Jennifer Hudson Headlines ‘Stand for School Equality’ Rally With DJ Jazzy Jeff and Aloe Blacc in New York [EXCLUSIVE]
New Yorkers -- 18,500 to be exact -- received a rare musical treat as they joined together for the “Stand for School Equality” rally at Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Wednesday morning (Oct. 7). They all had one thing in mind: education equality for students. Star-studded appearances from Jennifer Hudson, DJ Jazzy Jeff and Aloe Blacc also added to the call to put an end to New York City’s separate and unequal schools.
A sea of red filled the park as parents, teachers and students arrived with T-shirts that read "I fight to end inequality." The legendary "Summertime" producer set the show off as he spun a medley of new and old-school hip-hop records like iHeart Memphis' "Hit the Quan," Nicki Minaj's "Truffle Butter," Slick Rick's "Lodi Dodi" and Biz Markie's "Just a Friend." And of course, the set wouldn't be complete without the crowd favorite, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song.
Activists even got in on the hip-hop atmosphere as well, when one of the organizers, Joe Herrera, baited the crowd into a chant. "When I say 'equal' you say 'schools," he instructed. "Equal," he yelled. "Schools," the audience yelled louder while DJ Jazzy Jeff continued curating the music for the rally, organized by Families for Excellent Schools.
But while it was all mostly fun and games, the rally also featured powerful testimonies and speeches to incite inspiration from the crowd. One woman in particular spoke on how she and her late brother ended up on drastically separate paths that she attributes to their different schooling.
DJ Jazzy Jeff also admitted that it was something personal that brought the father-of-four to join the fight against school inequality. "I have twins," he told The Boombox of his 6-year-old children. "It's funny how you look at things different when you're in the inside. You start to realize just how unfair and unequal things are."
He also admitted to seeing the issue with his own schooling in Philly.
"The sad thing about it is you don't necessarily realize it when you're right in the middle of it. Growing up, going to public school in Philadelphia, I thought I was getting the best education that I could. So, once you get older and you start to understand that there were differences in the education that you were getting. There were differences in the textbooks, there were differences in the teachers and the classroom sizes. It turns into this isn't right and what can I do to make this right," he said while sporting a Philadelphia Phillies cap.
Aloe Blacc also shared a few words with the crowd after he sang a bit of his song "The Man." "Children of color are the ones who suffer the most. And we cannot let this continue. Education is too important. Regardless of zip code, regardless of skin color, everyone deserves access to great schools," the 36-year-old California native shared.
Then the big performance of the day was about to start. Jennifer Hudson was set to take the stage with a band -- a grand piano included. The Grammy Award-winning singer started with her hit song from Empire, "Whatever Makes You Happy." She then followed with her 2008 jam, "Spotlight," which was nearly met word-for-word by fans in the crowd.
"I know y'all wanna fight for equality, right," said the Dreamgirls actress before breaking into "It's Your World," a fitting title for the protesters working to create better opportunities for New York City's children.
Hudson saved the best for last, moving into her poignant track, "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going." Of course, she hit every note right up until the end.
"And you. And You. You're gonna love...," and then she stopped leaving the audience in suspense. "Thank you for having me," she gushed. But before the disappointment that the show was over settled in, she belted, "meeeeeeeee."
While the show is over, the fight continues for the parents, students and educators. They marched across the Brooklyn Bridge to City Hall to demand a change in New York City schools, which fails hundreds of thousands of children each year due to its unbalanced education system.