dj cavem green juice

Issue Feature: DJ CAVEM - Hustling for Green Juice by Cora Vasseur

Thursday, January 01, 2015 Jenny

Middle school students are rapt with attention. At the front of the classroom is a young man with a boom box …and a blender. This is Ietef Vita, better known as DJ Cavem. He’s an O.G., an organic gardener, there with some fresh beats (and beets) for the kids so they can change their lives. They talk about heady stuff for middle schoolers; not just the need for green jobs and installing solar panels, but the need to redesign food, geothermal energy, and environmental auditing.  He reaches them through hip hop. “You need a little swagger with these kids,” he says. “This genre creates lots of gangstas; why not gardeners?”

Hailing from the Five Points Denver area, Cavem is a Green for All Fellow, an award-winning activist, and founder of the Brown Suga Youth Festival. A vegan since he was 15, he has “harvested” three albums: Deep Rokc, The Teacher’s Lounge, and The Produce Section. He has performed locally, nationally, and internationally, and with artists including Talib Kweli, Dead Prez, Les Nubians, K’naan, and Gil Scott-Heron. When DJ Cavem saw obesity and diabetes taking over his community, he turned his art and passion into activism. “Kids have to take care of themselves to be fresh and fly,” he said. “I hope they see food as medicine.”

Cavem’s community and health consciousness started at a young age. When he was four, he planted his first crop—two apricot trees. He comes from a family of share croppers. His grandfather worked on a plantation, was involved in the Black Panther Party, and was active in the arts and jazz community. Cavem’s mother, Ashana Ekundayo, is a poet and community activist. He attributes first learning to be “hip, fly, and jazzy” from her as well as being connected to his roots. His father was a photographer and musician and would try to make Cavem laugh to ease the pain and tension of poverty. He continues the technique with his two daughters.

"My daughters are like, 'Daddy, I'm hungry.' I'm like, 'Nice to meet you. I'm Itef.' My dad used to do that. We'd be standing at the bus stop, and he would try to make us laugh about it. But, like, you know what I'm saying, that ain't funny, man.” But as the late Joan Rivers said, “Life is very tough. If you don't laugh, it's tough.”

It was a challenging road to become the artist he is today. “Growing up, you forgot who you are as a young person, not really having access. I remember the first case I ever got; I stole some shoes from Mervyns, man,” he said. “Stole some shoes, because I had holes in my shoes. Being from the east side, living with that poverty, that's real, man."

He went through several transformations which took him through several styles of music, including punk and Rasta. While his journey may have bounced him around, he has arrived on his path and his journey only makes him more relatable and accessible to his audience. He shows lifestyle is a choice. He now has a laser-focused singular vision some around him have described as evangelical.
On top of rapping, producing, and performing, DJ Cavem teaches “Going Green, Going Bling”, a series of holistic health workshops explaining the importance of green jobs and sustainability. He gets kids involved through hip hop culture and teaches them the true acronym for hip hop, which is: Higher Inner Peace, Helping Other People. He tells the students we as a people need to heal our minds so we can provide for each other.

DJ Cavem is about art activism, using art as a means to get the message across. He encourages break dancing to defeat obesity, writing lyrics and creating graffiti to start conversations.  If you want to communicate with people, you need to use their language and something that will resonate with them. DJ Cavem’s methods are working. In an interview for Green for All, a young woman explains she likes his class because they’re not lectures. She can understand what he’s talking about and how it affects her. One former student is selling the vegetables they grow. Attendees of his workshops are planting their own food, visiting farmers markets, and making green smoothies.
“Making the juice themselves takes away the ‘gross’ factor,” he says. “They end up writing down the recipe.”

The theatre adage goes, “If you want to send a message, use Western Union.” Or use hip hop delivered by an impassioned rapper who believes the music is the message and the message is the music.

If you liked this article, make sure to check out Halfstack's Winter 2014 issue here!

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