It’s a cold winter day. Snow covers the ground to the point you expect to see a sleigh run down the middle of the street with screaming kids. It’s the middle of January, the month when people like to hibernate across the United States. The holidays are over and honestly, we no longer see any point to this weather.
But wait: there is one place that still bubbling with people, good energy, and loud chatter as if it’s the day before Christmas. That place would be Park City, Utah, the home of Sundance Film Festival. The year is 2006 and there is a extra warmth in the air. Not for the typical reason you would expect at Sundance, as if there were some special film debut or a high-profile director is expected to come strolling through. No, this year, a very special organization called Charity Water was given a store front in the heart of the strip. Charity Water hosted an exhibit to educate and raise money for clean water in Africa. You can imagine the surprise on people’s faces as we coerced them to come in a spend a minute learning that 5,000 kids under the age of five die everyday due to lack of clean water. Some just looked in shock and walked out. Others understood the mission and gave money to support. Some came to tears and stood with us so long it seamed they wanted to join the team and skip the film premieres. This is the bed on which Hip Hop Saves Lives was birthed.
My name is Chad Harper, and I am the founder of Hip Hop Saves Lives, a non-profit organization that uses the power of hip hop to work on obtaining and providing clean water in Africa and Haiti. I had been volunteering for Charity Water for a few months before Sundance. I was extremely moved and being a hip hop artist, I was compelled to write and produced a song to celebrate their work. The song debuted at the exhibit in Sundance. The response was overwhelming: people were buying the song, asking me to take pictures with them, and to autograph their copy. At that moment, I knew hip hop could save lives.
Hip Hop Saves Lives was officially launched May 2010 in Harlem, New York. The launch took place at an African-owned live music venue called the Shrine, named after Fela Kuti”s famous monument in Nigeria.The event was co-produced by Jake Bright, the director of Cocody Productions.
The gift I gained from writing that song to celebrate the work of Charity Water, I wanted to share with as many artists as possible. When you give through the gift of music, it’s a blessing that never stops working. So this January, HHSL launched a campaign called “A Song a Day to End Extreme Poverty”. We reached out to as many artists as possible. Our goal was to write and produce a song everyday Monday through Friday for an entire year, celebrating the work of everyday heroes from around the globe, and then retail the music this holiday season for clean water. A huge goal, but as the saying goes, “if you shoot for the stars and hit the moon, it’s okay. But you have to shoot for something.”
The campaign lasted two months, and in that time, we recorded 40 songs. One of our songs even won the media award from the American Association of Birth Centers. The song was written about an amazing women named Ruth Lubic. We actually send the songs out to the heroes in hope of befriending them and build relationships to mentor our program. Ruth Lubic, the founder of Developing Families Center in Washington, DC has been such a blessing as well as Linda Burhan, author of Good Night and God Bless and caregiver advocate with Harmony Home Health. We got most of our stories from a website called Daily Good.
Today, we debut most of these songs to you. There are more to come and they will all be available for purchase this holiday season. Hip Hop Saves Lives is also taking this program to the classroom. We will be working with New York City schools to pass this blessing of giving through song to children.
According to author Karl Aquino, who studies forgiveness and moral behavior issues, four separate studies found a direct link between a person’s exposure to media accounts of extraordinary virtue and their yearning to change the world. You can read more about this here at Daily Good.
I would like to give a special thanks to all the artists who participated in our program: Okai Musik, Shaka Tate, Squala Orphan, Moni Delgado, Frank Biggs, Azizza, Zing Experience, Luminisa Di’Lorenzo, Bridget Barkan, Luisa Bastidas, Monica L, Jojo Abot, Murielle, and Makherveli Infinite’ Wiz.
Here’s a video of our award-winning song about Ruth Lubic—
—as well as our video about Linda Burhan.