A call to service
Grammy award-winning artist Kem gives back another year
By Puakea Olaisha Anderson
Special to the Michigan Citizen
DETROIT — Every year, Detroit artist Kem offers his own call to service. Once homeless and addicted to drugs, the multi-platinum, Grammy award-winning artist performs and gives back to Detroiters living on the streets. Since 2009, he has held a day-long concert and food drive to help Detroit’s homeless community.
His event, Live @ Mack and Third: A Call to Service, held Aug. 26 at Detroit’s Cass Park, provided free health screenings, food, toiletries and toothbrushes along with five hours of free entertainment. This year the band Maze featuring Frankie and Detroit artist K’Jon also performed along with 12 other acts.
“It was a great honor to give back to the homeless and encourage people to come out to the food drive,” K’Jon told the Michigan Citizen.
The purpose of the event is to raise funds and collect canned goods for the area’s homeless shelters and food banks and to provide a free getaway and free meal to the homeless and others in need. It also serves to encourage people to volunteer and give.
Judge Craig Strong of Detroit, who attended the event said Kem has provided a real service to the community — “a job well done.”
Preceding events included a day of shopping at a local Kroger and a fundraising event at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, where he was presented with a gold album to celebrate the high sales of his third album, “Intimacy.”
With 20 years of addiction and a homeless lifestyle behind him, Kem says he doesn’t think he’ll ever forget where he comes from.
“Mack and Third is about giving back,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate to overcome many obstacles, including being addicted and homeless. If it weren’t for organizations like the Detroit Rescue Mission and the NSO, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Kem says he hopes to offer encouragement to the homeless and substance abuse victims.
“I want to encourage others in their current situations by offering something tangible like a meal, along with the hope that things can get better. By sharing my music with a free concert, I also hope to inspire others to give back.”
Robert Earl Marshall, who has been homeless for five years, has attended the Mack and Third event for the past three years. Marshall talked about his life as a hard-working citizen and how he inspired his daughter to finish law school. A difficult divorce, however, tore his life apart. He is now homeless and calls Cass Park his home.
“I need help but Kem inspires me,” said Marshall, who also suffers with addiction.
Drake Walker, who has been homeless for more than a year and is recovering from cocaine and alcohol addiction says he’s in the challenging stages of rebuilding his family one day at a time. He shared his thoughts about the event.
“For Kem to come out of the horrors of addiction and become the superstar that he is today, it just shows us that anybody can do it,” said Walker, who volunteers at Mariner’s Inn, a local shelter and treatment center for the homeless. “God has a plan for everybody. … Life is gonna show up, but don’t let it show out on you. Get in a program and stick to it.”
McDonalds, Forgotten Harvest, Chevrolet and Triumph Church were among the many event sponsors.
For more information, to volunteer or donate visit www.mackandthird.org