, who are wearing ripped up clothes and who have nowhere to go. I was 14 at the time that I went and those kids looked just like me, so I really made a connection with them.”
Soon after, Diane learned he had the support of his family to use his singing talents, something that came as somewhat of a surprise.
“Everybody’s who’s African knows our parents want us to be doctors or lawyers (and my parents were no different), but once my online profile grew it was actually my dad who nudged me to (use my online presence) to kelp kids back in West Africa,” he said. “The same man who was so discouraged about everything I was doing (with singing) was the one who facilitated everything. He really came around.”
Diane’s mission soon became a family affair with his older brothers Ibrahim and Mamadi pitching in. Mamadi designed T-shirts to sell online, and his eldest brother Ibrahim used his connection with Grammy-winning artist Ryan Leslie to push the campaign to a higher level.
“Ryan ended up being the face of our entire social media campaign,” Diane said. “He did everything for free. He posted a video on his YouTube (account), and he sold CD’s, a private studio session and personal phone calls, a whole package of things. He got us a lot of traffic.”
The group’s initial goal was to raise $25,000, enough to buy one cart of unused medical supplies from U.S. hospitals to be collected and shipped to Ivory Coast by an organization called MedShare. However, once the goal was reached, Diane and his cohorts were able to secure a sponsorship from Coca-Cola which enabled the campaign to purchase three more $25,000 containers. The supplies were eventually donated to a charitable organization affiliated with the first lady of Ivory Coast.
Diane said he never fully understood the impact of what he and the others had accomplished until he saw the money actually put to use.
“My brother and Ryan (Leslie) went out to Ivory Coast to present the shipment, and it didn’t hit me what we had done until I saw pictures of kids getting their (medical) shots,” he said. “That was the coolest part for me.”