Words like "organic," "local" and "sustainable" may be so hot right now in the food world, but for Ietef Hotep Vita, they're family traditions. The son of noted organic gardener, poet and social justice advocateAshara Ekundayo
, Vita has forged his own path in about a million directions -- aside from his teaching career, he's the beatmaster and primary emcee of his musical alter-egoDJ Cavem
; right now, he's promotingTeacher's Lounge
, his latest, which features guest appearances from no lesser towering figures of hip-hop than KRS-One, Doodlebug of Diggable Planets and stic.man of Dead Prez -- but central to it all is always that heritage: growing food. "My whole family's into this," he says. "I come from a family of sharecroppers, you dig?"
Westword: If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why? Ietef Vita: I would collaborate with the Dalai Lama and Afrika Bambaata. I would love to have the Dali Lama at one of my shows, have him speak on peace and living in harmony with the world and each other over some of my music. I would invite Afrika Bambaata out to get the B-Boy/B-Girl cipher going. To speak on the roots of Hip Hop culture and the true meaning behind the words: Higher Inner Peace, Helping Other People. I choose these two men because of their beliefs -- Afrika Bambaata for his place in the history of hip-hop and the Dalai Lama for his approach to peace and understanding.
WW: Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why? IV: I would have to go with Van Jones, one of the founders of the organization Green For All based out of California. I am doing a lot of work in the "green"/ sustainability/environmental movement. I was inspired to see what work he would accomplish with the government, and was disappointed at his being forced to resign. But I know he is about the work, and I would like to know what projects he has going on currently and how I can be involved.
WW: A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it? IV: I would use the money to further my goals for my community in regard to health and environmental awareness. Currently, I teach people how to grow food and the truths about our food industry, and I write music about both of these. I am primarily focused on educating our young people so that our future will be more secure, and so that they have the knowledge to choose what is best for them.
I would take my Brown Suga Youth Festival global; I would have community gardens all over every urban neighborhood, first locally, then across the country and beyond. I would create "green" jobs for our youth, something they can start training for while in high school, to give them a craft to fall back on and a means to be self-sufficient. I would also like to invite families to take part in this training -- especially those living with very little resources -- to help them better provide for themselves and grow closer as a family by working and creating together. I would also like to buy land and start building Earthships as alternative housing, maybe even to house the homeless.
WW: What's the one thing Denver (or Colorado) could better do to help the arts? IV: It is hard for me to choose one thing, but the basis would be support -- support for art in schools by putting money back into arts at our schools. Without art as an outlet and an option, lot of youth can suffer academically. I know for me, art motivated me to even go to school some days. It has allowed me to be an entrepreneur, to express myself creatively and to know more about myself as an individual.
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I would like to see radio stations support music created by local artists by putting it in rotation and maybe even putting on concerts featuring local artists. And I would like to see support from the city for expression of art, offering legal graffiti walls and organic art by planting more trees, beautifying some of our open fields by making them into spaces for community gardens.
WW: What's your favorite way to waste time? IV: Meditating, producing beats, watching my 11-month-old daughter Selasia and anything related to growing food. I am an O.G. -- Organic Gardener. I love working in the earth, watching something grow and reaping the harvest. But then again, I wouldn't call any of these a waste of time.
Ietef Vita's next big project is putting together the aforementioned Denver Brown Suga Youth Fest, a hip-hop festival geared toward promoting holistic lifestyles and urban farms, featuring panel discussions on redefining the image of wealth in hip-hop and hopefully, Vita says, a headlining performance from Dead Prez.