By Sabrina Maggiore SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC NEWS)An estimated 4 million people mobilized globally to demand that their government take action on climate change. In Syracuse, hundreds of activists gathered in Forman park to urge the government to develop concrete plans, curb carbon emission, and invest in renewable energy.
Among the many activists was rapper Mahkai Bailey,19. He’s known to his fans as Truth Speaker (voice of the youth). The name, aptly characterizes what he hopes to accomplish with his music: spread messages of hope and serve as a voice for his peers.
“I take in a lot of things that happen around me and I put it into songs, I try to make it make sense,” said Mahkai.
Mahkai takes the Mic at the rally and introduces himself. For him, the cause is personal.
“I survived three hurricanes: Rita, Katrina, and Ike. And if I didn’t I wouldn’t be here spreading my message today,” said Mahkai.
Mahkai was just 5 years old when hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. He was living with his father in his grandmother’s home when evacuation orders were issued. The family drove for hours in bumper to bumper traffic before getting to Houston where they waited out the storm.
The flooding from Katrina damaged their family home, destroyed precious family photos, and permanently changed the city for Mahkai’s father Freedom-Allah Bey.
“New Orleans will never be the same. It will never be the same, so we started somewhere fresh,” said Freedom-Allah.
Freedom-Allah decided to leave New Orleans behind and made Houston his permanent home.
There, Freedom-Allah and Mahkai faced two more devastating hurricanes before they left the region and moved north to Syracuse.
“Hurricane” became a word tied to trauma for Mahkai.
“I thought a hurricane was a big scary person at the time…It was traumatizing. I didn’t know what it [hurricane] was,” explained Mahkai.
Both Mahkai and Freedom-Allah recall desperation from people who they say lacked basic necessities following the storms. Mahkai recalls one incident in vivid detail. An elder man at a store had been waiting in line to pick up bags of ice. He finally reached the front of the line, but there was just one bag left. As the elder man reached for the last bag, a young teenager who had also waited in line grazed the elder man with a knife, grabbed the bag of ice, and ran off. It’s an incident that Mahkai has described in his music. His two most recent songs chronicle his experience living through the hurricanes.
“It was hard to listen to the first time because it reminded me how much we’ve been through dealing with these climate issues,” Said Freedom-Allah upon reflecting on Mahkai’s music.
Mahkai says no one should have to experience the devastation he saw during the hurricanes. But researchers say that the planet’s warming is contributing to more drastic weather patterns like extreme hurricanes and drought.
According to scientist, if the earth’s temperature increases to above 1.5 degrees celsius, the damage done will be irreparable. In order to prevent the damage, scientist say we have to cut carbon emissions in half by 2030. That’s why Mahkai is using his music to raise awareness and urge action now.
“I don’t necessarily have the tools for everything to be done but what I do have is my voice,” said Mahkai.