Omékongo Dibinga, PhD is an American poet, musician, motivational speaker, diversity consultant, CNN contributor and positive rapper. His messages are usually targeted toward a younger audience on subjects as bullying, racism, and homophobia, motivation and diversity education. As the Founder and CEO of Free Your Mind Publishing, Omékongo has published and released several books, CDs, and DVDs of over 80 authors as well as himself. These works from range from poetry and youth professional development to motivation and hip-hop music.
Omékongo Luhaka wa Dibinga was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His parents, Dibinga wa Said & Ngolela wa Kabongo were Democratic Republic of the Congo (ex-Zaire) refugees, who fled the Congo because of their role in aiding in its independence. As a first generation Congolese American, Omékongo grew up in an environment that led him to experience what he calls "the best and worst of both African and African American societies"; having grown up in a strict African household in an African-American community in Roxbury, MA. He grew up as the 7th of 9 children who were taught to remember their African roots regardless of where they resided, which is why he embraces the term "It's not where you're from, it's where you're at."
Omékongo was always influenced to write and learn. His parents held 9 collegiate degrees between them including 3 PhDs from Harvard and the Sorbonne. As a child, his parents would buy him encyclopedias instead of toys for his birthdays. He says he gets his creativity from his mother, a seamstress on the side, and his oratory skills from his father, a reverend. Omékongo began participating in oratory competitions while in secondary school.
Omékongo began writing in the 2nd grade. His love of learning led him to study at some of the world's finest institutions, including Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Georgetown, Morehouse, and The Fletcher School, where he received his M.A. in Law & Diplomacy. He is currently a PhD student in International Education Policy at The University of Maryland. Though Omékongo has traveled and witnessed poverty and injustice in 18 countries on 3 continents, he has always felt compelled to share the stories of adversity and inequality transpiring in America, his country of citizenship.
In terms of poetry, Omékongo has been inspired by many but cites Dr. Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovanni, Amiri Baraka, and Abiodun Oyewole as his primary influences. The shining faces of our future that he has worked with over the years also inspire him. He writes to encourage dialogue, to bring communities together, and to make people think outside the box. This has led him to performances across the nation and around the world in countries such as South Africa, England, France, Congo-Kinshasa, Tanzania, Cuba, the Netherlands, and Canada. He has also shared his work on radio and TV through such networks as CNN, BET, BBC, NPR, and Voice of America in over 150 countries. In fact, he is the host of the TV show "Real Talk", which looks at issues facing youth today. He also co-starred in the TV drama series "Ya Ma'Afrika," which dealt with the lives of Africans in America.
Omékongo writes and performs in English, French and Swahili, and has also blended Wolof into some of his poetry. He states that: "The stage is my pulpit, the pen is my temple, the paper is my sanctuary, these poems are confessionals, and my heart is my faith."
Omékongo is most proud of his family and their accomplishments, the perseverance of people worldwide, and his marriage to Kendra, his first and only love who he has been with since the 11th grade, and their two children, Ngolela and Ndeji! His key to a successful relationship: "You must grow together and challenge each other."
A dedicated educator and community activist for over 25 years, Omékongo plans to continue focusing on improving cultural understanding and growing greatness among all of humanity's children, because, as Omékongo believes: "We are only as humane as our most inhumane soul."
His work has appeared in publications and musical collaborations alongside many artists such as Sheryl Crow, Angelina Jolie, Angélique Kidjo, Don Cheadle, Norah Jones, Mos Def, Meshell Ndegeocello, and Damien Rice. He has shared the stage with Les Brown, Willie Jolley, Sonia Sanchez, Amiri Baraka, Dennis Brutus, The Last Poets, Askia Tour, Awilo, Felix Wazekwa, Outkast, Wyclef Jean, Reverend Run, Free, and Cousin Jeff. Les Brown was so impressed by Omékongo that he hand-picked Omékongo to join his Platinum Speakers Network. He is an original board member of the Origination Cultural Arts Center. He has released seven spoken word and hip-hop CDs. The first CD, "A Young Black Man's Anthem," won the 2003 Cambridge Poetry Award for "Best CD." His first book of poems, "From the Limbs of my Poetree," was published in 2004 through Free Your Mind Publishing, which Omékongo founded in early 2004. The book also features a special edition 90-minute DVD.
Omékongo's second book is an anthology of 8th grade students from Westland Middle School in Bethesda, MD. The book is entitled: "Poems From the Future: Poetic Reflections From the Next Generation." His third book is by M.D. Dibinga is entitled "Put Your Shoes On! A step by step guide for Youth Entering the Workforce." In 2011 he published the first book of children's poetry by Shaumba Yandje Dibinga entitled "Pride in my Stride." In an attempt to make a positive contribution to hip-hop music, Omékongo released 3 mixtapes in 2005, 2008, and 2011 entitled Bootleg, Bootleg II, and Bootleg III, where he remixed original work by Tupac, Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z, Nas, Kanye West and others. The goal was to show young people that they can rap like their favorite artists but not curse or disrespect women. His 5th CD, Reality Show, is Omékongo's first hybrid spoken word and hip-hop CD.
In 2009, Omékongo launched his "G.R.O.W. Towards Your Greatness!" motivational series. The first 2 products in this series are a book and CD by the same title. The CD is a musical compilation of Omékongo's radio motivational segments from Touch 106.1 FM. The book, which has been endorsed by Willie Jolley and has a foreword from Les Brown, features not only stories of success from across the globe, but also in-book activities that can get you started on the path of greatness!
Omékongo has also been published in Essence Magazine, Sister 2 Sister, and several other publications.
(2003) A Young Black Man's Anthem: Love, Afrika and Revolution Revisited
(2004) Signs of the Time
(2006) Reality Show
(2008) Bootleg II
(2010) G.R.O.W. Towards Your Greatness! (2011) Bootleg III
The Trial of Charumathi
Tired of Technology
Losing Hip Hop
And I don't Even Know Her Name
Published literary works
(2004) From the Limbs of My Poetree
(2005) Poems from the Future
(2007) Put Your Shoes On! A Step by Step Guide for Youth Entering the Workforce
(2010) G.R.O.W. Towards Your Greatness! 10 Steps to Living Your Best Life
(2011) Pride in my Stride
Social activism projects
1,000,000 Youth Campaign
The One Million Youth Campaign was created to help youths overcome the hurdles created by a society that has all but abandoned them. This program identifies current problems within how the media and society communicates with youths and outlines steps toward a solution that will empower youths and teach them the power of positive thought.
Raise Hope for Congo
Mercer Street Records and the Enough Project is sponsoring one of the largest campaigns to stop genocide and crimes against humanity in the Congo by releasing a new album. Available on CD and as a digital download, this new album features songs by Sheryl Crow, Norah Jones, Bat for Lashes, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Mos Def, Omékongo... and many more. Raise Hope for Congo, a campaign of the Enough Project, is mobilizing the public to end the violence by addressing its root causes. Collaborating with national, grassroots, and Congolese organizations, the campaign aims to educate and empower individuals to be a part of the solution to the conflict.
Awards and honors
- Urban Music Awards
- 2003 Cambridge Poetry Award for "Best CD"