Call To Action: The Hip Hop Community Rallys Around Minnesota Storms

Call To Action: National Hip Hop Community Rallys Around Minnesota Storm Victims

“We don’t know where to go. I don’t know what to do,” a resident of Minneapolis told a local public radio reporter in late May of 2011. Having just lost not only her home, but all of her and her family’s possessions, the woman was understandably still shaken. “We don’t even have clothes because the whole roof caved in. I don’t even know whether we’ll be able to take anything out of there. This is all we got on us.”

“A community only exists in theory; it’s made up of the people.”

KRS-One speaking in Minneapolis

May 22 marked a life-changing day for many residents of one of the Midwest’s most-lauded hip hop scenes. Minneapolis, Minnesota was struck by a storm of epic proportions; a devastating tornado tore through Minneapolis’ North Side, killing two and injuring 31 while leaving hundreds displaced. It ripped through the neighborhood destroying over a hundred homes, tearing out nearly all of the trees and outing power for 80,000 people. The neighborhood has been chronically neglected for decades, and is home to a lower economic class, only exasperating the devastating nature of the destruction caused to the community.

Although the Minneapolis hip hop scene is often focused around the South Side of the city, the North Side is often cited as the birthplace of local hip hop in the Twin Cities, with house parties during the mid-nineties, and playing home to area rappers such as Toki Wright, Truthmaze and Unknown Prophets.

Although the event was undoubtedly a tragic occurrence, it has offered an opportunity or the local and national hip hop community to truly shine. Since the events that devastated this region of the burgeoning Midwestern hip hop Mecca, many artists have used the unfortunate time as a rallying cry to unite in an effort to help those that were affected. The enormous support of artists from around the country — which has truly been unparalleled — serves as a colossal reminder of the power of hip hop and its origins rooted in art and community.

The devastation that this community has faced has given rise to some of the cities most-successful artists to step up and represent their roots and a call to action for the rest of the hip hop world, with inspiring results.

Though there have been many efforts to aid the victims of the tornado, the most notable have been the efforts of the Minnesota hip hop community. There have been several fundraiser events to benefit the North Side, headlined by some of the best MCs from the region as well as notable performers from across the nation. On July 12, over 200 artists —  including many non-hip-hop acts such as Soul Asylum and Sounds of Blackness,  as well as hometown heroes and Rhymesayers artists like Brother Ali and Toki Wright — all performed for at a benefit that raised over $100,000 for North Side community organizations.

On July 19 was the first of an undetermined number of shows in the Moja —  a term meaning “one” in Swahili — concert series to benefit tornado victims, and featured out-of-town guests like the Bronx legend KRS-One, Detroit’s Slum Village, and North Side natives Toki Wright and Truthmaze. There are sure to be more fundraising efforts in the future, as the recovery is far from over and the door for hip hop working in the community is wide open.

The hip hop community has rallied around these tornado victims in an unprecedented way, and has made enormous strides in not only raising funds to assist them, but also empowering them and showing them that they have a voice. Despite red tape and bureaucracy in between the victims and the aid in place for them, community organizations have done an impressive job of helping them to accessing these funds and other resources available to them. As legendary hip hop pioneer KRS-One said at a community address at North High on the day of his benefit concert, “a community only exists in theory; it’s made up of the people.” The way that the community of the North Side and of Minnesota hip hop as a whole reacted to the devastation demonstrated the extent to which they can draw together and help out those in need amongst them. Although the effects of the tornado were devastating, the tragedy drew attention to a region in dire need, and strengthened the community, proving that there is hope for the future of the North Side.

Photo: Tony Webster (Minnesota Public Radio)

For information on how you can help tornado victims in Minneapolis, please visit this relief site.

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