Aisha Fukushima was dancing to James Brown and Funkadelic when she was in diapers – but she didn’t realize music was going to transform her life.
Today she is a singer, public speaker, educator and the founder of RAPtivism, a global hip hop project spanning 10 countries and four continents. Her passion for empowering youth through the performing arts has led her to approach a variety of projects and to build educational programs such as Turn Off The Stereotypes (2005), and SISTARZ, an all-girls hip hop club (2012).
How did it all started?
“I grew up as a little kid behind the scenes of the music industry as both of my parents were booking agents bringing American artists to Japan.”
Being exposed from such a young age to a variety of music styles her mother quickly noticed Fukushima’s natural interest and talents. Things weren’t easy after her parents got divorced. The family budget was tight and her mom had to work multiple jobs, but she was determined to do the best she could for her daughter. So after moving to Bellevue, she enrolled her daughter in after school musicals.
For the first time, at age 7, Fukushima was asked by her music program director to perform a song on stage – alone. She was somewhat frightened, but excited.
“I felt warmth,” she said. She knew something clicked in her in that moment.
Her performance made her feel not only more connected to herself, but to everyone in the room. This is when she realized she not only loved music, she loved performing and being able to touch others with her voice. After that she saw a clarity in her path; she continued her music education and eventually developed a strong sense of self-identify as an artist. She wanted to create music that inspires youth, challenges people’s stereotypical perspectives and served as a bridge between communities.
How does your music impact others?
“We don’t write verses, we right universes.”
To Fukushima, it is all about the people, on and off the stage. Her ultimate goal, whether through her music, workshops or lectures is to create transformative experiences with the people in the room. She encourages young people to believe in themselves and not to be afraid to express themselves no matter if that is through creative media, a song or the start of a meaningful conversation.
Over the years she had also learned: “no matter in what language you are singing, it resonates with people,” so do it.
What is RAPtivism?
Fukushima wanted to find a way to involve more people, to share their perspectives with the common goal to grow a community that is looking out for society’s common good. RAPtivism, founded in 2009, is a project that highlights “the ways culture can contribute to universal efforts for freedom and justice by challenging apathy with awareness, ignorance with intelligence, and oppression with expression. “
Throughout this project Fukushima has been able to involve a lot of other musicians who share the same vision, helping her to spread the word and raise awareness about serious social issues through music.
“RAPtivism is so important to social movements. How do we know where we are going if we don’t have a vision?”
Tell us about your upcoming involvement with Madaraka 2015 Festival?
At the heart of Madaraka Festival is to inspire and empower youth through art and music.
“That something I definitely can relate to. This is my kind of party,” she said with a smile.
The mission of the festival correlates to everything she has been doing. As much as she loves recording, she said that there is something so special about live music performances. Often fans go to concerts for fun, to engage with others and to release. With this type of festival there is that element but also the fact that you become a part of the bigger conversation, you contribute towards social change and you definitely feel the element of a peace.
“I think Simon’s (Simon Okelo is the founder of One Vibe Africa and the creator of Madaraka Festival) story is amazing for bringing people together to crate peace, refection and amplifying our collective consciousness and collective message for us to be able to stand together.”
What is your message for the youth?
“Think critical and use the knowledge to make the world a better place.” Also, she added, always have hope and love.