As unusual as it may seem to some to utter the terms "peace" and "hip hop" in the same sentence, there's a Wayne State University student hip-hop arts organization keen to change that.
With the second installment of its ZigiDeeBooM Hip Hop Fest, the organization Project: A.R.T. hopes to dispel the connection between hip-hop culture and violence by promoting a positive message. This year's theme is "The Sound of Peace," and the group is intent on educating the community about the persistence of homicide and shootings in Detroit.
"The violence in this city is getting out of control again," says Sista Sayre, founder and administrative director of the nonprofit organization. She's commenting on the August Associated Press report that says homicides are up 17 percent this year 237 since January. The report also says there have been 877 nonfatal shootings through July, nearly 200 more than last year.
Sayre says that the event is dedicated to Detroit rapper DeShaun "Proof" Holton who was shot and killed at a Detroit club in April and Keith Bender, the man Proof allegedly shot that night.
"They were both shot on '4/11,' which means 'information,'" Sayre says. "It's time to get the information out there about violence in this city."
Aisha "Isha" Walker, a member of the rap and spoken word group Power Movement, CEO of Positive International Media, and account executive for Project: A.R.T., says that people should realize the power hip hop has to influence the masses.
"A lot of companies and organizations are realizing the power of hip hop to influence positivity," says Walker, 25. "But mainstream media are not using hip hop to promote a positive message."
Project: A.R.T. was founded in 1996 with this issue in mind, aiming to decrease juvenile delinquency and victimization by focusing students' attention on the hip-hop arts through technology. By asking that performers present art that has a positive message, they hope to actually reverse the way many people relate to hip hop.
The festival features socially conscious performances from various local and national talents, running the gamut from spoken word poetry to rap to graffiti art. The featured guests include radio personality Foolish from FM 98 WJLB, violinist Jerald Daemyon, Power Movement and rappers KELZ, Tye Nitty and MicLordz. The event also features motivational speakers from the community, a DJ spin-off and vendors.
The headliner of the event, rap icon KRS-One, is the keynote speaker of the eight-hour affair. KRS-One, who spearheaded the Stop the Violence Movement in the late 1980s and the Temple of Hiphop in 1996, has spoken against gun violence for almost 20 years.
"KRS-One is a very prolific speaker," Sayre says. "He's going to validate our message."
Various organizations and city and state departments are showing their concern and support through sponsorship, including the Michigan Council of the Arts and Cultural Affairs (MCACA), the Detroit Recreation Department and Next Level Promotions, among others. The Wayne State University Student Council gave the group $19,000.
Sayre says links between hip hop and violence are hyped in mainstream media, and artists are even encouraged to perpetuate this stereotype. But she hopes that Project: A.R.T. can present hip-hop arts in a positive light.
"We are trying to reach everyone who loves hip-hop music, those who are hesitant about hip-hop music, and those who need the art in their lives," Sayre says.
"We want the community stakeholders and leaders to realize that hip hop is the key. If it can be used to sell violence, it can be used to sell peace and education."
"The [Detroit Police Department] should have a rap. The mayor should have a rap. Governor Granholm should have a rap. Everyone else uses it. It's worldwide. Right now we need to use it."
PLEASE NOTE: THIS INFORMATION HAS BEEN UPDATED:
Noon - 8 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 27 at Keast Memorial Commons at Wayne State University, Detroit.
Markeysha Davis is a freelance writer. Send comments to [email protected]