Nii Gyamfi is one of the six emcees playing at Loose Change to Loosen Chains, a fundraiser aiming to end slavery.
The roots of hip hop are deeply embedded in a ferocious history of slavery.
After all, the genre — which was birthed in the Bronx in the 1970s during brutal gang warfare and extreme poverty — follows an enduring legacy of Negro spirituals, blues and jazz, which were inspired by a culture of physical bondage. Hip hop was succinctly described as a “liberation movement in the form of a diverse culture” in a 2006 book by Emmett G. Price III, the chair of the African-American studies department at Northeastern University.
That heritage of liberation will be potentially furthered on July 10 by a handful of local emcees and DJs. The performance, which will have the popular hip-hop duo Dragon Fli Empire, is being held at Lord Nelson’s Bar & Grill to raise awareness about the issue of human trafficking and money for International Justice Mission (IJM) — a non-profit organization dedicated to stopping global crime through legal means.
“It’s poetic in a sense to be able to use an art form that came from pain and adversity to give a voice to those who are suffering pain and adversity right now,” says Nii Gyamfi, one of the six emcees performing that night.
Slavery, which was loosely defined in international law by a 1927 United Nations convention as “the status or condition of a person over whom any or all the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised,” afflicts an estimated 27 million people globally, according to Kevin Bales of Free the Slaves. Although the clandestine nature of the black market trade prevents any accurate statistics from being formed, human trafficking occurs in Canada and throughout the world.
In response to that reality, half — if not more — of every $10 ticket will be donated to IJM. The Washington, D.C.-based organization will apply the funds directly to the investigative, rescue, aftercare, prosecution and structural transformative work that it does overseas in countries ranging from Cambodia to Zambia to Peru. According to the show’s organizer and promoter Samuel Bhan, the financial goal of the evening is to raise $1,000.
Brian Cress, the West Coast director of development for IJM, says the hip hop show will be a legitimate conduit of freedom in the fight against slavery.
“The thousands of dollars raised actually goes to help form a rescue. It really makes a difference. If it was your sister or daughter, you’d really want someone out there like this helping this happen,” Cress says from Seattle.
Although information and opportunities to donate to the cause will be available at the concert, Bhan assures that no one will be forced to engage with the issue.
”If you want to be involved, get involved,” he says. “If not, cool. Have a great night and enjoy the show. We’re not going to be shoving it down anyone’s throats. I won’t be on the mic advocating the whole night: That’s not what people are there for. Shoot, I’ll be surprised if half the room even remember the night.”
Neither Gyamfi or Bhan are under the illusion that hip hop has always been a beneficial force for change. In fact, Bhan contends that the genre has often contributed to a mental slavery to drugs, crime, sex and money. But both are certain that the music can be used to address the issue of human trafficking.
“This show is a way of redirecting hip hop into the direction where it was intended,” says Gyamfi, whose show on Sunday will be his first live set in five or six years. “It’s a chance to do something positive out of something negative.”