Five dollars got you a seat to witness more than a dozen musicians, poets, and noted Native American environmentalists all on one stage.
The event: “Can’t Drink Oil, Keep it in the Soil.”
The cause: inspire awareness and spur action on the issues of environmental destruction.
Hosted by Reverend Lennox Yearwood Jr, president and CEO of the Hip Hop Caucus, the event, held at New York University in New York City on March 11, drew a nearly sold-out crowd. Even a few stragglers were left standing on the wall in the back of the auditorium.
Some show-goers, enamored and star-struck, whipped out their phones to snap a photo. “Put that away!” staff said in that whisper-yelling kind of way. It was either listen to the fine words and music, or get 86ed like a man who’s had too many.
The lights dimmed and the poets and poetry began. The music commenced. Harmony and dolor. Transported was the audience. And how could they not be? With performances by Grammy-award winning artist Irvin Mayfield Jr, Antonique Smith, and Taboo, the Mexican-American and Native American hip-hop artist of the trio Black Eyed Peas, show-goers couldn’t decide whether to dance or boom out of the auditorium and march in protest of environmental contamination and racial injustice.
Rumors began to fly around that Taboo, inspired by his visit to Standing Rock, endeavored to create a Native American rap collaborative. Then it was confirmed: the all indigenous group features Taboo, PJ Vegas, MyVersers, Supaman, Doc Native, Spencer Battiest, and Drezus. More news on that group as things unfold.
But it wasn’t just poets and hip-hop artists who graced the stage that night. Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, was there. As was Tara Houska, campaigns director for Honor the Earth and former Native American advisor to the Bernie Sanders campaign, orated with power and passion. She encouraged the crowd to get involved, run for office, and recounted her time spent in a dog kennel after being arrested by police as she fought the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota.
She received a standing ovation.