Four days of curated events and life-changing experiences honored the memory of Canarsie’s young rap star, “Pop Smoke.” The late rapper, whose real name is Bashar Barakah Jackson, was killed while in California on a music business trip in February 2020. The rising star would have turned 24 on July 20th, the last day of events held in his honor. Mrs. Audrey Jackson, Pop Smoke’s mother, took on the role of advocate, leader and Executive Director of Shoot For The Stars, a nonprofit Pop Smoke started before his untimely death.
Weeklong events took place in and around Canarsie. The first night opened with a sponsorship dinner held on the rooftop of the Shirley Chisholm Campus, at 963 East 107th Street, where the views of Brooklyn were breathtaking, and Mrs. Jackson shared her passion of keeping her son’s dream of helping others alive. Working on this event was her way of keeping him alive in the community. The first year of the event was held on one day to honor Pop Smoke, but as time passed, they incorporated more events and activities that the artist wanted to do but didn’t get the opportunity to because his life was cut short. Mrs. Jackson, a former New York City teacher, knew that to keep children engaged, she had to be creative.
This year, they hosted a Youth Summit and a Gala/Fashion Show at the Brooklyn Museum, a Basketball Clinic and a fun-filled family day in Canarsie Park. When asked which event her son would have enjoyed the most, Mrs. Jackson’s face lit up with delight about the gala and fashion show they hosted. She believed her son would have enjoyed the capsule clothing line that will soon come out in his honor. The gala was filled with fresh fashions from up-and-coming local Brooklyn designers. The mix of community blended in with paintings by Kehinde Wiley and an art installation of “The Kaws.” Zanesis, one of the designers whose futuristic designs adorned the catwalk, said that he was excited to be there. He found out about the event through a business partner and jumped at the chance to share his work to honor the memory of Pop Smoke.
When asked what she wished more people knew about Shoot For The Stars, Mrs. Jackson said she wanted more people to know that their involvement is important. As a growing nonprofit, every person’s contribution counts. It’s an all-hands-on-deck type of organization, so having community and individual involvement is important. They are open to having volunteers who are dedicated to building their community and who want to see growth around them.
On Thursday, July 20th, Pop Smoke Day, the community gathered in Canarsie Park, and it was a day filled with wholesome memories. The park had activities for everyone, including basketball, volleyball, interactive games for children and a train ride for the little ones. The “Brooklyn Royal Diamonds,” a dance troop from Canarsie, kicked off the basketball games with a special production the young women had been working on for weeks. The girls shined in their pink dance gear and said they were so happy to be back to perform for this event. Patricia, a new Canarsie resident, heard about the event from her teenaged daughter, who didn’t realize her mother knew Pop Smoke’s music. Tearing up while speaking with the Canarsie Courier because she was a Pop Smoke fan, Patricia said it was important to come out and support her community and remember his legacy.
Small business vendors from Brooklyn, as well as out-of-state vendors, were in attendance. Many felt they had to be a part of this year’s event, and one vendor, Tarif, who traveled from Philadelphia said the drive was nothing to him because it was important to support the vision of Shoot For The Stars. He also said he wanted other businesses in his city to know that you can travel to support the causes that are important to you. Other vendors said they came because they wanted to connect with the community and show their family the importance of community coming together in a peaceful way.
Brooklyn Deputy Borough President Kim Council was also at the event, and she spoke with the crowd about her office’s efforts to stop violence in Brooklyn. Council said she is looking to partner with other organizations already doing the work to keep Brooklyn safe. She does not want to reinvent the wheel but align with the correct groups to help spread the efforts and work they are doing to prevent violence.
These events were a blend of community and family engagement. Pop Smoke’s father was at many events; he said seeing these activities come together was powerful, and his son would have enjoyed many of them. Pop Smoke’s 28-year-old brother, Obsai Jackson, who is also involved with the organization, said they have plans to grow their media department. They want to teach children performing arts and help others grow their talents as they “shoot for the stars.”
To participate in next year’s event, volunteer or donate, you can connect with Shoot For The Stars at shootforthestars.org.