You could tell just how serious Brother Ali was about his upcoming Twin Cities Day of Dignity concert by the fact that he was passing out fliers for it outside last weekend's (sold-out) First Ave show by Prof. And no, I don't mean the internationally known Minneapolis rap star had a street team handling fliers for the Oct. 1 block party -- he was working the doors himself.
"This is right up there with my own First Ave shows and Soundset as one of the most important events I've ever been involved with," Ali confirmed yesterday during a lengthy conversation about the one-of-kind charity concert.
How unique is this thing? For starters, the free performances by Ali, fellow Rhymesayers rapper Freeway "and maybe friends" are happening outside a mosque. That's right, a Muslim place of worship, the Masjid An-Nur in north Minneapolis, which counts both Ali and U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison among its members. The concept of a big music bash outside a holy place certainly isn't foreign in this town (see: Basilica Block Party), but even Ali admitted, "There aren't too many mosques out there that would host a hip-hop concert."
As important as the social ramifications could be on the religious end, Ali said the two things he thinks are most relevant about Day of Dignity is: a) It will bring outsiders into north Minneapolis "and prove to them that it's not a scary place, but a great community," Ali said; and b) Instead of raising money to hand out later to a charity, the do-gooder work will actually be taking place right there at the party. There will be free health-care servicers on hand, along with free meals, winter clothing, health and hygiene kits, school supplies and a lot more for needy residents. That side of the party is being organized by Al-Maa'uun Community Outreach and Islamic Relief USA.
Ali made a pretty moving pitch for his big day out: "Minnesotans love music, and they love to take care of each other. That's why so many people come here from Somalia or Michigan or South Dakota. This will be a day we celebrate both of those trademarks of our great community."
In semi-related news, Ali's labelmates/forebearers Atmosphere have their own unique homecoming gig on the books in October, too -- and it literally is for homecoming, as in the University of Minnesota's. They will perform for the U's big bash in TCF Bank Stadium on Oct. 21, officially making them the second band after U2 to headline the new football stadium. Tickets go on sale Tuesday ($10 students, $25 others). Click here for details.