News Headline: Honoring Ishmail Reaves: Benefit Concert
Outlet Full Name: The Hilltop News, the Student Voice of Howard University
Author: Erika Whitehead
On an average day, walking into the Blackburn Digital Auditorium at Howard University is a bleak and uneventful experience with hardly anyone present. However, on Saturday, Feb. 22, laughter and music filled the auditorium as individuals attended The Ishmail Reaves Cancer Awareness Benefit Concert honoring the life of Ishmail Reaves, a lung cancer victim.
Reaves was diagnosed with lung cancer in May 2012 following what he expected to be a routine physical exam. After complaining of chest discomfort, his doctor advised him to get X-rays and a series of other medical tests. The reason: His doctor feared that what Reaves thought was a simple cold, could potentially be a blood clot. His diagnosis revealed stage 4 lung cancer. Within 16 months, Reaves passed away.
The doors opened promptly at 6:30 p.m. for the concert. As guests entered the auditorium, they were greeted by music from Howard University student, DJ OutLoud, and an art exhibit. Guests moved freely through the space and visited display tables offering informational pamphlets about living a healthy lifestyle; the underlying message of the night.
“We adopted an extremely healthy life-style when my husband was diagnosed,” said Nicole Reaves, wife of the honoree. “A lot of people have been inspired to live healthier because of him and because of what he tried to share with everybody.” Ishmail Reaves offered his time, support, and care to those who needed it; one thing several of the performers mentioned before performing.
As the lights dimmed, the emcees stood before a crowd of more than 100 to announce the beginning of the concert at 8:00 p.m. They were met with a warm round of applause as they introduced the first act, Naiem Owens. Owens stood firmly under the lights and presented first a poem, then a hip-hop piece detailing the devastating impact of war in Syria. The performance engaged the audience, who clapped and swayed to the beat of the music.
Following Owens, lyricist Radio Rahim took to the stage and recited a poem inspired by the documentary, “A Prince Among Thieves,” before transitioning between hip-hop and spoken word pieces about important social issues like race and mainstream culture.
“I think the concert is awesome. I am familiar with everyone who is here, and the energy is really nice,” said guest Bushra Miller, among those mingling during intermission and appreciating the canvas of live artist Malia Kai.
The benefit concert also included performances by musical artist, Khalil Ismail, musical group Leftist and an acoustic rendition of Stephen Fearing’s “Bells of Morning” by Canadian native Dawud Wharnsby. While lively, the event maintained a focus on fitness and healthy living throughout the evening, even including a Q-and-A session.
With all that this event had to offer the community, planning proved challenging. Mecca Islam, president of Howard’s Muslim Student Association, knows this firsthand having played a key role in helping to coordinate the benefit concert.
“We started planning in September. Timing was a challenge. It was difficult planning the right time. It’s really just about planning for what’s best in terms of what’s happening on Howard’s campus,” said Islam. “The turnout was amazing. It was something we weren’t expecting. We got more than what we planned for. That was the best part of it.”
Islam added that the association will be hosting another event in March, so stay tuned for details!