Eco-rap emerging as educational, empowerment tool for San Francisco youth

Try explaining climate change to young people in terms of CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere, or the dangers of toxic wastes by focusing on water sheds… chances are they’ll be checking their phones, if not dozing off, in a matter of minutes. Now imagine these same concepts being addressed by rappers from the neighborhoods these kids come from… you’ll likely see more enthusiasm for the topics.

San Francisco’s Grind for Green recognizes that rap and hip-hop speak to the young people about whom they’re most concerned: youth of color from impoverished neighborhoods that are more likely to be affected by environmental degradation. The city’s Hunters Point community, for instance, houses two very toxic Superfund sites, as well as power and sewer treatment plants. In order to not just raise awareness, but also to empower young people from these kinds of neighborhoods, this organization has committed itself to “…moving youth of color from the margins to the epicenter of the environmental movement”… and uses hip-hop as its prime medium for communicating not only the very complex subject of environmental justice, but for also educating young people on opportunities for economic advancement embodied in these challenges.

Last August, the organization hosted its second Solar-Powered Hip-Hop Concert at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Gardens. Headlined by dead prez and Mistah F.A.B., and featuring an Eco-Rap battle won by Hunters Point native Tre Pound, the concert combined environmental education with a good time… all on solar power. The organization, in partnership with the San Francisco Department of the Environment, has also created G4G Mobile, “a portable environmental education center housed in a bio-diesel solar powered bus” designed to train neighborhood residents on the concept of “zero waste” and other sustainability concepts.

These effort aren’t just aimed at youth: they’re also organized and run by them. Both the concert and the mobile classroom employ local young people for organization, operation, and promotion of Grind for Green’s work.

This isn’t the first effort we’ve seen to connect hip-hop with environmental activism and economic empowerment… in all cases, it seems like a smart approach to engaging urban youth.

Know of other efforts bringing rap and the environment together? Let us know about them…

via Race, Poverty and the Environment


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