“When I say no more, y’all say pipelines!” Xiuhtezcatl Martinez shouted into a small but enthusiastic crowd of both environmentalists and hip hop fans on Wednesday night at the Horn Gallery.
Delivering a lecture on climate change and showing off his budding rap skills, sixteen year old Martinez fused humor, hip hop and environmental issues to bring attention to climate change and its effects. The event was sponsored by the Environmental Campus Organization, Indigenous Nations at Kenyon and the Snowden Multicultural Center.
Before the rap performance, Martinez spoke at Rosse Hall where he discussed his work as the Youth Director of Earth Guardians, an organization described on its website as “a tribe of young activists, artists, and musicians from across the globe stepping up as leaders and co-creating the future we know is possible.” In this position, he has previously spoken to the United Nations and is currently suing the Trump administration for neglecting to address climate change.
Stressing that “climate change is a human rights issue,” Martinez presented a slideshow of how environmental concerns have affected him personally and how they often negatively impact marginalized groups. As a Native American, Martinez grew up with a great appreciation of nature, and was moved to activism when he witnessed wildfires displace people from their homes in the community around him. He focused a lot of his time discussing how the Dakota Access Pipeline is contributing to “environmental racism” and championed the large amount of involvement and attention that the movement garnered.
Although he dealt with serious topics, Martinez made sure to keep his audience entertained with his outgoing personality. Appealing to his young audience, he even used memes to get his message across, such as a meme protesting hydraulic fracturing (fracking) that featured Dick Cheney’s face.
At the end of his lecture Martinez delivered a final message to the audience: “Whether you’re a student, botanist, poet or hip hop artist, we have a responsibility to leave our mark on this planet before it’s too late.”
Spreading a similar message as his speech a few hours earlier, Martinez and his collaborator Core Essence took to the Horn’s stage as Earth Guardians, a rap collective specializing in environmentally conscious rap. The two rappers aimed to combine a positive message with trap beats that fit the trend of much of current hip hop. The song “Magic,” for example, dealt with themes such as the current generation’s disconnect with nature because of technology, and “Stand Up” called on the audience to fight against fossil fuels.
At the end of the show, the two invited a drummer onstage and freestyled over his improvised beats, finishing with the repeated message, “Bring the love.” Though hip hop and climate change are an unusual combination, Martinez succeeded in merging the two for a memorable performance.