(Photos fro top: Princess Titus and Taronda Richardson, Chancellor Tha Beast)
It’s not every day that a group of kids go viral for rapping about farming. With the help of social media reposts by Chris Brown and Cedric the Entertainer, that’s just what happened for a group of young Minneapolis kids with a song entitled “Grow Food.” Denouncing the perceived 'hood delicacies of Popeyes and McDonald’s, the song encourages the masses to be more proactive about their food sources to the tune of an infectious trap beat. And while the song is tailor-made to “hit dem folks,” they are hoping that the message hits harder.
“Grow Food” is the brainchild of a collaboration between Minneapolis organizations Beats and Rhymes and Appetite For Change (AFC). AFC takes part in bringing awareness to the disparities in food sources in North Minneapolis in comparison to wealthier parts of the city. As part of a summer program where interns learn to hone agricultural, entrepreneurial and creative skills, the song was the result of the kids’ capstone project. With just two weeks to write the song and shoot the video, AFC co-founder Princess Titus was admittedly unsure if they could pull it all off. But her daughter, Princess-Ann, and the rest of the young activists proved the “youth are the truth.”
“I had all these limited beliefs, and that’s why when she was saying, ‘the youth are the truth,’ that’s not a word we made up. That’s a word that they came up with,” Titus said. “So when we follow them and put all of our eggs in their basket, even though it doesn’t fit the status quo of how long it takes to shoot a video. And they killed it. They kill it every time like they rise to the occasion.”
Eleven-year-old Princess-Ann Nelson is a fiery young activist who became passionate about healthier living after her own battles with a poor diet. Taking her cause to where it mattered most, Nelson said she helped changed the menu in her school lunchroom. But she's just one of the many children involved in making “Grow Food” the viral hit it has become. Alongside Aaliyah Demery, Larrion Davis, Tyrell Dunlap and John Washington, their group, known as Urban Youth, became the faces of the song, but an entire community helped to write the lyrics.
“We put our lyrics together by the community pitching along; it wasn’t just one person writing their own rap,” she explained. “The whole community came together to write the rap. And the message we wanted to get across was the reasons why they’re putting this food in the hood.”
Both Titus and Nelson agree that a song with a worthwhile message is harder to come by online these days, and hoped “Grow Food” would spark a different kind of conversation. Proving that music can be more effective than a PSA or a tweet, AFC and Urban Youth may have gotten more than they bargained for, as the two were shocked when Chris Brown shared their video on Instagram. Moreover, however, they hope that artists and celebrities will help in their efforts to promote healthy living in underserved communities.
“We are hoping we can spark that basic human instinct; that need and that desire for people to go back to the basics. It is not the big system or the government’s responsibility to feed us,” Titus notes. “And if we continue to let it be their responsibility to feed us we continue to get kids who can’t sit down in school because they have had a sugar-heavy breakfast on the way to the school because they stopped at the corner store.”
As has been proven many times throughout history, younger members of society are more than capable of making change. Titus hopes others remember this as well.
“The youth are the truth. I’m going to follow them wherever they go,” she said.
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