by Sam Schieren
Nyack, Feb 16 — Local rapper XO Guillotine, a 27-year-old lifetime Nyack resident, is preparing for a big drive. On Thursday, XO, whose given name is Karl Dubuisson, will travel 11 hours, to Flint, Michigan, where he — and friends, Chris Small of Haverstraw, Hamadi Martin, Watson Salvant and George Brooks of Spring Valley and Ricky Dogostiano of Nyack — will deliver over 20,000 water bottles. (For those who haven’t been following, the city has been dealing with a water crisis, due to mass lead exposure.) XO and friends (who represent “Project 845”) will deliver the water to Communities First Inc., a non-profit that aims to provide improved quality of life for residents of distressed communities, and is located in the heart of Flint.
The effort, which started January 25th with a Facebook post, is outstanding, but eight years ago, would’ve been practically unbelievable. Back in 2008, XO began a four-year prison bid after violating the terms of his parole. Upon his release, he faced stereotypes that he was determined to overcome. “The stigma with Black people is we don’t care about the next man,” XO explained last week over the phone. “So when we can come together and do something for other Black people miles away it shows our strength in numbers.”
In the Facebook post, XO was “asking for people from different towns and different parts of Rockland to get together to do something for somebody,” but what that something would be was uncertain. That initial Facebook post has become 20,000+ water bottles, sure, but also a chance for different corners of the community to collaborate for a good cause. In addition to the myriad individuals who have contributed to a GoFundMe page (created by Michelle Kiyoko) that XO created February 10th (which has received almost $1,000), Walgreens has donated 27 cases of water; several lawyers in the county have made contributions; and on February 11, Karma, one of the newer bars on the Nyack strip, hosted a fundraiser.
For his part though, XO is reluctant to take credit. “It’s the whole community,” he explained, “You see one voice in control of a situation but it’s really a whole community coming together to make something happen… Sometimes people are afraid of results. You might think of a plan to do something in your head, and it’s a good one, but in your heart you think it’s not going to work so you don’t follow through with it.”
The drive is a testament to XO’s tenacity, as well as the way philanthropy can beget more philanthropy. This past holiday season, XO and several friends organized a toy drive, in conjunction with Chelsea Hook and Ladder and the Nyack Center, to benefit Black youth living in Nyack’s public housing. The success of the toy drive motivated XO to seek other ways of helping – though, who, XO was not yet sure.
“I started getting calls from people around the county [who had seen the social media posts.] Collectively we agreed, ‘we should address the Flint, Michigan water crisis.’”
XO and his friends could’ve shipped the bottles through a government agency, but given the government’s culpability in the Flint crisis, they chose to make the drive and ensure that “[the water]’s going to go straight into the [Flint] community.”
Though XO might not see it this way, the 11-hour drive to Flint is one small piece of a journey towards shared redemption – his and Flint’s. “Often you see people go to prison, come home, and they’re still acting the same way, but I came home with a whole different mentality,” he said. It’s why he’s been such a galvanic force. “People are going to gravitate towards that because it’s very rare to see someone come from prison and not let that control their story.”
Water donations will be accepted through the end of Thursday (Feb. 18) at The Filling Station Restaurant in Haverstraw; Martin Luther King Center in Spring Valley; and by appointment at the Nyack Center. And the group will continue to accept donations for a possible second trip after Thursday.
You May Also Like
This week in the Villages: On its 25th birthday, we take a look at the potential demise of Palisades Mall in West Nyack. Plus,...
This week in the Villages: We begin with twin tales of nonprofits helping find meaning through creative work. Plus, other local news, a weather...
This week in the Villages: Two local basketball teams featuring small players pulled out huge victories last weekend. Plus, other local news, a weather...