by Jennifer Mistrot and Michelle Griego

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — For many of us, music can be a source of healing, stress relief and – of course – happiness and joy. But for San Francisco native John-Paul Mackey or J.P. as he likes to be called, music is his chosen tool for social change and community understanding.

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Mackey, a lifelong musician, now describes himself as an activist, too.

“I have been playing music since I was three years old. I just like being creative. It’s just been in my life since I was born,” said Mackey. “Seeing all the stuff that was happening to black people, especially this year, made me realize that something had to give. I’ve always believed like that Black Lives Matter, but I think this year I’ve become more of an activist … just raising awareness of things.”

Mackey’s growing awareness hit home for the 23-year-old as he began to see the women in his family facing challenges in their own community.

“My mother is black. I have a black grandmother, several black cousins and aunts,” explained Mackey. “And I didn’t want to see, like, black women ..being disrespected.”

Disrespected by what Mackey says are conflicting lyrical messages he hears about black women in some music.

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“I wanted to send the message that we should decrease or just eliminate misogyny in rap music,” explained Mackey.

It’s a topic Mackey sees as controversial, but one he’s exploring musically, as he has composed five original songs about respect and understanding for others, describing the experiences of the women he loves. Lyrics include messages about acceptance, and social pressure. Mackey says he knows his lyrical stance and music may bother some but he hopes most will see his message as one of love, inclusiveness and compassion.

Making the music also brought together all of Mackey’s extensive skills and is part of his college studies. The recent Cal State Monterey Bay grad is hoping to use his music degree – and experience – for producing and teaching, with a planned release of his original EP on SoundCloud soon.

“Podcast production, radio production, videography, graphic design,” said Mackey of his skill set. “Just the basics of that and stuff.”

Mackey is also a Students Online Achieving Results (SOAR) scholar, in a program offered by Students Rising Above.

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The all-virtual program pairs students like Mackey with an advisor and a small cohort of other students who have online group meetings every month.