ALAMEDA (KPIX 5) — A group in the East Bay that produces music for and by children has been nominated for a Grammy Award. And while that is certainly good news, the young musicians have a larger goal in mind: they want to change the world.
On Sunday afternoon, about two dozen people arrived at a house in Alameda to discuss a project called “The Butterfly Effect.” It was started by two young girls, whose goal was to create 15,000 paper butterflies representing children being held in immigration detention centers.
“That’s all we wanted to do,” said 11-year-old project founder Lillian Ellis. “We wanted people to realize how many people were in detention. We wanted people to see it.”
The idea blew up. More than 40,000 butterflies have been created and the kids have captured the attention of people around the world, including many lawmakers in Washington, D.C.
Their activism was inspired by an East Bay hip-hop musical group called the Alphabet Rockers, who last year were nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Children’s Music. And now, lightning has struck again because they are nominated again this year.
“I mean, not to brag but we’re dope like that,” said 11-year old group member Kali De Jesus. “It’s like, we’re kind of young and doing these amazing things is just really great to think about.”
The Alphabet Rockers were founded by Kaitlin McGaw and Tommy Soulati Shepherd, two social activists who have assembled a multimedia family of 60 musicians, poets, dancers, and other artists to create what they say is music that makes a change.
Their album entitled “The Love” is the only nominee that includes the voices of young people, but with all the sound quality befitting a two-time Grammy nominee.
“It’s comparable to the music that’s on the radio, except the content is very different,” said co-founder Shepherd. “It’s more what we want to hear, or need to hear, as communities, as people in this country and this world.”
One song entitled “Just Be” features local hip-hop artist Malik Mays and carries a message of acceptance of young people, whatever their gender identification may be. He believes music has a special power to get through to young people.
“I think music is play and play is the best way to teach anyone anything,” said Mays. “Sitting someone down and forcing them to memorize a list of things is not going to be as effective as making a game that encourages them.”
The Alphabet Rockers feel they have a lot of lessons to teach and they see a possible Grammy as simply the butterfly having its effect.
“You might see us on TV, you might see us in your local bookstore,” said co-founder McGaw, “but we’re going to be a part of your heart and your mind. And our music should be a pulse of this generation.”
Last year, only the two founders attended the ceremony but this year they bought tickets for the kids as well. The 62nd annual Grammy Awards will air on CBS on January 26th.