Hip Hop artists perform at a benefit for Haiti in Washington DC
Hip Hop artists perform at a benefit for Haiti in Washington DC

The African-American media and entertainment community in Washington, DC is raising funds for relief efforts in Haiti.  Radio stations are asking listeners to donate, and a popular music club held a benefit featuring local artists performing hip hop, a type of rap music. 

The 9:30 Club in Washington held the benefit to raise funds for Haiti. Washington hip hop artist Kingpen Slim says many African-Americans identify with what Haitians are going through.  "They were already dealing with economic, social and class issues.  And then to have this, it really just hit home to all of us," he said.

The proceeds from ticket sales are going to two organizations.  One is the non-profit  Partners in Health, which has a hospital in Haiti.  The other is Yele Haiti, a charity founded by the Haitian-American hip hop artist Wyclef Jean.  The group raised more than $2 million in just one week but it's been criticized for not having spent the money yet on earthquake relief. 

Audrey Schaefer, with the 9:30 Club, said club employees even donated their pay from the event. "They stepped up and said they wanted to help," she explained. "They came to us and said 'can we do this?'"

College student Erica Smith came to the benefit. "I think there has been such an outpouring, especially from the African-American community.  We all want to support our brothers and sisters," she said. "We all want to support our people and we all want to see them uplifted."

Sean Patterson also came. He thinks the Obama government and U.S. relief groups are reacting quickly to avoid the mistakes made by the Bush administration after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.   He recalls the pictures of African-Americans trapped in New Orleans. "They don't want the same embarrassment Hurricane Katrina had.  That's the main point to avoid embarrassment," he said.

Some people expressed similar views during call in segments at WKYS, a hip hop and rhythm and blues radio station in suburban Washington.  Disk jockey EZ Street talked to his audience about humanitarian relief for Haiti.   

"I think the United States, first of all, is reacting really quickly because they don't want to turn it into, oh, this is another Hurricane Katrina situation and we don't care about black people.  Being that Barack [Obama] is black, I think he responded quickly because he is part African-American as well," one caller said.

EZ Street says his audience has been moved by the devastation in Haiti. "They want to give food and clothing and they want to give as much as they possibly can to be part of the solution in the situation," he said.

Washington's African-American community is holding more fund raisers for Haiti.