The Raiz Up gives a hip hop teach-in about Detroit’s EM
By Steve Furay
Special to the Michigan Citizen
DETROIT — Clark Park in Southwest Detroit June 9 hosted a special edition of The Raiz Up, a regular event held in the city designed to engage the community through hip hop.
The topic of discussion was emergency management of Detroit and how people in the community can share information about the current state of the city.
The Raiz Up is an example of hip hop as a culture coming together in Detroit to express concerns and share residents’ commitment to the community.
The afternoon began with an open mic for performers, followed by brief words from all attendees and then featured performances by several Detroit hip hop artists, including Will See, Josef Coney Island, Sacramento Knoxx and DPress.
The discussions raised core issues the city is facing, including the failing school system, environmental injustices and the home foreclosure crisis, with an overall sense of feeling powerless to the corporate tides sweeping through the city.
DJ Roughdraft, a hip hop artist who performed a song that urged authenticity in expression, shared his concern during the general discussion that gentrification in his Southwest Detroit neighborhood is breaking people from their histories.
“How am I going to show my son where we’re from?” he said. “And if you don’t know where you’re coming from, how you gonna get where you’re going?”
The stage provided the opportunity for local hip hop artists to raise people’s spirits, knowing the collective energy from that afternoon could help the individuals continue to be inspired toward their individual work for the city’s future.
“I think it’s important to do what they can in their places, just like Raiz Up did it at Clark Park,” said Will See, a rap artist and community activist. “You don’t need to wait; once you put that vibration out there, people will gather. Whatever park, whatever school, whatever church, we need to have dozens of these rise up.”
These events, organizers say, help facilitate unification within the city, which is recognized as a crucial problem amongst organizations and groups working for change.
“In order to unify the city, the main thing right now in this phase is to do what they know,” said Will See.
“For people to reach out with the talents and skills that they have, don’t worry about if it ain’t hundreds of people. You’ve got six people and you’re really building, that’s the start. It’ll grow.”
Once these gatherings occur, the opportunity is then present to create media to help collect people’s stories.
Video, audio recordings, photography and writing are all ways to help spread the message.
At The Raiz Up, several photographers and videographers were present to document the event. Josef Petrous, a music video creator who also raps by the name Josef Coney Island, knows that using the camera is one critical way that hip hop as a culture can creatively share the message of the people.
“I think that it’s important from a social consciousness level that we are representing the reality of now,” said Petrous. “I feel like a lot of hip hop always looks at the past as the classic or the past as the bar to stand up to, but I think we’re the bar, in the sense of we’ve learned so much from them and we document our time every time we shoot a music video.”
Hip hop artist Sacramento Knoxx is one of the primary organizers of The Raiz Up. He expressed the main purpose of the event is to communicate with each other to learn “how we can build alternative solutions from here.”
“One thing that’s definitely dope that I hope to start producing from this thing is artwork; we learn all these things, gather all this knowledge and there’s tons of artists here,” said Knoxx. “Just the interaction sharing all this collective work will produce some collective artwork and push it out to the city.”
Whether that is a music video, outdoor art mural, live stage performance or impromptu dance performance, hip hop will continue to be a vehicle for voices expressing their concerns with Detroit’s emergency management as well as an outlet to express solutions to the many problems the region faces.
“That’s the fifth element (of hip hop); that’s the knowledge,” said Will See. “Hip hop is a constellation of all the elements, we need them all together.”
Information about The Raiz Up is available at www.facebook.com/TheRaizUp