English teacher Rich Croce didn’t have a typical day of work today. His school, REACH Partnership School, like all city schools, was closed today and yesterday due to heating issues.
“It was a snow day,” he said, then he corrected himself. “Or a cold day, I guess.”
The issue of city students in freezing classrooms has become a major story while city and state leaders bicker and city residents try and crowdfund space heaters. Also, as Croce observed, students stay home, some miss lunch, and all miss out on a couple days of class.
“Everything we do is predicated on the previous day or week of work, so to maintain coherence, you need conditions to stay the same. That’s already hard with winter break, testing, extracurricular activities, and then another wrench is thrown in there from the weather,” he said. “Then when you add something that screams ‘negligence’ to students, it exacerbates the situation.”
Croce, by the way, is also known as MC Bravado, a word-twirling rapper with a slightly-askew traditionalist style (he released the terse, artful album “Hip-Hop*” last year). He incorporates emceeing into lessons for his 10th and 11th grade English students but said this is his last year teaching as he transitions into a music career. He plans to keep one foot in education, though, by developing a program that teaches “technical hip-hop writing”; something that would serve the same purpose as production and engineering programs for students but with a focus on the lyric-writing aspect.
“Song composition from a writing perspective,” he explained. “Something a little more where my two worlds can converge.”
Croce’s two worlds converge tomorrow night at the Windup Space for a rap show and benefit for Baltimore City Schools. The show, titled “MC Bravado Is For The Children”—which is both a clear fact and an Ol’ Dirty Bastard reference—finds Croce accompanied by a live band and DJ Moosejaw along with a number of other acts: DJ Fleg, Eze Jackson (also a reporter a Real News, a Beat partner), Giddeon Gallows (a side project by producer Drew Scott), Cypher Junkies, Donnie Breeze, Su The Clique, and Mixxed Opinion.
All proceeds will go toward the senior class at REACH.
“That particular group of kids I hold especially close to my heart. [Young people in] this graduating class were the kids I had during my first full year at REACH—I taught them in ninth and then I moved up to teach tenth and eleventh, so some of this senior class I’ve taught three times and we’ve grown really close,” he said. “Being on my way out, I wanted to give back and the show’s function is to raise money for prom, the senior trip, and bolster the quality of those events and lend a helping hand to some kids who couldn’t afford prom.”
He stresses that tomorrow’s show was planned long ago, but this week’s nationally-acknowledged heating issue underlines the need to help the city’s kids.
“The show was in place for awhile but the timing seems ridiculous now,” he said. “I hope people can make it out. One hundred percent of everything goes to the kids.”
Along with the performances, fellow REACH teacher and artist Paul Mericle will do live painting and a raffle and merch for sales and more. Then Croce self-consciously brings the conversation back to his students and the cold weather.
“It stretches beyond the classroom. We also have to think about city kids who are in transit—our kids are walking, crossing streets, they’re outside. The conditions of sidewalks, whether they had adequate winter wear affects them too,” he said. “My car battery died the other day and I had to walk from Pep Boys to get a coffee while I was waiting and I was frigid in five minutes. It shook me all day. That’s nothing compared to what students deal with all day.”
MC Bravado Is For The Children takes place at Windup Space tomorrow, Jan. 6, at 9 p.m. Tickets are $10.