On Monday, February 1, the evening before his scheduled set at the Fox Theatre in Detroit, Seattle rapper Macklemore made a pit stop to the Flint Local 432—an all-ages, nonprofit, substance-free music and performing arts venue in downtown Flint, Michigan.
Club manager of the Local, Sara Johnson, said they weren’t aware of Macklemore’s appearance at the venue until earlier this afternoon.
“It was all very last minute,” Johnson tells Substream. “We found out it would happen this afternoon and didn’t know until about 7 p.m. that Macklemore was even coming; we thought it would just be his management and some of his team.”
Around 8 p.m., he showed up with a bodyguard by his side, sitting down with the handful of attendees at the Local’s monthly community group meeting, as well as Natasha Thomas-Jackson of Raise It Up! The organization, as defined on their website, exists to “promote youth engagement, expression, and empowerment through performing arts opportunities, community involvement and social justice initiatives.”
The first question you’re probably asking is, “How did this happen?”
Johnson tells Substream that Thomas-Jackson got in touch with friend of the artists, Nashid “Lo” Sulaiman, who helped connect Macklemore to Thomas-Jackson, who later contacted venue director Joel Rash about utilizing the venue for Monday evening
Thomas-Jackson brought along 30 African-American teenagers and young adults, many from lower-class areas where they stated, “They’re too scared to deliver water.”
Johnson adds, “For about 90 minutes, we all had a conversation about two things: The water crisis—what led to it, how it’s actually affecting people living here and how the city, state, celebrities are helping—and race/racism and privilege.”
Fresh off the heels of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ latest single “White Privilege II,” the rapper reportedly did more listening than talking throughout the evening. However, when he did talk, it was clear he was there to learn from the community that was suffering from the situation, not only because of what was happening presently, but where they can go from there.
“I honestly forgot a few times while listening to other people talk that he was even there, and even when talking to him, it was easy to forget this is a huge celebrity and a Grammy-winning artist,” Johnson says. “He was very down to Earth, transparent and honest about the whole thing. He could have been anyone with a little bit of power coming to a community and saying, ‘Tell me what’s going on, and how I can help.”
In related news, there are currently plans for a musical compilation called Not Safe To Drink, organized by Baggage frontman/former Swellers drummer Jonathan Diener, to raise money and awareness for the Flint water crisis, as well as a music festival in Flint called Vehicle City Fest currently scheduled for June 3-5.
An earlier version of this story stated Ryan Lewis also attended the Flint Local’s community meeting. We regret the error.