Teaching without preaching: DJ Cavem Moetavation
- Published: 12 December 2010
- Hits: 4979
13 December 2010
Firstly, to your performing name, DJ Cavem. You selected it very carefully, with it representing the acronym Communicating Awareness Victoriously Educating the Masses. Can you explain further your intent with your artistry?
I come from an activist background, a family of artists and black panthers. My mother is Ashara Ekundayo – she founded her own poetry event entitled Café Nuba that has been going on for 11 years in Denver. She is a great community activist and has sculpted me to be an entrepreneur, artist, activist and socially aware lover of Stevie Wonder. The first HIPHOP album I owned was Arrested Development because of her.
I consider myself to be in tune with HIPHOP culture, which has an acronym: stay true to… Higher Inner Peace, Helping Other People. The vision of HIPHOP has been distorted now.
Although I was only born in 1986, I grew up listening to the founding fathers of HIPHOP, like Afrika Bambaata, KRS ONE, Rakim and James Brown. When I listened to the radio, the mainstream music that was supposed to represent HIPHOP, I didn’t feel the same energy. I didn’t feel uplifted or called to action.
I recognise now that the young generation does not have access to knowledge, wisdom and understanding or sustainability through music. What I mean by that, they are not learning about the basics; food, clothing, shelter and respect for this environment and everything living in it.
I grew up adopting all elements of HIPHOP. One in particular was Breakdancing and B-Boying. I have used this knowledge to also reach youth, teaching them health and wellness and the connection between mind and body. To maintain a healthy mind and body, you must consume consciously: that means eating right and surrounding yourself with positive images, music, energy and people.
The single ‘Wheat Grass’, from your latest album The Teacher’s Lounge, won second place in Green For All’s “2010 Dream Reborn” art contest. How do you incorporate eco-messages into your works while keeping them engaging and without them becoming “preachy” or “finger-wagging”?
‘Wheat Grass’ was inspired by the work I was doing last summer, teaching youth the foundation of sustainability; growing food, waste diversion, composting, and health awareness. My previous album Deep Rokc (2008) featured the group Dead Prez who are also socially conscious vegan vegetarians.
As far as Doodlebug from Digable Planets, he’s a good friend of mine in this movement; I dig his eclectic, conscious style in music and knew he’d be a good fit for the song.
Honestly, it’s hard to not preach and sound like I’m lecturing because of how passionate I am and how urgent this situation is.
I work with youth who enjoy mainstream media, so I am aware of the language and frequency they are attracted to.
In addition to being an emcee I am also a producer, creating beats and music for my messages. I use this knowledge of what the youth like and transform it into an eco-conscious club banger.
When people hear songs, it’s the beat and music that draws them in, the words usually come second. If I can get their ear with the sound, the rest is easy.
I am currently producing a new album, I’ve just finished recording the first single called ‘Let It Grow’ a tribute to sustainability in the community, which will be available for streaming on my website, djcavem.com, January 2011.
In addition to being a DJ, MC and poet, you work as an educator with Blue and Yellow Logic, a social enterprise that has the tagline “It takes more than one color to make green”. Despite only being launched in May last year, it already has an impressive list of achievements. How did you become involved as a team member and how do you fulfill your role as an “Eco-Cultivator”?
I was asked to be a part of this organisation because of my knowledge on health and veganism, organic food gardening and my passion for and experience in educating youth. Due to my age I am able to bridge the generational gaps that can sometimes stifle communication. I try to bring a fresh approach to getting youth involved and engaged, making it hip to be healthy and green.
I founded the Brown Suga Youth Fest back in 2004, an event that brought together youth, homeopathic practitioners, yogis, HIPHOP artists, writers, b-boys and exciters to engage in intergenerational dialogue.
My phrase Going Green Living started off as a title for a panel discussion about how to communicate health and awareness through HIPHOP. I have found that when introducing these new ideas to people, you must first redefine their image of what wealth truly is. This led to the “Going Green Living Bling; Redefining the image of wealth” workshop series.
While working with Blue and Yellow Logic, I and my wife, Neambe LeadonVita, were inspired to create the title of Eco-cultivator. As Eco-cultivators we have designed and implemented a curriculum that fits the idea of Going Green Living Bling. We have provided workshops for other organisations such as YouthBiz, Peace Jam, Urban Farming and The GrowHaus, as well as several Denver schools.
I have also taken this idea national putting together and moderating a panel for the Denver Green Festival and speaking at both the San Francisco and Chicago Green Festivals, as well as creating the Going Green Living Bling Panel for the 2010 Biennial of the Americas.
We will also be featured on PBS in January for the community work we are doing. Our next big project will be starting up in January, it is in collaboration with other North East Denver organizations and is going to improve the community through youth engagement.
I have plans to expand the Going Green Living Bling idea using my training from the Good Jobs Green Jobs conference in D.C., the PowerVote Environmental Awareness conference in Chicago and through my new fellowship with Green For All where I will be putting together a series of events, and workshops to engage and activate community members of all ages.
You were recently featured in Breeze Harper’s Sistah Vegan Project. How long have you been vegan, what brought you to veganism, and how do you approach the idea of educating others about veganism?
I met Breeze Harper at the November 2009 Green Festival after a Queen Afua lecture. I had mentioned that my wife was pregnant and vegan and that we had intentions on doing an unassisted home birth. Breeze came up to me afterward letting me know that she had done exactly as we had planned.
We have stayed in contact and since sat on a panel together at the April 2010 Green Festival. She is a good friend and we share the same focus; activating people to remember their ancestral diets coming from a tropical climate equating to more fruits and vegetables. I include her book in my workshops, I feel it speaks directly to the community I work with.
I have been vegan now for 10 years, being vegetarian for threes years before that; it was first introduced to me by my mother. Vegetarian food never seemed different to me; I never thought “Where’s the meat?”
My wife is a vegan, she has been for about two years, vegetarian before that. She was throughout her entire pregnancy. Our daughter, Empress Selasia is here, she is now eight months old and is extremely healthy and alert as a vegan baby.
I use my personal life to motivate others. Growing food with and cooking food for people is a huge part of my workshops. I also try to provide information on homeopathic remedies, with food being the best and most important medicine anyone can take.
Again, I try to redefine the image of what real food is, taking youth to a community garden, to a grocery store and showing them documentaries about the scary truths of our food industry.
As a father, what hopes do you have for the next generation?
I hope to have five more children with my wife Neambe. We plan on leaving a legacy of organic farming and community action for them to continue. It is our hope that they are able to enjoy the beauties of this wonderful planet.
It is our hope that our work and the work of environmental and social activists everywhere has transformed the mentality of future generations to the point where respecting each other and mother earth comes naturally.
Visit DJ Cavem’s website for more information, listen to samples of his music and where to buy it.
Elizabeth Usher has been vegan for a dozen years and tries to live in accordance with values that respect other animals – including people – and the earth. Despite rumours to the contrary, that still allows for some fun along the way. Elizabeth is also interested in producing music with a message. Her song ‘Paradigm Shift’, about issues surrounding factory farming, can be heard on her Myspace site.
Images courtesy of DJ Cavem Moetavation.