DECATUR — The lyrics of a song written by a local artist are a battle cry for the world’s ongoing struggle.
“Let’s unite, cause you know we have to keep things clean. Outside in the mask if you don’t get vaccined. Worldwide and on the map, we have to end 19.”
The words are from the hip-hop song “Outside” by Decatur musician and art teacher Kaream Williams, who records under the name TaQsem.
Williams’ song, and supporting video, is one of three local contributions to the statewide Vax to Get Back campaign. The Arts Alliance Illinois created the project for 24 regions in Illinois. More than 72 pro-vaccination projects were submitted this summer. The local “Lust for Life” campaign, including Williams’ song, encourages the community to get a COVID vaccination.
Other contributions include a series of videos titled “Because of you, I can play,” and the “Lust for Life” painting, which was used as the local slogan.
The Illinois arts campaign began Aug. 1. “It’s to know that there are local people, especially in the art world, who are encouraging people to get vaccinated and make a difference,” said Jerry Johnson, executive director of the Decatur Area Arts Council. “But it’s going to take an effort for everybody to pitch in.”
“Lust for Life” is Decatur’s contribution to the “Vax to Get Back.”
“It speaks directly to the campaign,” Johnson said about the local slogan.
Decatur’s visual promotions will have the tag “Lust for Life” posted somewhere on the videos as well as buttons and posters found throughout the city.
Mike Wilcott, Decatur musician and entertainment promoter, developed the video series around the theme “Because of you, I can play” to focus on the opportunities for children to play sports again.
“I submitted the campaign with the premise being, due to people getting vaccinated and COVID numbers declining, people were once again able to enjoy activities they weren’t able to before,” Wilcott said. “This meant kids could play sports and enjoy competition and time with teammates once again.”
Artist and designer Shani Goss created a painting using the slogan “Lust for Life.”
“The original idea for my project was a mixed media painting to encourage people to get the vaccine, but as a marketing professional I decided to make a complete campaign out of the idea and decided to incorporate posters, stickers and buttons,” she said.
The graphics were incorporated into the local videos as well. “We thought if all of our projects were cohesive, we could stand out and get our message across better,” Goss said.
Williams wanted to reach deeper into the community when we wrote his song “Outside.” As a teacher and a Black man, he wanted to stress the importance of the vaccine to his students as well as the African American community.
“I wanted to join this awesome project to help get my people on the right track and to get them vaccinated, or to wear masks and social distance,” he said.
Williams addressed the concerns and fears that African Americans still have regarding the history of their race with poor medical testing and practices.
“It’s built a really big level of distrust between the American medical system and the African Americans in the community,” he said. “In our neighborhoods, we are under-funded, under-represented.”
However, Williams said he understands those who are apprehensive are not just in Black communities. “It’s a world-wide problem,” he said. “We need to band together to fight this, so we have a chance of surviving it.”
The video supporting the song features several Black-owned businesses and artistic highlights in Decatur. “I wanted to show Decatur in a really nice light,” Williams said.
As a teacher, Williams has witnessed his students suffering because of the pandemic. Families have been sick, children miss school or are unable to focus during online learning.
“A whole generation of kids haven’t had school in a year,” he said. “As a teacher, I learned how bad our kids suffered. I’m not fine with that.”
Contact Donnette Beckett at (217) 421-6983. Follow her on Twitter: @donnettebHR
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