Three blocks from his old high school in the historic Five Points district of Denver, Colo., recalls Ietef Vita, stands a youth penitentiary where friends Vita hasn’t seen since middle school are still locked up.
Gentrification is now starting to soften the hard edges of Five Points, but when he was growing up, says Vita, the neighborhood was “saturated by gang violence and police brutality.”
“And there wasn’t a community garden anywhere,” he laments.
That’s changed now, in part due to Vita’s relentlessly positive food justice hustling and his determination to claim the idiom of hip hop for green, sustainable, social enlightenment. Vita’s MC handle — DJ Cavem — is an acronym for “Communicating Awareness Victoriously Educating the Masses.” Vita has even redefined hip hop itself — in his gospel, the words stand for “higher inner peace, helping other people.”
So say goodbye to the old school OG — “original gangster” — and hello to the new “organic gardener.” In Five Points, Vita says, it’s time to tune out the hip hop glorification of sex and alcohol and violence, and tune in to, no kidding, the righteousness of wheatgrass juice.
A vegan since he was a high school sophomore, Vita attributes his musical quest to improve his community’s access to organic collard greens to a family background rich in music, poetry, and social justice concerns. His grandfather was a Black Panther; his mother took him to poetry readings as a child. The revolution he seeks is measured in green jobs and “vegetable gardens instead of lawns.”
It’s a family affair: His mother, the well-known Denver activist Ashara Ekundayo, helped found Denver’s GrowHaus — a nonprofit dedicated to improving access to healthy food.
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