Typically, when musicians reach out to the community, it’s something that coincides with attempting to make public amends for some misdeed. With Doomtree’s singer/emcee, Dessa, she’s reaching out to communities in need, sans agenda or public relations retooling; she’s helping people because she can and wants to.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY KAI BENSON
Groups Dessa Has Worked With
A group that aims to build families and nurture children by finding alternatives to violence. Dessa has performed shows with proceeds going to this organization.
Camp Fire aims to a youth-centered organization that helps youngsters prepare for life by finding “their path, their passion, their sparks”.
A juvenile detention center based in Willmar, Minnesota.
A school in Grand Rapids, MI that works with at-risk youth. Dessa worked with teenage immigrants.
An organization that advances the artistic development of writers.
A non-profit that provides niche arts programming with a focus on “fire arts”. Dessa worked with homeless youth.
Schools Dessa Has Worked With
“It’s definitely a perk,” she says, “finding ways to help support the causes that move me. It’s pretty recent, the past two or three years. Before that, I wasn’t in the position to make any cause more visible, because I was in the process of making myself as a musician more visible.”
Through the years, Dessa has worked with numerous causes, schools, and organizations – much of which has been dedicated to helping troubled youth and battered women; she has also been a speaker at the Nobel Peace Prize Forum. More recently, Dessa has teamed up with The Elixery, a makeup manufacturer that has taken her namesake and turned it into a shade of lipstick to help the needy.
“Elixery… is cosmetics company out of Minneapolis, and they put out a shade of lipstick called ‘Dessa,’ and one-hundred percent of the proceeds go to the organization CARE.org, which is dedicated to helping destitute women around the world. The proceeds of Dessa will go to help equip and educate these women to pull themselves out of poverty.
“It feels good. It’s been an unexpected, but totally appreciated [partnership].”
Another event of note that Dessa has been a part of is the “Evening with Dessa,” an intimate performance at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA). The event, which happened at the end of February 2013, was held to benefit a new teen scholarship program for the area’s youth, an audience typically looked at as a market niche rather than the next bastion of artists and leaders.
“The MIA was looking for an event for a scholarship program and they approached me, knowing that I’ve done the work,” said Dessa. “It was an easy project to align with.”
In the wake of public tragedies and the PR hiccups in the hip-hop community (see: Chris Brown’s court-mandated public service controversy or Dr. Dre’s anti-violence PSA), Dessa notes that while people aren’t generally aware about musicians who do give back, she assures that it happens.
“Partnering hip-hop artists with charitable causes is nothing that I made up,” she is quick to note. “I’m very much taking cues from the likes of everyone, from Nicki Minaj to 50 Cent, to Russell Simmons; [from] P.O.S. to I-Self Devine…. but they’re infrequently covered by the media, perhaps, unless they’re related to a tragedy.
“[Supporting community organizations] is part of the fabric of hip-hop culture.”
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ELLI READER