Music is a powerful motivator for young people, and Hip Hop Summit will offer young men and women a space to share music and to get connected with others in their community.
The free event on Saturday, Nov. 20, at Beckley Playhouse Theater will feature music by DeeJay Nabz, and Pastor Brian Kiko Wallington of Mount Vernon Church in Lanark will be the guest speaker.
Summit Kollective, a non-profit group formed by local men Anthony Hairston, 43, Donald Burton, 49, Keith Arnold, 55, originally from North, N.J., and Henry Carson III, 47, is offering “Hip Hop Summit” as a way of connecting with Beckley youth.
“Hip Hop unifies everybody, as far as color, creed, it doesn’t matter,” said Hairston. “When you bring forth music, it’s just unification.”
The Hip Hop Summit will be a forum for young people to relax, talk with one another and discuss the role of music in their lives, particularly hip hop music.
The goal is to transform Beckley into a place where young people see opportunity and find a strong support network that encourages good decision-making and fosters success.
“It’s coming together to give different viewpoints,” Arnold said. “We don’t look for the audience to be a certain way. We just want to fill it up and interact with everybody in the room.
“We’re like a bunch of ‘cool’ uncles,” said Arnold. “They should be able to talk to us, on any level, and we’ll answer their questions.
“We’re going to lead them on the right path.”
They formed the Summit after the death of Dwayne Marquette Richardson, Jr., a popular 18-year-old honor student and Woodrow Wilson High School athlete.
Richardson was fatally shot on Terrill Avenue in May by a 20-year-old man who police said was playing with a gun that he believed had no bullets in the chamber. Instead, a bullet struck Richardson and took his life.
“That definitely hit home,” said Burton. “I think it affected a lot of people.”
Summit Kollective wants to give teens the tools for success and help them work as a team for the city’s success.
“To build more mutual respect with others and also to understand (them), I’m saying we’re all individuals, but we also need to be unified,” said Burton. “That has nothing to do with color or race, either.
“That’s with people. All of us need to come together.”
The men pointed out that music crosses social divides, including race and age.
Record labels use music as a medium to send messages to young people. The message to young Black people can be harmful and can ensnare them into destructive lifestyles.
Meanwhile, musical artists who glamorize drug dealing and misogyny in their lyrics are often living in upper-class suburbs, Arnold observed.
At Hip Hop Summit, Summit Kollective wants to counter the dangerous messages that bombard young people, particularly Black youth.
“What the rapper is singing, he’s not living that,” Arnold said. “While our children are buying their songs and listening to their lyrics, at the same time, that rapper is sending his child to a private school, but our children are living what he is singing.
“Name one rap song that glorifies the daddy going to work,” Arnold said. “Who did they glorify? That drug dealer that had on that $500 shirt. We’re trying to get them to just look at normal things in life.”
Burton pointed out that record companies make billions of dollars from impressionable kids who are drawn to risque marketing techniques and lyrics. He sees the messages sent by entertainment moguls as a factor in a larger agenda.
“(Record labels) say, ‘These kids are going to buy this, and they’re going to try to live it, which means the jails are going to be (full),” Burton said.
Blacks in the U.S. are jailed at five times the rate of white Americans, according to an October report by The Sentencing Project, which tracks incarceration statistics.
Summit Kollective aims to connect with youth and to offer support for their success.
“There’s so many things the community needs that we can’t even name them all,” said Hairston. “Beckley has so much violence and drugs in it, and nobody is willing to step up and help.
“This is just the start of the Kollective, as far as coming together and making something happen.”
The group has already gone to Raleigh County Emergency Housing Center to visit with those at the homeless shelter.
The November event is free to the public. Hairston asked businesses to make tax deductible monetary donations and to donate door prizes and party favors for those who attend.
Summit Kollective will be collecting toiletries for the homeless shelter and families in need during the Hip Hop Summit.
Hip Hop Summit is Saturday, Nov. 20, at Beckley Playhouse Theater from 5 to 7:30 p.m.
More information is available by calling 304-712-5756.