In May this year, I was in Medellín, Colombia for Un-convention. As part of that we travelled around the city seeing some of the great work that young community leaders were doing through hip hop culture.
These guys are amazing. They run after-school programmes and community projects teaching kids how to rap, break-dance and do graffiti art, and this helps keep them off the street and away from the drugs, the gangs and the violence. They also bring attention to the problems in the barrios and spread a positive message through their lyrics.
I heard today that on Thursday last week, one of those community leaders was shot dead. The newspapers say that it was in retaliation from the gangs for involvement in these sorts of projects.
I know several of the people we met there have been threatened with this kind of violence, and three young cultural leaders have been killed in the past year like this in Medellín.
I filmed the video above in Comuna 13, just after we had played a game of football with these guys. It’s the home of the Elite Red de hip hop, of which the ESK Lones crew is a part. Marcelo Sánchez Pimienta, aka MC Chelo is the rapper with the toddler in his arm.
My deepest sympathies and my utmost respect go to his friends and colleagues, family and community, many of whom have vowed to keep up the great work Chelo helped start in what was once known as the most dangerous neighbourhood in the world, and what is slowly being turned around with the help of projects like these that use music and culture to improve people’s lives – despite the threats, and in the face of sickening tragedies such as this. These guys are all inspirational and this is a great loss.
RIP MC Chelo.