Hip-Hop Lifting SAISD After-School Clubs

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Ariel Faz (left) and Eric Frias of CHISME. Courtesy photo.

Ariel Faz (left) and Eric Frias of CHISME. Courtesy photo.

During this week of The Big Give SA, I was drawn to think about what motivates us to give and to ask others to give to the things we care so much about.  A simple philosophy guides my personal and professional life. The most eloquent I have seen this belief espoused was attributed to Buddha: “Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle and the life of the candle will not be shortened.” The same is true in philanthropy.

Eight months ago I came to San Antonio to begin my first year as a teacher in San Antonio Independent School District with this philosophy in mind.  Almost immediately, I knew I wanted to find more ways to support my students and the students in my district.  I began the process of organizing a hip-hop charity event.  I had organized hip-hop concerts in the past during college, but this was different.  This concert would bring together both of my worlds, both of my passions as my way to give to San Antonio and to get others to give too.

Hip-hop and education have long been my passions, but few would say they mix well together. In fact, most would consider hip hop and charity events strange bedfellows. Even stranger is the thought of a second grade teacher being at the helm of such a thing.  Charitable events tend to conjure up images of tuxedos, ball gowns, and wealthy patrons eating $1,000 plates of food. Hip hop, not so much.  For many of us, the former is not how we choose to give, but could hip-hop work?

We’re going to find out.

This Saturday, May 10, at the Limelight, doors open at 8 p.m. for the Benefit Concert: Qwel and Maker x CHISME. One hundred percent of proceeds from this event will go to funding teacher-led after school clubs through the SAISD Foundation. Can’t make it to the show? You can also contribute to this cause online at www.gofundme.com/supportSAISD.

Alexander George and his colleagues present a check to several students at Reagan High School. George and several other TFA teachers raised $1,500 in under two weeks for Reagan students' college scholarships. Courtesy photo.

Alexander George and his colleagues present a check to several students at Reagan High School. George and several other TFA teachers raised $1,500 in under two weeks for Reagan students’ college scholarships. Courtesy photo.

I was hesitant to bring the idea of a hip-hop charity event to my Teach for America superiors. Truthfully, I expected there to be very little support for my idea. Much to my surprise, the very opposite was true. I found enthused backers in the SAISD Foundation and Teach for America, not to mention a host of other individuals that would join us along the way to support education in the heart of San Antonio and help students find their passions as we linked ours.

As soon as word spread across San Antonio, the network of support grew. I was humbled by the willingness of individuals who had never met me, some who had no real stake in the District or the students we serve, to assist in the long and arduous process that was organizing this event.

A perfect embodiment of this willingness is Ariel Faz, MC of the San Antonio hip-hop group CHISME. Ariel and I have only met face to face once, and that was only very recently, yet he has been one of the strongest supporters of this event and of me from the beginning.

I was connected to Ariel in the middle of a frustrating search for a venue that would host a hip-hop charity event. I had been contacting different locations for two months with little luck; I felt I was coming close to exhausting all of my options.  Without a venue there was no conceivable way to continue with the concert.

In a last ditch effort to secure a venue, I began connecting with friends, of friends, of friends- digging as far into my quickly growing network as I could possibly go.  Through this frantic search I was put in contact with Ariel.

Within three days of emailing Ariel we had a location that was not only willing to host us, but also willing to waive all of their usual fees.  I was in utter disbelief; he had accomplished in three days what I had been working on for months. From the get go, Ariel was all in for hip-hop and for supporting education.

There are many other people who have contributed to this event, and I wish I could tell each of their stories. Unfortunately blog posts have word limits and readers have limited attention spans, so that is not possible. Still, Ariel’s involvement exemplifies the spirit that connects all of those who have given their time and money to date, not just to the event, but the cause behind it. We are a group of relative strangers, many who have still not met in person, banding together for a single united cause.

For myself, this process has been enlightening and the actualization of the philosophy I try to live by. I saw myself as that first candle, whose flame has lit many other wicks. Those candles that were lit, in turn, ignited other candles. I have seen this cycle unfold all around me, and it has been beautiful to watch. Each of us giving in the ways we are uniquely able, but regardless we are rallying together for our love of the music, for our love of the students, or for both.

San Antonio is an incredible city, whose grandeur is only trumped by the citizens who reside within. The spirit of community runs deep in this city, its ferocity embodied in the cheers that echo through the AT&T Center. I myself have witnessed this firsthand, as I have described throughout this post. As a Northern transplant it has been a humbling experience, and one that I will never forget.

I’d like to end this post with a simple request to anyone who may be reading this. Be that candle that lights the candles around it and change the world, one act of kindness at a time.  Take the time to give in whatever way fits for you to whatever cause you are passionate about.

Be that candle – give.

*Featured/top image: Ariel Faz (left) and Eric Frias of CHISME. Courtesy photo.

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