Humanitarian aid and social activism will be expressed through music, tonight on campus. In the courtyard café of the Illini Union, University of Illinois registered student organizations; Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Arab Student Association (ASA) will be hosting a Hip Hop For Hope concert to raise awareness about the crisis in Syria. International artists, Omar Offendum and Yassin “The Narcicyst” Alsalman will be the main performers of the night.
Tonight is the night for the Hip Hop for Hope performances, and it will start with an opening act by A Cappella group, The Other Guys. Following The Other Guys, will be one representative from each co-sponsor, SRD and SAMS, who will talk a little bit about the conflict in Syria and what their organizations do for relief and aid.
The doors will open at 6:30 p.m. and the event is free of charge. Attendees can give donations of any amount, which will go to CAIR who have said that they will in turn donate 100% of the proceeds they collect to the Syrian Relief Development (SRD) and the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS).
Zahra Siddiqui, president of CAIR said she thinks that a concert is the best way to have a profound impact on people.
“Music touches people in a different way than statistics will. It moves people’s hearts and it reaches them differently than just giving someone a lecture and presenting facts. It’s more personal and demagogic,” Siddiqui said.
The goal for all those involved in putting the concert together is to entertain and educate the community. Jane Doe*, member of CAIR and ASA and also organizer of the event said that the idea developed while she was chatting with a friend.
“We wanted people to know that there’s still a crisis going on in Syria, there are still people in need. We thought that something like an awareness concert would be something we could do here in Champaign-Urbana to help,” she* said.
Syria has been in a state of disarray for the past three years.Violence and war tore apart the country and the greatest suffering fell upon the Syrian people. Since the start of the violence, the conflict has claimed the lives of over 140,000 people and displaced 2.4 million more. Of these 2.4 million registered refugees, more than half are children.
“I hope that people become more aware of what’s happening in Syria and other countries around the world. I know it is easy to get caught up in our lives here, thank God we’re safe and we’re very blessed to be here, but we have to remember that others are not as fortunate as us. They’re not in the best of situations right now, so it’s good to be aware and give back to those who are in need,” she said.
Noor Qaddour, event coordinator for ASA and also a member of CAIR said that the artists, Omar Offendum and The Narcicyst, are good friends who have performed together in the past, calling themselves Hobson Jobson. Qaddour said that Offendum is a Syrian-American who is very popular in the Arab community. When the revolution started he began rapping about the conflict and has become a symbol for the peace movement in Syria.
Narcicyst, a Canadian-Iraqi, and Offendum we’re both featured on the song “#Jan25”, a song about the Egyptian Revolution that went viral. Both artists are known for the prominance of political and social commentary in their lyrics and their appeal to humanitarian and societal issues within the community.
Siddiqui wants to see a diverse crowd come out for the concert tonight.
“We don’t just want to see Muslims, Arabs or Middle Eastern members of the community. We want a really diverse student body because this is a humanitarian cause; it’s not just for one ethnic demographic. Everyone should care about whoever it is that’s suffering,” Siddiqui said.
CAIR, ASA and all those involved with the organizing of the concert are hoping that this concert will spark a fire for action and initiative in helping humanitarian relief causes like that in Syria. Music is an artistic way to garner empathy and reflection and the organizers are hoping this makes a difference.
“Through this event we’re hoping that people find the need to care about others, even if they have nothing to do with us, we should just care that there are innocent people suffering,” Siddiqui said, “we get so busy with our lives and just stop caring, so I’m hoping that people will value humanity and people will feel the need to take action when injustice is happening.”
* Editor’s Note: this individual’s indentity has been changed and updated as Jane Doe for various reasons.