Wiz Khalifa shows ‘Black and Yellow’ love with Squirrel Hill Food Pantry donation
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Wiz Khalifa shows ‘Black and Yellow’ love with Squirrel Hill Food Pantry donation

“This time of the year, we see a lot of emergency clients and more need for case management with utilities and gas and electric needs, housing challenges and clothing."

Squirrel Hill Food Pantry shelves. Photo provided by Allie Reefer.
Squirrel Hill Food Pantry shelves. Photo provided by Allie Reefer.

Not everything you read about yourself on social media is bad.

Case in point: a Nov. 18 Facebook post by rapper Wiz Khalifa that referenced the Squirrel Hill Food Pantry.

“I got to work with Soundwave Art and artist Tim Wakefield to create art by coloring the sound waves of ‘We Dem Boyz’ and ‘See You Again,’ ” Khalifa wrote. “All the profits went to my hometown heroes JFCS Squirrel Hill Food Pantry to support their work. Not many of these prints are left, so they’re being re-released for the holidays to give Squirrel Hill a boost when demand is up for their work.”

Khalifa grew up in Pittsburgh, moving to the city in 1996 when he was 9 years old. He attended Taylor Allderdice High School in Squirrel Hill. His single, “Black and Yellow,” which pays homage to the colors worn by the city’s sport teams, reached No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Top 100.

Matthew Bolton, director of the JFCS Squirrel Hill Food Pantry, noted that Khalifa grew up in the service area of the organization.

“It’s a wonderful demonstration of giving back and we’re honored to be chosen for this exciting artistic and impactful donation,” Bolton said. “It’s a generous act that also promotes our mission. We’re just very happy to be a part of it.”

The pantry had no advance notice of the donation, Bolton said, but noted that the artist did the same thing last year.

Soundwave Art is a nonprofit that works with musicians to create art from the recorded sound waves of iconic songs. It sells the art to raise funds for charities and social justice causes supported by the music industry. Its website says that music fans in 82 countries have helped raise over $5 million for dozens of charities.

The site lists “See You Again” as Khalifa’s biggest hit and is selling individual hand-signed copies of the art for $1,300. Hand-signed copies of the art made from “We Dem Boyz” is listed as $400 framed. Each piece is a limited-edition print, although the site did not indicate how many copies had been created.

Bolton said that it isn’t every day the organization learns about a donation on social media, but the food pantry is supported by both locals and those who have moved out of the city.

That support is important to the pantry. It is open five days a week, something that is rare for similar organizations, Bolton said. It also does more than simply distribute food.

“This time of the year, we see a lot of emergency clients and more need for case management with utilities and gas and electric needs, housing challenges and clothing,” Bolton said.

Part of the continuum of care offered by JFCS, the pantry also helps connect its clients to other resources, including mental health services and career development support.

Bolton said the key to the assistance JFCS offers is its ability to assist with more than food insecurity.

“It’s what makes the biggest impact,” he said. “That’s what makes JFCS unique and we’re able to help people right on the spot or connect them to what they need.”

Everybody needs help from time to time, Bolton said, noting that last year brought an uptick in teen mental health issues, senior isolation issues, federal changes to SNAP and career development changes in unemployment — all are areas where JFCS’ staff can help.

A person does not need to be a pop star to support the work of JFCS and the pantry, Bolton said.

“We have people that give $1, people that give two hours of their time a week or month,” he said. “We have people that just write a letter thanking us and we hang it in the back of the pantry, and it warms the heart of our staff. We have a really powerful, loving community and we’re thankful for the support.”

Bolton said the pantry is both honored and thankful for Khalifa’s gift. Coming full circle, JFCS posted a note online as well.
“Thank you once again to Wiz Khalifa for helping out his hometown and the JFCS Squirrel Hill Food Pantry! Pick up one of these amazing prints and help us feed our community!” PJC

David Rullo can be reached at drullo@pittsburghjewishchronicle.org.

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