Hip Hop for Change organizes the Environmental Equity Summit for May 21

Hip Hop for Change mural on 24th and Lilac with Khafre Jay, founder and executive director
Hip Hop for Change mural on 24th and Lilac with Khafre Jay, founder and executive director

by The People’s Minister of Information JR

Khafre Jay and Hip Hop for Change, the non-profit he founded, are starting to make a name for themselves on the Bay Area’s Hip Hop, media and advocacy scene. Besides promoting dope independent shows, Hip Hop for Change is organizing the upcoming Environmental Equity Summit on Saturday, May 21, 1-6 p.m., located at the New Parish in Oakland, has a weekly radio show on the legendary San Francisco station 89.5FM KPOO, a school curriculum to teach youth inside the schools and is housed in the radical community center located in West Oakland, the Qilombo. Check out this exclusive conversation with Khafre Jay.

M.O.I. JR: When, where and how did Hip Hop for Change start? What’s its purpose?

Khafre Jay: It was the beginning of 2013 and I had just left my job as the first Black city coordinator at a big grassroots fundraising org. It’s the type of job where you stand out in public, in high foot traffic areas and get people to stop for a short conversation about the environment. You finish up by asking for donations, and I was really good at it. It’s definitely a bit harder for a Black man to stand on the corner taking credit cards, and it was a challenge running a 20-person office and that large of a budget.

So I was jobless, and I knew I didn’t want to work for a huge corporation, and I’d definitely had my fill of the largely white-male dominated non-profit world. I took my last paycheck and bought a CD duplicator and I started hustling my own music on Haight Street, or 24th and Noe, while I figured out my situation. It was a lot of fun, and I was making around $300 a day as well.

One day, it just hit me that if I could teach 10 people to do this with me, as I had doing grassroots fundraising, then we’d be able to do anything we wanted. I could build a grassroots fundraising program that supported the local Hip Hop community that was struggling under the weight of big media’s racist depiction of Hip Hop. We could actually throw shows, pay artists and advertise for the culture I knew was powerful enough to save our kids. That’s how it all began.

I started hustling my own music. It was a lot of fun, and I was making around $300 a day as well. One day, it just hit me that if I could teach 10 people to do this with me, as I had doing grassroots fundraising, then we’d be able to do anything we wanted.

I raised enough to incorporate, and I spent the next year or so doing an amazing amount of research and paperwork to get exempt status, while hiring an amazing team of activists. Last year, we talked to 26,000 people, in mostly affluent white neighborhoods, about structural racism and the co-optation of Hip Hop.

M.O.I. JR: You just celebrated your anniversary; how was that?

Khafre Jay: It was amazing to say the least! We got a chance to work with Kev Choice for the first time, and Opio, of the mighty Hieroglyphics Crew, headlined our show. We rocked out the Uptown in Oakland and had a pretty full house. The org has grown so much it amazes me every day, and the fact that we throw PHAT Hip Hop shows means we can celebrate the right way.

M.O.I. JR: Tell us a little about your work with Qilombo. I understand you have office space in their building?

Khafre Jay: Qilombo is definitely a blessing. It’s an amazing, radical community center in the heart of Oakland. Qilombo opens its doors and provides public space to all peoples during these times of intensive gentrification, systemic oppression and displacement, while also striving to empower those whose political and economic voices have been marginalized. We’ve been lucky enough to snag a small space there to hold meetings and work, so we have a lot of love for them and what they do. Check them out at qilombo.org and support them if you can.

Qilombo, an amazing, radical community center in the heart of Oakland, opens its doors and provides public space to all peoples during these times of intensive gentrification, systemic oppression and displacement, while also striving to empower those whose political and economic voices have been marginalized.

M.O.I. JR: On May 21, you have an event with dead prez. Can you talk a little bit about that? What is the event about?

Hip Hop for Change at Aspire East Palo Alto Phoenix Academy – Education Coordinator Malik Diamond and kids
Hip Hop for Change at Aspire East Palo Alto Phoenix Academy – Education Coordinator Malik Diamond and kids

Khafre Jay: I’m excited about this event, as it’s taken a while to get to a point where we can put on something this big. We have to thank the Akonadi Foundation for helping us to make this a reality.

We’re putting on an event called “The Environmental Equity Summit” May 21 from 12 noon to 6 p.m. This is an environmental justice event that will provide a platform for dialogue between people of color (POC) and large environmental NGOs to discuss the specific needs of POC and grassroots POC environmentalist groups.

The project goal is to provide large environmental NGOs with the opportunity to understand how they may better serve and collaborate with POC communities affected by environmental hazards. It will unite like-minded environmental organizations to connect, exchange ideas and foster lasting relationships.

Attendees of all ages will enjoy a diverse line-up of exhibitors including the Uhuru Movement, Girls 2000, vendors, DJs, artists and speakers committed to environmental justice. We’ll also have live performances by revolutionary hip hop group dead prez, plus Bay Area rappers Bambu and Khafre Jay, in addition to DJs Ren the Vinyl Archaeologist (True Skool), Davey D (Hardknock Radio/KPFA) and more! This free all-ages event takes place at The New Parish, 1743 San Pablo Ave., Oakland.

M.O.I. JR: Can you talk a little bit about your radio show on 89.5FM KPOO? What time does it come on? And what is the show about?

Khafre Jay: My first radio interview to promote Hip Hop for Change was on the Derek Keller show on KPOO so we have mad love for that guy. I think I’d got to my fifth interview when JJ, the station manager approached me, asking if I ever thought of doing radio. I told him hell yeah and that was that.

We’ve been on every Sunday from noon to 3:00 ever since, right after ReRe’s gospel show in the morning and before DJ X1 with the Bombay Mix Show. As a rule, we only play local conscious Hip Hop to support community artists, and the rest is radical Brown thought. We talk about everything from the racism we face on the streets to systemic racial paradigms we face as Brown people. It’s a great show so I hope everyone tunes in.

Hip Hop for Change is on every Sunday from noon to 3:00 playing local conscious Hip Hop to support community artists, and the rest is radical Brown thought. We talk about everything from the racism we face on the streets to systemic racial paradigms we face as Brown people. It’s a great show so I hope everyone tunes in.

M.O.I. JR: Can you tell us about some of the work that you do in the schools?

Hip Hop for Change at Aspire East Palo Alto Phoenix Academy – Education Coordinator Malik Diamond and kids
Hip Hop for Change past event posters on the office wall

Khafre Jay: I began developing a curriculum to teach kids how to use their culture, Hip Hop, to find themselves in 2014, and so far we’ve taught 2,500 children in over 40 schools here in the Bay. The MC (Theory of Hip-Hop Education and Music Class) is a four part workshop that goes from teaching kids about Hip Hop history so they can see its beauty and utilize its benefits, to giving them the experiential learning of actually breaking, rapping and doing graffiti in class.

You see, Hip Hop is their culture, whether you believe it or not. It’s how we walk, talk, dress, paint, dance, sing and hustle, and there is no separating that from their identity. The problem is that our kids get their ideas of Hip Hop almost entirely form a racist media engine that depicts Black pathology as entertainment, which our kids then internalize.

That media isn’t real in the least, and it isn’t even designed for them. If it was, it would display our beauty as it once did. In fact, 75 percent of Hip Hop in the media is bought and tailored for suburban white men between the ages of 18 and 24, so the first thing I must ask is, why are suburban white males so entertained by the same stereotypical images media has been selling about Black people forever? It sickens me.

Either way, this media is teaching our kids that they can only be Hip Hop if they act a certain way. We teach them that Hip Hop is about self-expression and keeping it real. It’s a way to find themselves and self-actualize, and if 70 percent of kids are doing something collectively, as OGs in the game, we’d be idiots to not help these kids do it the right way.

Media is teaching our kids that they can only be Hip Hop if they act a certain way. We teach them that Hip Hop is about self-expression and keeping it real. It’s a way to find themselves and self-actualize, and if 70 percent of kids are doing something collectively, as OGs in the game, we’d be idiots to not help these kids do it the right way.

That’s our responsibility and it’s why our program is so necessary. If you know of any schools that would like to participate, they can email Malik Diamond, our education coordinator, at Malik@hiphopforchange.org and we’ll send you info.

M.O.I. JR: How could people keep up with you online?

Khafre Jay: If you Google Hip Hop and change, I think we’ll be the first thing that pops up, but the website is www.hiphopforchange.org. We have a Facebook, Twitter and Instagram linked there as well, so check us out and stay connected.

We post continually about Hip Hop culture and the struggles of the community Hip Hop stems from and we’ll keep you in touch with events like our Environmental Equity Summit. Our website is loaded with local artists to connect with and information about our work. Thank you so much for even caring!

To reach me, Khafre Jay, executive director of HipHopForChange, Inc., call 415-202-4817 or email info@hiphopforchange.org. And check us out at http://www.hiphopforchange.org/, https://www.facebook.com/hiphopforchange and https://twitter.com/HipHopforChang3.

The People’s Minister of Information JR Valrey is associate editor of the Bay View, author of “Block Reportin’” and “Unfinished Business: Block Reportin’ 2” and filmmaker of “Operation Small Axe” and “Block Reportin’ 101,” available, along with many more interviews, at www.blockreportradio.com. He can be reached at blockreportradio@gmail.com.