While many celebrities patiently waited to hear their name called during the 2016 Oscars on Sunday (Feb. 28), others took the stage in Michigan to fight social injustice. Vic Mensa was one of many artists who performed at the #JusticeForFlint fundraising event to aid victims of the Flint water crisis. In a recent interview with Billboard, the rapper opened up about the experience and explained why he believes rap music can "incite global change."
Standing up for equality is not a farfetched idea for the 22-year-old Chicago native. Last year, he was front and center in his hometown protesting against police brutality, with focus on the Chicago Police Department and the 2014 shooting of Laquan McDonald. So when Mensa got in touch with #JusticeForFlint organizer and Creed director, Ryan Coogler, and the activist organization, Blackout For Human Rights, he immediately jumped on board to help.
"I’ve been obviously informed on the Flint situation and have spoken about it in music that I’ve been writing since it really came to light," Mensa told Billboard. "We were in Michigan not too long ago, just south of Flint, and I was just thinking about how it would be amazing to be involved in some way. Having been in Chicago, having some of our turmoil and it all being interconnected, I’m very happy to be able to lend what I can to this cause."
A photo posted by @vicmensa on Feb 28, 2016 at 5:12pm PST
The event sought out to help those affected by the lead-contaminated water in the area and raised over $150,000 in donations. Bottled water, cleaning products, and other items were distributed in Flint, Michigan.
Mensa was joined by other members of the entertainment industry like singer Janelle Monáe, Grey's Anatomy star Jesse Williams, author Hill Harper, filmmaker Ava DuVernay, comedian Hannibal Buress, rapper Dej Loaf, and many more.
The "U Mad" rapper has used the troubles he's personally faced and seen as inspiration for some of his lyrics. Mensa believes art how the power to reach people on different mediums, rap music in particular. Living in a technology-driven society, Mensa says part of the problem is that not all news stories are being delivered in formats that people are paying attention to, especially the youth.
Mensa is eager to educate others about the current issues affecting the community. Due to the large influence the hip hop culture has, he believes rap would be the one art form capable of gravitating to the widest audience.
"Rap music, in my mind, is the art form with the biggest potential to incite global change," Mensa said. "It spans so many different races, colors, creeds, ages, nationalities. It’s really come to a point where it’s so global and there’s so many people listening that if you give them something that can actually help them while they’re listening it’s the best way to get messages across."