Hip-hop artists in 46 cities are staging simultaneous concerts this weekend to help supply residents of Flint, Michigan, with clean water.
The Toronto edition of Hip-Hop 4 Flint includes Raz Fresco, Junia-T, Dynesti Williams,Mathematik, Shing Shing Regime, Gene One, Moon Crickets, Babylon Warchild, Farrah andBriskInTheHouse, among others.
Flint, where 40 per cent of the city’s 100,000 residents live in poverty, is in the midst of a public health crisis after its drinking water was contaminated with lead. In 2014, emergency management officials switched the water supply from Lake Huron to the corrosive Flint River as a cost-cutting measure. It’s estimated that between 6,000 and 12,000 children have been exposed.
Saturday’s fundraiser aims to raise awareness and speed up residents’ access to clean water. Proceeds go
toward the purchase of water filters that will be hand-delivered by a Hip-Hop 4 Flint delegation.
Toronto organizers DJ Akiin and Tisa Muhammad connected through mutual friend YoNasDa LoneWolf, the California-based MC and activist behind Hip-Hop 4 Flint and the similar Hip-Hop 4 Haiti campaign from 2010.
“Because it doesn’t affect us here, a lot of people don’t really care or take the time to consider the crisis,” Akiin says. “Youth are literally dying and suffering from lead poisoning. It’s just horrible. Just because people are poor doesn’t mean that they should have to suffer.”
Muhammad, a mother of seven, was involved in anti-racist and anti-apartheid movements in the 80s and 90s and now travels to Africa, the Caribbean and North America to teach healing, nutrition and natural medicine.
“As a young activist, hip-hop was the form we used to create awareness around racism in Toronto as well as the reality of apartheid at that time,” she says. “Hip-hop is one of the most versatile forms because it’s the language of the people. Music transcends all barriers of communication.”
They hope to raise at least $2,000 toward the global fund-raising goal of $80,000. The concert features short sets interspersed with speeches. A group of local artists are also working on a forthcoming charity single.
Officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency knew about the high lead levels a year ago and are now the subject of a congressional investigation.