(Photo: Courtesy Mama Luke)
Rapper Kangol Kid had been aware of breast cancer and heard of others who'd battled the disease, but he'd never been personally affected by it until his best friend and film executive, who also serves as his manager, Shaunda Lumpkin, lost her mother to breast cancer in May 2010.
"Her mom was like a mom to me," Kangol tells BET.com. "She was a strong woman and always pepped us up, so to watch this lady deteriorate changed me. Before this, I’d never experienced it first hand."
Gay Frances Lucas, or "Mama Luke," as she was affectionately called, participated in the American Cancer Society's Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk for 12 years after losing her mother-in-law to the disease in 1992 not knowing that years later, in 2008, she'd be faced with her own challenge. After she passed away just two weeks before her 60th birthday, Lumpkin and Kid took to continuing her legacy by walking in her honor in Newark, New Jersey, last year as team Mama Luke. But they didn’t walk the walk alone.
Rap legends like Roxanne Shanté, who is a breast cancer survivor herself, Dana Dane, Joe Ski Love, Force MDs, Nyoil and LA Sunshine joined the group’s cause as well. The group was also recognized for being one of the top 10 fundraising teams with $3,500 raised in just three weeks.
One of the team’s pink T-shirts has been making the rounds since the inaugural walk and hip hop artists have been singing and inking messages of hope onto it. A recent trip to Philadelphia resulted in Will Smith’s signature and during the BET Hip Hop Awards in Atlanta this weekend, LL Cool J, Wiz Khalifa and Rick Ross made their marks on the shirt as well. The shirt will be heading to Los Angeles next in the movement’s quest to get every artist to sign the shirt before being auctioned off with proceeds going to the American Cancer Society.
Kangol might be driven by the memory of someone he held dear, but he’s also hoping that this shines a positive light on the music genre and in turn lets people know that hip hop is so much more than the negative preconceptions it sometimes brings. “Hip hop makes the front page when it’s bad news, but when it’s something good you can’t find it anywhere,” he says.
The Mama Luke team will be participating again in this year’s breast cancer walk on Sunday, October 16 in Newark and will be joined by Ice-T & Coco, Afrika Bambaataa, Roxanne Shante, Milk Dee, Force MD's, Joe Ski Love and Full Force among others.
For more information and to check out videos and photos of the hip hop artists who’ve lent their time and energy to the cause, visit facebook.com/mamalukegfl