Mixing hip hop with environmental justice

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- Friday night at the Jefferson School, the University of Virginia Office of Sustainability invited the Hip Hop Caucus to Charlottesville to talk about how the art form can be used to advocate for environmental justice.

The Hip Hop Caucus is a national nonprofit with the goal to get the hip hop community active in social justice. Mustafa Santiago Ali, the guest speaker from the caucus and senior vice president for climate environmental justice for the Hip Hop Caucus, explained how hip hop can be used for positive change.

"Hip hop being the art form that it is has the ability to educate, to motivate, to innovate, and highlight the changes that need to happen and that people have power," said Ali.

Ali shared what environmental injustices are going on in our nation right now.

"Couple 100,000 people are dying prematurely from air pollution," said Ali. "We talk about coal ash and the impact it has on communities there. We talk about lead and the impacts to young people, children and how it impacts their lives for generations to come."

Ali said communities of color and low incomes tend to be the ones who face these injustices the most.

"In many instances, people assume that they don't have power, that their communities can be sacrificed zones, can be the places to dump the things that they don't want. So we're changing that dynamic," said Ali.

Nina Morris, the program manager for outreach engagement and communications for the Office of Sustainability at UVA, said that hip hop is a great way for young people to voice their concerns about the future of our planet.

"Hip hop is such an important platform that so many people resonate with and that young people especially can find their voice in," she said. "And so if we can bring together their voice with environmental justice issues we can affect a lot more change."

Some popular artists mentioned who are using hip hop for positive change are Chance the Rapper, Jay-Z, and Meek Mill. Now the Hip Hop Caucus wants artists to bring that same energy towards taking care of our environment.

Members of the Union Hill community in Buckingham County, a majority black community that has been fighting against a compressor station being built in the town, were invited to front row seats at the event.

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