A little over four years ago Omar Al-Chaar and Rameen Aminzadeh met while working on a documentary about killer jellyfish. Over the next two years they continued working in the video industry and occasionally saw each other on projects and tried to keep in touch with each other. Then the Syrian conflict started.
Throughout 2011 and into early 2012 Omar, who is of Syrian descent, grew increasingly concerned over what was happening as war raged through the country. More and more people were displaced and became refugees, thousands of children lost their families, and the in-country reports just seemed to get worse every day. Omar decided he needed to help, but what could he do?
Then he remembered that Rameen used to do music documentaries for some big name celebrities. Omar reached out to him and asked if he would like to team up to do a celebrity benefit concert, all the proceeds to go to Syrian relief. The rest, as they say, is history.
Omar and Rameen enjoyed putting together the concert and loved the positive effect that their work had on the lives of others so they decided to start a non-profit together. Their dream? To use the arts as a catalyst for social change, to have music inspire social good and bring awareness to issues related to the underprivileged and children. This dream was the beginning of Beats, Rhymes and Relief.
For the past two years Beats, Rhymes and Relief has run a variety of very successful campaigns such as 'Making Beats Count.' This is a program where they go to cities across the United States and host free block party style events designed to bring artists and music industry leaders to communities in need and to inspire people to take positive actions for social good. Beats, Rhymes and Relief brings together local Hip Hop artists who create a track that includes a positive message. The event frequently includes dancers, graffiti artists, and DJs. In Englewood, Chicago backpacks, furniture and food was given away to underprivileged in the community and barbers showed up to give people haircuts - all to the beat of a song that a variety of local Hip Hop artists had recorded just for the event. The whole time a music video was recorded to accompany the music track and the kids and adults heard messages about how Hip Hop can be an agent for positive change. You can see that inspirational video on YouTube by clicking here. At another 'Making Beats Count' event in Atlanta, Georgia they worked to create "Fully Grown" a documentary with Methuzulah Gem, founder of the Gatekeepers Vegan Soup Kitchen. It is a documentary about Hip Hops' take on healthy choices, urban farming and sustainable living. Indeed in every city where Beats, Rhymes and Relief has hosted a 'Making Beats Count' event there are two goals: first, to give back something to the community and second, to use the arts to spread the message of hope.
The message of hope is also an integral part of their 'A Million Bars' project. The goal of 'A Million Bars' is to put a positive spin on popular music and encourage artists to use non-violent and uplifting lyrics and messages in their music. Omar and Rameen want to get a million bars of positive Hip Hop music on the radio waves in the next five years; they are timing their goal to coincide with the celebration of the 45th anniversary of Hip Hop in 2019. They are collaborating with the Universal Zulu Nation on this project. Beats, Rhymes and Relief just finished doing an event in November for the 40th anniversary of Hip Hop and the 41st anniversary of the Universal Zulu Nation. The event was in New York with performances, graffiti artists, dancing, and speakers (including special guest Afrika Bambaataa, the "father of Hip-Hop") talking about using Hip Hop culture and music as a tool for positive social change.
But perhaps the most recognizable of the programs Beats, Rhymes and Relief is running is called #RestoreHappy. The name came about when Omar and another partner of his, Hazami Barmada, went to Jordan to record a video of what was happening with the Syrian refugee children. They were looking for an angle for the video when they heard the words of the Pharrell Williams song, "Happy." They decided to do a shoot of the kids singing and dancing to the song, in order to highlight the resilience of these amazing children while also bringing attention to their plight and the need for aid. As they were shooting the video they met with a famous local actor, Nawar Bulbul, who had just completed an art therapy project with the kids. Part of the art therapy program involved placing tons of canvas in a tent and letting the children paint. Now that the project was over no one was sure what to do with the children's drawings, so they asked if Omar wanted them. Omar and Hazami immediately saw the potential for an amazing #RestoreHappy exhibit and jumped at the chance to take with them a physical expression of these children's dreams of happiness.
This 1,760 feet of canvas (536 meters) showing the paintings of over 1,000 Syrian refugee children was displayed at the National Mall in Washington D.C. on October 23 - 27 this year. Over 10,000 people stopped to see the #RestoreHappy exhibit and many of them were moved to tears when they realized the drawings were made by children who had lost everything. The drawings told of pain, but also of great hope. The story was picked up by international news media outlets and there are plans to have the canvas travel the world to help raise awareness of the need for mental health and education resources for Syria's children.
For a company that has only been in existence about two years Beats, Rhymes and Relief is making a huge mark on this world. Their message of hope and using the arts to create awareness of pressing social issues is one that resonates with us here at WorkerAnts.com. We applaud their efforts and encourage you to learn more about the good work they are doing. You can find Beats, Rhymes and Relief on the WorkerAnts site at http://workerants.com/organization/beats-rhymes-relief.