2014 — student award of excellence
It’s 1 a.m. on a brisk saturday morning on Syracuse’s west side. A few young women stand outside a seemingly run-down house, smoking cigarettes in their party attire for the night. A faint hip hop beat can be heard coming from a basement.
Already “feeling good” from their street party filled with blaring music, blunts, and Henessy, Kuntry and his crew of aspiring young hip hop artists, known as Money Bag Movement, walk towards the entrance of the party. Once inside the team of four head downstairs to a dark basement, which is already packed with dancing people.
The four continue where they left off at the last party with more marijuana and alcohol, and the four begin grinding with new lady friends, each rapping along with every song that blares through the party’s singular speaker.
“This is how we do, Money Bag Movement,” shouts Pauly, one of the members of the Money Bag crew.
Except partying is not all Money Bag Movement does. The next morning will go back to ordinary life.
"Kuntry" will have to take care of his newborn son and two stepsons by working on the streets. “DC” will have to go back to work at a convenience store. "Pauly" will have to go to class to finish getting his high school diploma, and “Rells” will have to go back to work at McDonalds to provide for his two-year-old boy.
Hip-hop music in Syracuse is marred by a history a violence. Making it big is a seemingly impossible task, especially in a city at it’s peak poverty level. According to the Syracuse Post Standard, “The percentage of all people and all children living in poverty in the city are also at a high for the past four years. More than a third of the city was living in poverty in 2012. For children, the number is almost 55 percent.” Despite the city’s situation, Moneybag Movement is trying to make it; living almost double lives as workers and fathers during the day and rappers at night.
These young men have allowed me into all aspects of their lives, and with the help of the Alexia Foundation, I would like to continue this project. Their story helps to understand the struggle to provide for a family in a community struck by poverty and violence in the United States. This project continues to build on my previous work regarding awareness of violent culture in the United States and the consequences it has on family.