Nomadic Wax, Housing is a Human Right, and The Cornel West Theory Present: ‘Home: a musical conversation on the global fight for housing’
Written by Andrew Bridge
“Home is that peace of mind, the rays of sunshine / will go to war with any anybody trying to take mine.” –StaHHr
Since the dawn of our humanity, the struggle for housing and persistent confrontation over land has been a reoccurring motif.Whether it is the rise of colonialism and its conquests over indigenous territories centuries ago, the increasingly frequent natural disasters laying waste to countless homes, or the prolonged gentrification of our cities through the perils of globalization and a free market economy, the ongoing fight toward recognizing housing as a basic human right is unfortunately one that is no stranger to many.
In light of this weighty issue, Nomadic Wax has teamed up with the creative story-telling platform and advocacy organization Housing is a Human Right (HIAHR) to establish a voice in this ongoing battle. As an extension of Nomadic Wax’s prolonged cause-branding mixtape series, the collaboration with HIAHR has birthed the project HOME: one that blends authentic, first person audio testimonials from HIAHR’s work in South Africa and the US with the voices of emcees, poets, and singers from global hip hop massive. The result is a musical conversation aiming to educate, empower, and inspire its listeners to become engaged with the global struggle for housing.
As a creative storytelling project, HIAHR has been working to connect diverse communities through the subjects of housing, land, and the dignity of a place to call home. “Wherever we go, we hear the same story again and again. Insecurity. Uncertainty.
But people getting organized.” said Michael Premo of Housing is a Human Right. “The global uprisings that have erupted in the last few years signal a growing global consensus that a change must come. And we are constantly looking for creative ways to share stories that reflect this new reality. We’ve worked with DJ’s playing audio stories in laundromats and vacant storefronts, and so doing a Mixtape just made sense. There is no better way than through the universal language of music to express that the problems we face, while they vary in scale and intensity by region, they affect people around the world in profound ways.”
Housing is a Human Right’s video ‘Ms. Ward Eviction Case,’ the story of an 82 year old Brooklyn resident being evicted from her home after 44 years of residence: https://vimeo.com/28418020
During the mixing process, Boo, a longtime resident of New York City, was displaced after Superstorm Sandy left most of Lower Manhattan underwater. Fortunately, his extensive network of family and friends across the city was able to provide him with a roof over his head and a hot meal in his stomach – something not all people can say for themselves. – However, this momentary stint of displacement caused him to think about the state that we live in: “The power outage became, what I refer to as, ‘the equalizer’. Once the power went out, wealth and status didn’t matter. Regardless of what tax bracket you came from, you were left in the dark, and in the cold…for many of us it was an inconvenience, but there were so many others that lost everything in a matter of hours.”
Boo continued to delve deeper into the project’s content in stating, “Working on this mix and listening to some of the stories made me think of what progress means. Does having a Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, or Wal-Mart truly improve a neighborhood? Are they good for the health of a community by creating jobs, or do they eat the local mom and pop shops, forcing them to close and sending others into unemployment or forced retirement? Where is the balance?”
To further strike the balance between the audio testimonials and the music, HOME also recruited the talents of the politically charged hip-hop collective the Cornel West theory (CWT) to combine their distinct brand of production with original verses from artists representing as diverse backgrounds as Zimbabwe, Italy, Haiti, and just about everywhere in between. Each verse stemsfrom the artists’ consideration of what the concept of home means to them, whether that is from personal experience, or elsewhere.
DJ Nio, a partner of Nomadic Wax, and member of the Italian rap ground Zero Plastica chose the latter. His verse drew inspiration from the story of Rachel Corrie. Rachel was an American peaceactivist who lost her life in 2003 after being run over by a bulldozer while defending the house of a Palestinian family in Gaza. Nio described his feelings toward this in saying, “this story shocked me when it happened and was the first thing that came to mind when I heard about HIAHR’s work. When you sacrifice your life not for your own house or country, but for someone else’s, you are saving the whole of mankind.” In Nio’s words, “Home, is a place where I can be safe with my own family.”
Slightly south of DJ Nio’s Italian abode is where Synik - yet another contributing emcee to the HOME project – resides. As a Zimbabwean native, Synik has experienced the hardships that come with his nation’s high unemployment rates and severe lack of social services. He believes these issues have “fostered a survivor type mentality in most people who do for themselves instead of seeking formal employment…people have to find means to get by.” Through his own original verse though, he hopes that “people can realize that we are all facing similar struggles and as such we can’t look at our existence as separate from the next person.”
Being no stranger to the struggle himself, Tim Hicks, a member of the DC-based the Cornel West theory told me, “I’m not sure if this is universal to all artists, but we have all seen our share of hardship as it relates to the topics addressed on this mix… I hope that the listeners understand the serious nature of the content, and that they are blessed enough to sample from each of the many dope artists featured throughout the mixtape.” He goes on to describe what the concept of ‘home’ means to him, “home is…peace, stability. Home should be a place of refuge, no matter where one resides.” The unfortunate reality is that these places of refuge, as Hicks described, are disappearing around the world. From South Africa to Brazil, New Orleans to Brooklyn, people are being thrown from their houses because of sky-high rent prices, or even worse, witnessing their residences being turned to rubble in front of their own eyes.
Truth Universal, a well known hip hop activist from New Orleans and one of the many emcees who contributed an original verse to the mixtape has witnessed this firsthand, specifically in the wake of Hurricane Katrina’s paralyzing destruction of his hometown: “Having some level of involvement in the public housing strugglehere [New Orleans] in 2007 helped me to understand land grabbing and gentrification that much more. For years, the city had a plan to remove the housing projects and replace them with mixed income dwellings. Working alongside men and women who were fighting for what they called home would definitely make you more cognizant of how inhumane it is to uproot families for the ultimate goal of profit… The residents had very little input here.” For Truth Universal, “Home is your root, your source. It’s not just where you live, it’s where you preserve and initiate cultural practices, and where you learn to be you.”
About a thousand miles north, pockets of the metropolis that is New York City have experienced massive amounts of problems in relation to gentrification, land grabbing, and homelessness, especially in the aftermath of super-storm Sandy. Hired Gun, a long time Brooklyn resident and frequent Nomadic Wax collaborator has seen his neighborhood transform before his eyes: “In the early 2000’s, Park Slope was almost like the wild frontier with so many contractors fighting to make over Brooklyn as the new ‘LowerManhattan.’ As a New Yorker, and especially for myself as an educator, you see the realities that poor people, and especially those of color go through to maintain their homes for their families. Families are being broken up for legal and financial reasons here. The strange dichotomy of New York City is it’s inviting nature, yet harsh, and unjust realities.” As a veteran emcee, Hired Gun is well versed in the influence hip-hop culture can have on social issues at hand: “[Hip hop] allows people to not only participate fully, but also is a culture that embraces the personal story. Hip Hop is folk music, and at it’s core it is a music that adapts to the ideas, talents, and abilities of whomever embraces it. Historically, it also has solid roots in a radical or revolutionary discourse, so it embraces speaking the truth to the realities of people who are the marginalized, oppressed, and underrepresented.” No matter what your race nationality, or personal beliefs may be, the issue of housing is one that is increasingly becoming unavoidable. It is, and will continue to be an ongoing battle to grant the most basic of human rights to people who more than deserve it.
This mixtape aims to personalize the struggle, provide a series of voices, and a soundtrack to an often-voiceless issue. Join the conversation by downloading the mixtape at http://nomadicwax.bandcamp.com/track/home-housing-is-a-human-right
If you are in the New York City area, be sure to catch the project’s official launch on August 15th at Powerhouse Arena in Brooklyn. HOME is also being released in conjunction with Laura Gottessdiener’s new book A Dream Foreclosed: Black America and the Fight for a Place to Call Home. The event will feature DJ Boo on the wheels of steel, with featured performances from John Wesley Moon of the Cornel West theory, Hired Gun, Avalon the Dawn, and Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai.
Get more information about the event logistics here: https://www.facebook.com/events/164016413785441/?notif_t=plan_edited
Learn more about Housing is a Human Right and their inspired mission through visiting their website here: http://housingisahumanright.org/
1. Fame Nickles (Zimbabwe/Canada), The One Sun Lion Ra (USA), Poetes Fyziks (Gabon): Original Verses produced by the Cornel West theory
2. Outspoken (Zimbabwe): “Life In the City”
3. Def Boyz (South Africa): “Ezomzi”
4. Matador (Senegal): “Catastrophe”
5. Hired Gun (USA), Holstar (Zambia), Ardamus (USA), Avalon the Dawn (USA): Original Verses produced by the Cornel West theory
6. Jason Chu (China/USA): “Back Home”
7. Infinite (USA), StaHHr (USA), Rah Zemos (Lebanon/Canada): Original Verses produced by the Cornel West theory
8. Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai (USA): “The Balled of a Maybe Gentrifier”
9. Vox Sambou (Haiti): “Diabetik”
10. Jarabe Del Sol (Colombia/USA), Shokanti (Cape Verde), Waahli (Canada/Haiti), Dj Nio of Zero Plastica (Italy): Original Verses produced by the Cornel West theory
11. Linkris (South Africa): “Back Home”
12. the Cornel West theory (USA): “Homebound”
13. Truth Universal (Trinidad/USA), Teck Zilla (Nigeria), Raw-G (Mexico/USA): Original Verses produced by the Cornel West theory
14. Native Sun (Mozambique/UK): “Mother & Son”
15. Invincible & Finale (Detroit): “Locusts”
16. Synik (Zimbabwe): Original Verse produced by the Cornel West theory