Hip-hop is often criticized for its lack of self-awareness and negative messages, and many critics emphasize the influence the music has on the youth. On March 16, however, North Miami Middle School students enjoyed a performance in which hip-hop and rap promoted an uplifting message of anti-bullying and the importance of an education.
Elizabeth Elie — a Chicago-based rapper-activist of Haitian descent known as Lizzie G — performed for the kids of North Miami, where the student body is predominately of Haitian background.
Elie performed tracks from her expansive catalog and taught the students to discourage bullying each other. Her song lyrics empower the children to continue to pursue their personal goals and dreams while seeking an education. Her positive message through rap and her Haitian background allowed her to make a close connection with the students.
In her opening track, “Make It Happen,” she encouraged kids to delve into the arts, entertainment and athletics, goals which many kids find alluring but can often overshadow the importance of a traditional education, and mesh them together with a foundational education through college, university and vocational schools.
“I want to encourage you guys to stay in school and pursue your dream because you don’t need to drop out of school be a rapper, an entertainer, a model. You just need to focus, and you need to make it happen,” she said between songs.
Sixth grader Will Morency, 11, enjoyed Elie’s show. “It was good, it teaches the kids not to bully and that it’s not right. I also liked the music and the dancing,” he said.
Elie holds a master’s in Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC) from Roosevelt University. She owns her company, Lizzie G Entertainment, which specializes in providing educational arts and music programs for youth all over the world. Her overall goal is to encourage young people to pursue their dreams and educate themselves in a field that can promote their growth.
As an artist, Elie has released four albums. Her music does not contain curse words, and the lyrics complement the message of education, success and pursuing big dreams. Her workshop topics include high school and college readiness, anti-bullying, communication skills for success and how to grow a business with social media.
Elie promotes a message of togetherness. Her single “No Bully Zone” encourages kids to embrace each other’s different cultures and upbringing, and to report any instances of bullying to teachers and other adults, something many students are afraid to do.
“You should be able to express yourself and get an education, and not have to worry about the next person making fun of you,” Elie said as she led the discussion about bullying. “You should come to school to uplift one another, not bring one another down. Despite all your different backgrounds, you can all achieve and be successful together.”
In Chicago, she has worked with Grammy-winning artist Chance the Rapper to promote the arts, education, tolerance and unity within the public schools. Earlier this month, Chance donated $1 million to the Chicago public schools district.
North Miami Middle is a magnet school whose majority of the students are Haitian American, and many of them are recently arrived immigrants. The school is one of the few that offers a music program, as well as French, broadcast and journalism classes.
Elie presented the school with a certificate that declared North Miami Middle School a “no bully zone.” Students all stood and signed the no-bully-zone poster, affirming their commitment to embrace each other and keep bullying away from the school.
DeAnthony Friday, an educator for five years and the school’s activity director, organized the event a few weeks before spring break to keep the students motivated. Students are currently getting ready for testing after their break.
“We have some really good kids, but they do have a lot of challenges,” said Friday, who tries to keep the kids engaged with fun activities, and understands that hip-hop appeals very much to the them.
“It’s all these kids know, Friday said. “They’re into the rap, the music, and the dancing. The kids were able to make a connection with the musical component, and the unique thing is that she’s Haitian. I was excited to see that she can identify with them on that level.”