Amillion The Poet talks mental health in schools and more
Rapper Amillion “The Poet” Mayfield tapped into his inner Flash and hit the ground running this year.
The Dover emcee, who’s an author and community activist, wrapped up a Canadian tour last month. After that he finished yet another stint on the road, a six-city tour stateside that ended Saturday in Dallas. Moreover, he's nominated in the Southeast Independent Awards for Male Artist of the Year, to be held April 18 in Georgia. on April 18 in Georgia.
Amillion, a former Firefly artist, uses wordsmithing to help youth explore their creative side with his poetry workshops and summer camps. He performs in area schools and prisons in whatever city he tours in, something he’s done for years and also did on his recent stateside tour.
The Dover rapper touched on his solutions to improving the criminal justice and educational systems, the conversation he on his latest tour with rap legend Big Daddy Kane, and more.
What inspired you to perform at prisons and schools?
It’s an obligation to the youth, especially coming from a small place like Delaware. It’s an obligation to show them how they can make it, too, and to actually touch and inspire them. When I first released my book of poetry, it blew up in the prisons. That’s where my voice was first heard; and I always wanted to give back.
Prisoners were buying your poetry book?
It became a best seller from the prisons. That’s where the bulk of my sales came from. I had a friend who was incarcerated and I began writing him [inspirational] letters. Then the word started to spread. People were loving my poetry. So I put a compilation together of my content. Then when I put my book out, it did really well. Those first two to three years let me know that my voice was important. Then it continued to evolve with my music.
What’s one change that’s needed to improve education?
They need to have courses on entrepreneurship. I’m glad I can now have [creative] workshops and summer camps to help them mature [student’s] dreams. But I think they need to have this stuff in schools, too, along with courses about life. They need to have mental health courses, because a lot of the youth are committing suicide and going through stressful stuff. Maybe all of those kids can’t make it to my after-school program or the summer camp that I run. Just like you have sex education, gym and physical health classes, there also needs to be a course on mental health.
You recent met Big Daddy Kane. What’s he like?
He was a real cool dude. I’m not that big on asking for autographs. But let me tell you, he’s easily in my top 5, all-time, list of rappers for the style of music I make. I always loved Big Daddy Kane and Rakim as my elders. Then it comes down to 2Pac and Nas. Meeting him was a real special one for me. He’s just as cool as I always thought he’d be. Some people’s [rap] bars don’t match their aura. But his really did.
What did you two talk about?
I was soaking up the game, as far as the longevity he’s had. He was impressed with my international success and he told me to continue to think outside the box. Even though I’m doing something a lot of people want to do, a lot of people aren’t afforded the ability to do so. So he wants me to keep thinking outside the box. He also saluted the fact that I work heavily with the youth.
What’s something a lot of people don’t understand about convicts?
There are good people in there who’ve done bad things. But it’s the same thing with people on the outside, except some individuals just didn’t get caught. It’s not my place to judge. It’s my place to inspire. I’m not God. If I can free somebody’s mind for an hour or two, or motivate someone for an hour to not get locked behind bars by using my words, then my job is done.
What’s one way to improve the criminal justice system?
Prison reform is a good thing. It’s not just about why they’re there, but it’s also about the rehabilitation process. As you know, mental health is important. So we can only imagine what it’s like when you add in the problem of being locked inside a cell.
It’s important for prisoners to have an opportunity to express themselves and have [poetry] workshops, and things like that, so they can cope with the problems the outside world doesn’t necessarily see. Some of these people come from dire situations where they were forced into their circumstances without a choice.
What’s an example?
I’ve a personal friend who was a business owner in Dover who had a very big store downtown. The mayor was there. I teamed up with him to do coat drives and a lot of things. He totally turned his life around and he was doing great and giving back. He wanted to open up a second store in Wilmington where he grew up.
I asked him if he was sure he wanted to do that, because some people [with animosity toward you] don’t forget you. He said he wanted to help the community that he almost destroyed. I said, “that’s admirable.” He’s a convicted felon and his store was robbed, but no one was in there. The second time his store was robbed, he was there and had a concealed weapon. The robbers had guns. They shot at him. He shot back. He hit one of them and they ran away.
But my friend still had to go to jail because he’s a convicted felon and wasn’t allowed to own a gun. But he was in his own store that was getting robbed. If he didn’t have that gun, he probably would’ve gotten killed. I don’t believe in anyone brandishing guns on Instagram or in music videos and glorifying that lifestyle.
But I do believe in self-defense.