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March 18 - 24, 2009
Vol. 2, No. 35

by Francesca Guerrier

Mecca aka Grimo is a young upcoming Haitian-American hip-hop artist and actor who is well-known for his political engagement. He often shows up at demonstrations demanding rights for Haitian refugees.

He is also a rapper and part of the Spoken Word generation. His poetry has a revolutionary edge.

Born to Haitian parents in Brooklyn, NY and raised for some of his youth in Queens, in 1985 he moved with them to Miami, where he still lives. He is the founder of Fepouli, described on his website as a "non-profit non-political movement" fighting disease and poverty.

Mecca is signed with Sak Pase Records, Hex Battalion and is managed by OPEM. He played a leading role in the Haitian film "Kidnappings" (2005). He has a degree in Acoustical Engineering. The Haitian flag's coat of arms is tattooed on his shoulder.

Our correspondent Francesca Guerrier interviewed him last week in Miami about his views on politics, history, art, education, and the current campaign to win Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for undocumented Haitians in the US.

HAITI LIBERTÉ: How did you come by the name Mecca aka Grimo?

MECCA AKA GRIMO: I felt that my government name was not doing justice to my level of consciousness, to where I was. Mecca came naturally. Mecca means a holy place, not necessarily the religious place Mecca [in Saudi Arabia], but more a symbolic place within. The divinity you search for is within you. I often had information and many people turned to me for answers. Because I had often done my research, I usually knew what was going on. Someone called me Mecca for that reason. It was just a remark, but I thought it fitted my being. I do not believe in any particular religion. I believe in that supreme being that creates all positive things, but I think religion is man-made in order to divide and control us.

HL: You promote literacy through poetry. How did that come about?

MECCA: I learned so much. There was so much knowledge I was blessed to have. I wanted to share that knowledge, that's the only way it comes back. I like to communicate and the way I communicate best is through my talents, with my voice. I believe Spoken Word is rap; one is poetry to the beat and the other is freely spoken. I started reciting Spoken Word for myself, and then I started realizing that poetry was connected to creative writing, reading, absorbing information, and staying current with news from around the world.

I started to analyze the music, our market, and the statistics, and I noticed that so much of our youth was dropping out of school and dying. But Hip Hop was originally used as a tool to educate. So I said to myself, I can't limit myself just to the message of culture. The kids need to understand what I'm saying. We need to make them literate, so that if I write a poetry book, they'll be able to read it. They have to be able to get my message. And not necessarily just what I write in the lines, but I need them to understand the message that I'm saying between the lines. So I said there's a mission and a message that is stronger than just going to the clubs and playing for money. Our youth needs to be elevated, spiritually and intellectually. So I go to schools and talk to the kids about the importance of being literate. Through the process of lyrics and poetry, kids become more perceptive. The teachers and the principals agree with this method because they have tried every tool, but they cannot get through. They are not using modern techniques to teach. Music and art make children more receptive, even to social studies and math. This has been proven.

So I want to use art to teach as well as for entertainment.

HL: You are very militant and active.

MECCA: You have to commit yourself to the cause if that's what you're talking about. You have to walk the walk, if you're going to talk the talk. I don't think that I'm militant. I'm just committed to what I speak...

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