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KAKO Foundation

The KAKO Foundation is shaped in the belief that the arts can foster self-esteem, dignity, pride, community and civic engagement. The foundation believes that nurturing the artistic gifts in every child is essential to breaking and ending the devastating cycle of violence and poverty.

The KAKO Foundation is named after Kako (pronounced "kah-ko") Gaspard, a 16 year old Haitian boy and a cousin of performer, conductor and composer Jean "Rudy" Perrault, the Director of Orchestras and professor of violin and viola at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Kako was kidnapped, tortured and killed in Haiti on May 21, 2008.

"He loved the trumpet and started playing that instrument that he picked himself at a very early age," writes Kako's father, Rudy Gaspard. "He was convinced that music would allow him to obtain a scholarship to study abroad someday... He also encouraged other kids in his community to play music too and even donated his first trumpet to one neighbor whose parents would not have been able to afford one." [excerpt from "An Angel took flight…" by Rudy Gaspard (Kako's father)] Read Kako's dad's entire letter here.

Through the KAKO Foundation, the founders wish to celebrate Kako's life and the life of all children who like Kako have been the innocent victims of atrocities, inspired by the words of Leonard Bernstein: "This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before."

The KAKO Foundation's "Music for All" program, in its initial phase, will open one music center this fall in an at-risk community in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The concert will be raising funds for instruments, salaries for instructors, and other costs to run the program. The KAKO Foundation will collaborate with local Duluth/Superior organizations to create comparable music centers in the region.

Read the Duluth News Tribune article about Kako's death:

The following article is from the Saturday, May 31, 2008 Duluth News Tribune.

 Duluth musician hit hard by Haitian killing

Author: Ann Klefstad | Posted with permission of the Duluth News Tribune

Kareem Xavier Gaspard, 16, died last week at the hands of kidnappers in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, despite the fact that his ransom had been paid.

His killing and its shocking degree of brutality has stirred outrage in Haiti about the rise in kidnappings there.

It also has caused dismay in Duluth: Gaspard is the cousin of Rudy Perrault, director of orchestras at the University of Minnesota Duluth, and was a frequent visitor to the Perrault home. The Perraults had been preparing to welcome him two weeks from now.

Gaspard, known to his family as Kako, had been a student at the College Catts Pressoir and was an aspiring musician ; he played the trumpet. Perrault had been hoping to bring him to the United States to study music after his graduation.

On his way home from school last week, Gaspard was seized and put into a car. News reports said that it was a vehicle masquerading as public transport. He had a cell phone and, after he was kidnapped, was told to make a call.

"He said that he was kidnapped, and that was the end of the call," Perrault said. He was not heard from again.

He was found dead several days later on the outskirts of town in an open-air market. He had been savagely tortured. A doctor and family friend who was sent to identify the body told the newspapers he couldn't find anything that would enable him to recognize Kako, a boy he knew, except a bracelet saying "Gaspard family reunion summer 2005."

The brutal beating had bruised and distorted the boy's face and body and one of his eyes had been knocked from its socket. The Haitian newspaper Le Nouvelliste published an article about the case accompanied by a blank photo box and the caption: "The parents did not wish to publish the photograph of the victim, whose body was so mutilated."

The Gaspards had their son cremated, and the funeral was to be a family event only, but the large church in the upscale suburb of Petionville was jammed with mourners. The killing has spurred many articles in the Caribbean news media. It also intensified people's frustrations with the government's seeming inability to stop the spate of kidnappings for money that have escalated over the past two years.

Perrault said that during the week Kako was kidnapped there were 12 kidnappings, and that there have been hundreds this year. News accounts say 26 abductions were registered this month.

Kako's mother is Perrault's cousin, but they were like siblings growing up, he said. "And the next generation, our kids, grew up close. His [Kako's] cousins there, they can't speak, they can't go to school, they are very depressed. My daughter was very close to him, and she is devastated.

"I know I have a lot of rage," Perrault said. "When I spoke to his mother, she said the Christian thing. They will forgive, but the kidnappings must stop. ... But I can't feel that.
"I don't want this to be 'news of the week,' and the people forget about it. People can't forget about this. Let's find these people and make them stop. It feels like the police are powerless."

Perrault and his sister, who works for UNICEF in New York, had been talking about starting a foundation to pay for music programs in Haitian schools. Now they're planning to name it the Kako Foundation.

Perrault also is a composer. "More and more I'm thinking I have to write about it, he said of the loss. "I did write a little, sort of a prayer, last week, nothing that I think I want to make public. A three- or four-minute piece called 'Prayer for Kako,' my way of saying goodbye.

"I still do not understand it," Perrault continued. "I have so much inside, I don't know how to say it, but just telling, that's what's making it a little easier to go on. There is Darfur everywhere. We have to remember the suffering of people, to see it. Schopenhauer said that compassion is the basis of morality. We have to be compassionate."

ANN KLEFSTAD covers arts and entertainment for the Duluth News Tribune.

Section: Local News | © 2008 Duluth News Tribune

Reprinted with permission of the Duluth News Tribune