The flow state allows human beings to chomp at the horizon, stretch the limits of gravity, and evoke passion from a higher place. Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Cziksentmihalyi believes that in this state nothing else seems to matter, and we embrace the moment for the sheer sake of the moment.
Hip-hop artists are known for entering this place in order to express themselves through freestyle, fluvial figures of phonetics freeing them “to flow.” These masters of lyrical symphonics will be gathering across the nation on Saturday, March 19 for Hip-Hop 4 Flint, in an effort to raise money and awareness for the community of Flint, Mich. – where the flow of life and water has been disrupted.
Though the city is on track to becoming the most violent in the nation and more than 41% of its residents live in poverty, the recent water crisis in Flint has brought the nation together to ensure that residents will again access to a basic human right – clean drinking water. Click here to read more on the water crisis.
Under the national sponsorship of the Justice League of NYC and Unite or Die, Hip Hop 4 Flint has listed San Antonio as one of 40 participating cities to collectively highlight the issues in Flint. The effort will also help purchase water purification systems for households with the greatest need.
An avid patron of the arts and believer in the voice of San Antonio, Gylon Jackson became the local organizer for Hip Hop 4 Flint San Antonio after connecting with former SA resident and now Atlanta-based hip-hop artist Charles Peters, also known as EasyLee of Third Root.
“Everyday people in Flint have to worry about the water, and what we are doing is giving people peace of mind,” Jackson said. “You grow up in Flint you already are worried about violence, and now water?”
Jackson joined with local art/music hosting space CO-LAB for the venue, and received contributions from RiseSA and Do210 (as well as countless others behind the scenes) to help lift some of the logistics and promotion. The event will take place at 231 E. Houston St. on Saturday, from 8 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. The event will feature remarks from District 1 Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1) and U.S. Congressman Joaquin Castro, as well as a performance by State Rep. Diego Bernal.
For Jackson, undertaking an effort such as this begins with the recognition that we all come from the same place, and anything we do in one place impacts others elsewhere.
“You have to realize we are all connected,” Jackson said. “I don’t care what God you believe in, what color you are, we are all connected.”
From Coach Popovich’s recent quotes on income inequality, to having record-breaking numbers from not-for-profit fundraising alliances such as the Big Give S.A., it appears Jackson is far from alone in the Alamo City by feeling the call to give.
“You understand that there is something not bigger, but as big as you are – you act, and then create,” Jackson said. “We’re turning a negative into a positive, we work our whole lives for events like these.”
Jackson is working closely with Queen YoNasDa of NYC who helped organize “Hip Hop 4 Haiti” several years ago, and collectively they are sending money raised for the effort to Prince of Peace Church in Flint, who will act as the collection agency until the purchasing is made.
“We’re using Pure Water Systems, buying them whole sale for the families and getting a good deal, so that we can support as many families as possible,” Jackson said. “We aim to reach a goal of $2,000 in San Antonio, and $80,000-100,000 nationwide.”
Leaders in the hip-hop community will be coming from far and wide to San Antonio to support the local scene and pay homage to the families of Flint, even rapper Lil’ Wayne will be in town.
“He’s here for the Spurs game and won’t be at the concert, but local promoter K-Rock said that he’ll be donating a portion of the proceeds from Lil’ Wayne’s local event to ‘Hip-Hop 4 Flint,’” Jackson said. “We got Greg G coming in from NYC, Charles (Peters) from ATL, who helped organize in Austin as well.”
Peters, who is now a teacher of composition for freshmen English students in Atlanta, Georgia, believes fervently in the role words play in building our world.
“Communication is the greatest power we have as people,” Peters said. “When I wanted to plant my flag, create some stability, I believed teaching was the best way to share my passion.”
Given his local roots, Peters was a likely choice to help local poet/musician Andrea “Vocab” Sanderson with recruiting the talent for the show.
“Gylon (Jackson) has really stepped up in a major way,” Peters said. “Vocab and I have been working on getting the musicians out there.”
While Peters believes that the music is certainly important, the greater issue is educating the people about what the crisis is.
“Solidarity and unity make us a more powerful culture,” he said. “We don’t wanna lose our focus, which is helping the people of Flint.”
The music speaks to the message more often than not, especially through the conscious lyrics of Peters’ group Third Root, where he works with local artist MexSTEP of UTSA and DJ Chicken George of Austin.
“We combine to make music about empowerment, identity, unity,” Peters said. “There is a link between Africa and Mexico, where the slave trades connected us.”
When music is used for the proper message, “we have the power to change the paradigm for the future,” he added. “Music is an act of activism.”
Peters, much like his fellow collaborator Greg G, credits San Antonio with developing his artistic roots. “I discovered poetry in San Antonio, this was my birthplace as an artist,” Peters said. “Black and brown – diversity – this is the perfect place for this conversation.”
Greg G now calls New York City home, and is working avidly as an artist while giving back as a teacher as well through his work at the Harlem Children’s Home.
“Hip-hop gives our young people an outlet, new lines of communication,” G said of his work as a Digital Music Composition teacher for aspiring artists and contributors to our musical landscape. “We started a music program studio from the ground up to focus on music theory, recording music, improving writing skills.”
Many of G’s students live in tough situations, similar to those of the victims in Flint, and often look to negative messages in musical expression because they think that’s what’s popular.
“We work on making their songs creative and listenable,” he said. “‘Be Original, Be Confident’ is our mantra, and every day we begin class with: ‘I am confident. I am creative. I am original.’”
He is friends with a number of the artists on the bill, many of whom he grew up with as a young artist in San Antonio.
“This year I’m focused on my home town, how hip-hop unites,” he said. “Anything I am a part of, I give my 100%.”
Greg G isn’t looking to speak for all the artists, but his mission is one that certainly resonates with many who take the stage: “To tell my truth so that it lights up your truth, so that we can uplift the world and change it together.”
*Top Image: From left: Easy Lee, MexStep, DJ Chicken George. Photo by Josh Huskin, courtesy of Third Root.