Hip-hoppers want to douse big tobacco
March 11, 2009
MIKE-E is a hip-hop and spoken-word artist, and he’s certainly outspoken.
On a few occasions, he criticized tobacco industry after learning that one of its companies was sponsoring an event where he was performing.
“I’ve done poems wailing against the tobacco industry right in front of them, which really didn’t make me too popular with the people who paid for the venue that night,” he said.
However, MIKE-E’s words struck a chord with the American Cancer Society, which appreciated his approach of using live music as a platform to raise cancer awareness.
Best known for his two seasons on HBO’s “Def Poetry” and the single “Ethiopia (Everything Will Be Alright),” MIKE-E is heading the Cancer Society-sponsored AfroFlow Tour, which will stop at Stateline for a 1 p.m. Saturday, March 14, performance in the Golden Cabaret at the Horizon Casino Resort. He will perform with vocalist Kenny Watson, DJ Invisible and African percussionist Sowande Keita. Donations are welcome.
The all-ages show will benefit the South Lake Tahoe Relay for Life, Aug. 8-9 at Kahle Park. There are 4,200 Relay For Life events each year, and the 2008 Tahoe event raised $80,000 for the American Cancer Society.
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“The American Cancer Society has been fighting back against tobacco for decades, and through our work with MIKE-E and the AfroFlow Tour, we are reaching out to college students to encourage them to take charge of their own health and reject tobacco,” said Linda Blount, national vice president of health disparities for the American Cancer Society. “By educating young people about the importance of staying well and avoiding tobacco use, we can reduce the future cancer burden and save lives. In the U.S., tobacco use is responsible for one in five deaths, and accounts for at least 30 percent of all cancer deaths and 87 percent of lung cancer deaths.”
MIKE-E said AfroFlow is a pretty entertaining educator.
“Some folks who go to AfroFlow shows don’t know what it is, and they’re pleasantly surprised because they see a combination of hip-hop, poetry, music, African percussion,” he said. “Kenny Watson is straight crooning, interactive dance, call and response, people onstage. It’s gumbo, and people seem to like it. The points that we make around smoking create conversation that last beyond the show.”
Now in its third year, AfroFlow is touring nationally for the first time. It is battling cigarette companies which annually spend more than $13 billion on advertising, the Cancer Society reported.
“The tobacco industry is relentless,” MIKE-E said. “From what I understand, the fastest-growing group (of smokers) is 18 to 24. They’ve targeted women with cute little clove cigarettes, projecting the idea that they are a lot less harmful and not as addictive. And with young black men, in particular, they have these machine-made cigars called Black & Mild, which is one of the worst tobacco products on the market. And they start the subliminal and not so subliminal messages at a very, very early age.”
The first collaboration took place through the Society’s South Atlantic Division in March 2007 when the AfroFlow tour visited historically black colleges and universities in six tobacco-producing states: Delaware, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. More than 15,000 students attended the concerts and heard anti-smoking messages, and many students became involved in Cancer Society efforts such as Colleges Against Cancer and Relay For Life. Pelle Pelle and FUZE Beverages also are helping out with the tour.
“We don’t want to attack smokers,” MIKE-E said. “We know how addictive it is, and that’s the whole point. I have to say this, this is not the official position of the American Cancer Society, this is my metaphoric interpretation, if you will: But I consider the tobacco industry to be involved in legalized genocide. You have a product, that is perhaps the only product, that will kill you if used as directed.”