In 2005, [artist id="1163848"]Kenna[/artist] — who had long heard stories of the majesty and mystery of Mt. Kilimanjaro from his father — decided to climb the peak. He made it to Kosovo Camp, a clearing located some 16,000 feet above sea level (and still 3,000 feet from the summit), and then pushed onward toward the top of the mountain. He didn't make it.
Five years later, he decided to make the trek again, this time in the hope of calling attention to the global clean-water crisis. Both the trip and the cause were personal to Kenna, because when his father was a child in Ethiopia, he lost his brother and friends to water-borne diseases and, as he put it, "I could have been one of those kids."
So, in January, with a crew of nearly 300 backing him up — including fellow musicians Lupe Fiasco and Santigold, actors Jessica Biel, Emile Hirsch and Isabel Lucas, plus a team of scientists, United Nations ambassadors and skilled guides — he headed back up the mountain. (His friend Justin Timberlake intended to join the trek but couldn't due to scheduling conflicts; Justin introduces the film.) And their trip is documented in "Summit on the Summit: Kilimanjaro," a 90-minute film that premieres Sunday (March 14) at 9 p.m. ET on MTV.
And apart from detailing the group's massive scaling of Africa's tallest mountain, the film also contains a symbolic message, one that applies not just to the trek, but to tackling seemingly insurmountable issues like global clean water: that together, we can accomplish great things.
"When you go by yourself and you're on a solo mission, it's not necessarily something that registers at the end of the day. No one has your back. Getting to the top of Kilimanjaro this time had everything to do with the fact that I had an army with me," Kenna told MTV News. "Some of us would literally look at each other and say, 'If you weren't here, I wouldn't have made it.' Our director, Mike Bonfiglio, was basically watching Isabel Lucas, and saw her dedication when she was really, really ill at the top of this mountain. And he, literally, was like, 'She made it, I've got to do this.' "
Unlike his previous attempt, this time around Kenna would not be denied in his quest to make it to the peak of Kilimanjaro. He had made his mind up, and he wouldn't be denied: because he had friends with him, and because he knew there were millions of people depending on him to spread his message.
"I think what happened is our medic told us, 'You know what? It's going to be something you can actually accomplish, even if you're completely ill and sick and close to dying, it will be fine,' " he said. "She made it so we felt like we could deal with being uncomfortable, and at that moment, I was like, 'I don't care. If anything goes on with me, at this point, I've come this far, I'm not going down.' "