PLAYING COLUMBUS: Rapper/Activist Vada Azeem to Release Poignant Children’s Story

Vada Azeem is irrevocably tied to Columbus. After growing up on the Northeast side of the city, Azeem studied at the Columbus College of Art & Design for a year, and then mentored youth at the Central Community House in Old Towne East (which you can support at no personal cost by signing up for Kroger Community Rewards) for longer. Azeem started rapping at 12, co-founded a hip hop collective at 23, dropped his first solo mixtape three years later, and now, he’s breaking into children’s books.

The Boy Who Tried to Touch the Sun is inspired by Akeem’s experiences working with youth, the children’s books which comforted him as a child, and his own son, Peyton. It’s dedicated to Ty’re King, a 13-year-old boy who was shot and killed by Columbus police in September 2016. In it, Anu, a young black boy, is pushed into impossible tasks by a community of white people who are scared of his presence. In many ways, it’s a direct extension of Azeem’s work as an educator and mentor–the book doesn’t shy away from difficult conversation, but greets it with empathy. Black children reading the book are greeted with a story of a child like them thriving despite the apparent impossibility of his situation. Along with writing the story, Azeem illustrated and colored each page with loose, deft strokes and brilliant color.

 

illustration by Vada Azeem

The Boy Who Tried to Touch the Sun was first unveiled at the Columbus Museum of Art last October, but this week it will be available for general purchase when Azeem reads at The Poet’s Lounge on Thursday, January 4th. Along with Azeem, this week The Poet’s Lounge will have desserts by The Happy Baker: a reminder that creative events are so often able to connect community members and businesses that otherwise might seem disparate. The event starts at 7:30–but make sure to arrive early if you’d like to sign up for the open mic.