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Raised in Boston, MA and now a resident of Sacramento, CA, Paul Willis is a rapper/spoken word artist/educator/activist whose art reflects his life and his values. Paul has been writing rhymes for 14 years and strives to create thematic pieces that give vivid descriptions of events based on his life experiences. He is also working to release 3 mixtapes and an album in the 2013 calendar year. Visit his music at bandcamp and soundcloud and follow him on twitter.

What inspires me now

My service with City Year provides the foundation for the majority of my lyrics with a social/political focus. Working in under-resourced and traditionally under-privileged schools has given me the opportunity to fight against ignorance and injustice on a daily basis. Follow City Year Sacramento on twitter and #makebetterhappen.

As I’ve transitioned to Sacramento, I’ve found a like-minded non-profit organization called Sol Collective that shares my values and provides educational opportunities to youth through music, the arts, culture and activism. To learn more about the Sol Collective, check out their blog and like their page on Facebook.

Also while here in Sacramento, I’ve come across a poetry and peer mentoring organization entitled Sacramento Area Youth Speaks (SAYS). The SAYS program based out of UC Davis has not only developed local youth poetry slam teams to compete on a national and international level, but they created an opportunity for their poets to be peer mentors and educators to empower the upcoming generations of youth leaders looking for their voice. I wish I had access to a program like this when I was a kid. Check them out at their youtube channel.

The impact of programs like SAYS can be found through the organization of groups like Foreign Native, which seeks to inspire others to reclaim their cultures and identity by providing a platform of cultural education and leadership. Its founders were once members of the SAYS Slam team and the budding organizing already has a strong following within the first few months of its inception. Check them out and like their Facebook page.

I find inspiration through many other avenues as well. I continued to be inspired by the great service work being provided by all kinds of non-profits and organizations that contribute to causes greater than themselves. I’m continued to be inspired by artists like Sol Galeano and Rapsody who empower women in hip hop by creating timeless music and doesn’t sacrifice their identity to sell a few records. I’m inspired by poets/MC’s like Ruby Ibarra and Dre-T who take exploring cultural identity, art and activism to the next level. Their age was never a deterrant. At 26 and 21 respectively, Ruby and Dre-T have used their considerable artistic talents to break down stereotypes and create opportunities for under-served youth from the Philippines to Sacramento and the Bay area to engage and experience social justice, peace, love, community, creativity and understanding through their music, videos and non-profit work. It’s one thing to talk the talk, but they really walk the walk. These artists and organizations give me hope that the struggle that I’ve experienced was not in vain, and there are others out there in the world that dream of ways to make it better every day. These people and organizations are living proof that my passion and dreams are real and achievable.

As a kid, I never dreamed that I’d be living the life I have now. I just believed that I did what I was passionate about I’d be happy. My passions have allowed me to connect and create with amazing people and places. One day, I hope to achieve a more harmonious blend between my work and my passions, but in the meantime, I know that they’ll help me find my way

This week, Truth Bomb Trails is exploring Music + Social Justice: Building Community through Sound. Look forward to posts on the ways that musicians and artists provide public service, the perspective of Paul Willis (hear his music at bandcamp, soundcloud, reflections on music from childhood and a look at the role music helps to shape and define emerging cultures.

Enjoy the tunes that helped inspire the week!