PEACE THROUGH MUSIC Wu-Tang affiliate Cappadonna joined local musicians at a closing reception for the anti-violence art exhibition “Anonymous Boston” on Saturday.
Fliers adorning folding chairs at the Fourth Wall Project displayed the evening's mantra in their first sentence: This is not a party.
Yet people casually passing by the art space on Saturday may have believed otherwise, as uplifting music and a positive vibe emanated from within.
Dubbed "The Soundtrack of Life," the event served two purposes. First, as a closing reception for "Anonymous Boston," an exhibition about urban violence that ran for two weeks (and which the Boston Phoenix helped sponsor). The multimedia installation used firsthand accounts from family members of homicide victims to both personalize their stories and take aim at the ways in which media coverage and anonymous online comments distort those stories.
While the "Anonymous Boston" exhibit has come to a close, the gathering also served as a launching pad for a comparably minded movement. "What Is Beautiful Never Dies" is the brainchild of DJ 3rd Eye, a/k/a Darrell Jones, a father of three who has been incarcerated since 1985 for a crime he claims he didn't commit, and who lost one of his sons to gun violence in 2008.
The goal of his efforts is to link the families featured in the "Anonymous Boston" exhibit with area hip-hop artists, who will convert the stories to song — a medium that will afford a more widespread platform for their message.
For Saturday's proceedings, a panel of local talent including Eroc, Lyrical, Letia Larok, Mann Terror, and Joey Benjamins — as well as special guest and sometime Wu-Tang affiliate Cappadonna — discussed the role music can play in helping to curtail violence.
"How many people's hearts feel heavy tonight?" asked Eroc, before exhorting the packed gallery — made up mostly of relatives of the slain — to call out the names of their lost ones. The result was a minute-long cavalcade of names of those who inspired the gathering.
The discussion wasn't long enough to scratch anything but the surface of the matter at hand. But it was empowering, focused on both the message these artists are attempting to convey, as well as solutions to the issues they witness on a near-daily basis.
Cappadonna told the story of a recent encounter he had with a misguided child in his hometown of Staten Island. "Shorty had a gun on him, and I was like, 'Is this what it's coming down to?' " he said. He followed that up by launching into a wholly bizarre extended metaphor, comparing the distress faced by inner-city youth with that encountered by the characters in The Wizard of Oz — managing to tie in both the Munchkins and the flying monkeys.
"What they discovered on that road, what they were searching for, they already had right there," he said to the crowd who were slowly but surely realizing where he was going with his meandering message of communal support.
Following the discussion came the most heartwrenching portion of the proceedings: the mothers and siblings got an opportunity to speak directly to the artists. Some of them gave testimonials to their own lost sons' musical talents. Other women said they'd never understood hip-hop until that evening.
And of course there were performances from the panelists, bringing the message full circle.
"Anonymous Boston" organizer Joanna Marinova-Jones — Darrell Jones's wife — harkened back to James Brown's 1968 Boston Garden concert, which she said helped to end the rioting following Martin Luther King's assassination. "If you can stop the city from rioting with music," she said, "why can't you save the community [with music]? We want to build a living monument to these lives."