One boy stood up, jumped up and down and laughed in the aisle.
Other onlookers screamed and rocked back and forth in their seats, overcome with laughter.
“(Climate change) is a whole crisis,” said comedian Aminah Imani. “They say the crisis is real, man. It’s heating up. Sea levels are rising, you know. No more beaches. No more coral reefs. Nemo and them are about to be lost forever.”
Although the topic — climate change — is a serious one, laughing and clapping was all folks could do at the Attucks Theatre Thursday night.
Imani joked about hotspots, too.
“Everything is heating up,” she said. “They say the spots that’s heating up in the United States are called hotspots. When I heard that, I was like, ‘What’s the Wi-Fi password?’ ”
The four comedians’ performances were part of “Ain’t your Mama’s Heat Wave,” a comedy show put together by the Hip Hop Caucus. The group based out of Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles uses art and culture to educate people about community issues.
The event was taped for an upcoming movie that’ll premiere next spring about issues that plague Norfolk, including flooding and sea level rise as well as structural and community issues.
Production started in October, and everyone in the house Thursday night will be part of the film, said Mark Antoniewicz, a spokesman for the Hip Hop Caucus.
To host the event, they worked with local nonprofit Teens with a Purpose, the city of Norfolk and other organizations. They also had entertainers and hosts from Chicago, New York and New Jersey, including Antonique Smith, a Grammy-nominated singer who has starred in Marvel’s Luke Cage and as Faith Evans in the film “Notorious.”
Smith opened the event and also hosts a radio show and podcast called “Hip Hop Caucus’ Think 100% — “The Coolest Show on Climate Change.”
She remembers hearing in 2014 that scientists think superstorms and hurricanes are being caused by climate change. She was told that the pollution is predominantly in communities of color, or what people call “the sacrifice zone,” and can cause cancer and asthma.
A self-proclaimed “artivist,” Smith said artists are in a great position to advocate for a safer environment.
“People living 200 feet away from oil drilling sites,” Smith said. “People living up the road from power plants and incinerators and landfills. It’s our communities that don’t have clean air and clean water.”
Some folks from Hampton Roads graced the stage too, including comedian Kristen Sivills from Virginia Beach.
During her set, Sivills joked that at one point she didn’t think climate change was real, and she thought flooding was normal. She has four children, including 19-month-old twin boys, and said it’s not easy raising them in areas where flooding is so bad.
“Usually you buy your kids, like, cars,” she said. “I’m thinking about buying my boys a kayak,” she said, describing pulling up to a gas station in a boat as the crowd laughed.
She said it was weird working climate change into her material, but it opened her eyes.
The night wasn’t all giggles. There were also poems about real-life issues that people in Norfolk face every day, like the one Malik Jordan read.
He’s a poet and youth leader with Teens with a Purpose, and has been with the group since he was 12 years old.
Now 20, he’s going to be in the movie, and opened the show with fellow poet Tiffany Sawyer. Together they spoke about gentrification and the importance of listening to young people.
“I guess beauty can’t come from here,” he said about the Young Terrace and Tidewater Gardens neighborhoods. “The NEON District is being built up, but we are being put down. This district, just two blocks from us, is glowing, while our light is being dimmed.”
He said gentrification is a big issue in downtown Norfolk, and he wants to make sure no one is displaced. Flooding is also a huge concern for him. He wants people to take it seriously, and he’d like the world to listen to young people as they try to enact change.
“Because youth voices matter,” Jordan said.
Publication: The Virginian-Pilot / November 22, 2019
Photo Credit: Pexels