Dessa here, and with no time to waste. Doomtree is setting off for Chicago today to perform at Lollapalooza tomorrow.
I’ve announced a couple of benefit shows recently. I’m often reluctant to do benefit shows, not because i’m not cold-hearted (snaaake, look into his ey-eyes), but because I think they’re really hard to do well. That said, my visit to the South Side Family Nurturing Center (which operates in Minneapolis’ Phillips neighborhood), proved compelling enough to overcome all of my hesitations.
Every aspect of the center seems so carefully tuned to the kids’ interests. Physical therapists, teachers, grad students, social workers, all working together to provide bigger-picture services to kids at risk of abuse and neglect. To safeguard kids, SSFNC makes lasting, genuine connections to parents to help provide the resources they need to provide safe, affectionate homes. Even the dolls come in the same colors as the toddlers who spend their days at SSFNC.
After my visit, I wrote a letter to ask some other artists to perform at a benefit with me. Here’s an excerpt from the email I sent to Jeremy Messersmith, Gabriel Douglas (from 4onthefloor), Toki Wright, Coroline Smith, Taj Raj, and Robbie Robinson (who stole the show at my O’Shaughnessy gig). All of them agreed to play.
Some months ago I received a message from the Southside Family Nurturing Center, which serves little kids and families in the Phillips neighborhood. The story is a familiar one: a struggling non-profit faces staggering funding cuts. But the note–written by Barb Olson, Executive Director–was unusually compelling. The degree to which Barb and her colleagues devote themselves to bettering the lives of the families and children that they serve was genuinely arresting. In a visit to the center, Barb explained that when kids enter kindergarden without having had a lot of interaction at home, they often haven’t developed the motor skills to hold a pencil–a serious hurdle to literacy. She also explained that kids with behavioral problems (hitting, tantrums, etc.) may not have had the chance to develop the speaking skills they’d need to express their frustration verbally instead of physically. So, at the Center, they practice moving their bodies. And speech therapists focus on helping kids with the two types of language development: learning how to understand speech and learning how to form it in their own mouths. All the while, the center visits the children’s families every week. A lot of families have had lousy experiences with social services, Barb explained. So instead of marching in and telling parents not to spank kids, they ask “What do you need? How can we help you?” Then they develop lasting relationships with families and offer parenting resources after having earned their trust.
A lot of the Spanish-speaking families experience the challenges of generational poverty with the added challenge of isolation; their neighbors might not speak their language. So Barb opened up the center to the Latina mothers in the neighborhood, organized a regular little pedicure day where they could come for free, talk, and listen to each other. “Oh cool,” I said, “so you found a salon willing to donate the service?” “No,” she said. “We all just bring polish and do it ourselves.” Those of you who know me know that I’m a vocal atheist. But man, first thing I thought was, Uh, this is like biblical–they’re literally washing feet. I don’t know if that story moves you or not, but for me the thought of all these underpaid, highly trained professionals on their knees to serve was a striking image.
So if, you’re free on August 26th, consider coming to Hell’s Kitchen to catch the show. All 7 groups will be doing short, stripped down sets. I’m hoping for a listening-room kind of feel: artists, listeners, and organizers in a small room, listening to special, casual performances from some of Minneapolis’ best. None of the artists are getting paid and Hell’s Kitchen donated the space; all of the proceeds go straight to SSFNC. Tickets are available HERE.
In other news, I’m excited to announce that I’ve signed on as a blogger for The Star Tribune. My first post, titled “Drowning in Milk” is live now. Click on the image below if you’re inclined to check it out.
I’ll leave you with a few images from Stuttgart, Germany, where Doomtree recently played the Hip Hop Open Festival.
Photos courtesy of Nobbe K.
Alright, Chicago traffic. MOUNTAIN the tour van is coming to join your inching, halting ranks.