Kasseem Dean, better known to the hip-hop world as Swizz Beatz, was formally introduced last night (September, 27) as the new Global Ambassador for New York City’s Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC). In a special event held at Harlem Hospital Center, supporters celebrated this next phase of HHC’s development with a fundraising dinner and charity auction hosted by Hot 97’s Angie Martinez.
HHC treats about 1.4 million patients a year, and almost half a million of them are uninsured. Speaking to dinner guests, Swizz explained his commitment to raising awareness about the needs of underserved New Yorkers: “As a New Yorker, I see the problems and I call to action. As human beings, we owe it to one another to help each other, to make our city a healthier, safer place for all. As an artist, I see a very powerful relationship between the arts and healing. I want you to use that power to foster healing, promote health, encourage wellness for all New Yorkers.”
In an interview with XXL later in the evening, Swizz explained how his position in the hip-hop world affects his philanthropic work: “With my background in music, I can use it to reel people into doing something different. I know that music is a powerful tool, and a lot of people follow it, so I can use that to steer them in a different direction.”
In his new role as Global Ambassador, the Grammy Award winner will use his international status to help build awareness and financial support for HHC’s programs. Swizz said to the crowded room of guests, “If you look in this room right here, if this was a rap concert, the audience would be different. But I feel that there should be those same people in this room, as well. So that’s why I feel my job is important—to make the healthcare system a cool situation for the youth to understand.”
When asked if his charitable work influences his art, Swizz told XXL, “It definitely affects it because it makes me more conscious of what I do, why I’m doing it and how I’m doing it. I have different responsibilities now.”
Many of Swizz’s friends and family members were in attendance, as was Dr. John W.V. Cordice, a member of the surgical team that saved Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. when he was stabbed in 1958. Swizz reminded the audience that without Dr. Cordice and Harlem Hospital Center, the world never would have heard the “I Have a Dream” speech.
Swizz Beatz has generously shared his time and talents over the years, including sponsoring a charter school for the arts in the Bronx, and supporting local and international campaigns against violence. He told XXL that he hopes his deep commitment to charitable work will reach hip-hop fans and let them know that “the sky’s not the limit, so keep reaching.” —Katie Moore