CHUKUNDI SALISBURY – 2020 VEA ARTIST AWARD WINNER

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Chukundi Salisbury, DJ Kun Luv, 2020 VEA ARTIST AWARD WINNER

The 2020 VEA Artist Award goes to legendary Seattle talent Chukundi Salisbury, known throughout the beautiful Pacific Northwest as DJ Kun Luv. His larger-than-life persona makes him a well-known figure around King County, but we’re betting that even the biggest Kun Luv fans don’t know everything that there is to know about Seattle’s celebrity DJ.

By the time you finish reading this article, we guarantee you’ll agree that DJ Kun Luv is the right person to receive VIBRANT magazine’s most prized accolades.

The 2019 VEA award winner left big shoes to fill, and Chukundi fills those shoes to the point of breaking the laces. His 30-year history of contributions to arts, culture, and communal safety in Seattle is evident in the diverse series of programs created by Chukundi that still exist today. His visions for, and his ability to make things happen, has blessed Seattle with the Green Youth Corps, 100 Black Parents mentoring and scholarship programs, Soul Pride NW, Black Santa, community celebrations, peace rallies, and more.

Chukundi and his three siblings were raised in a single-mother household in Seattle’s Central District. And although extremely low-income, Chukundi was able to participate in many of the things that neighbors in the same situation did not, thanks to his mother’s tireless advocacy for her children.

For a pre-teen student at Lechi middle school, things like YMCA camp and skiing at Snoqualmie Pass were life-changing, and even life-saving for this young African American male growing up in the often tumultuous world of Seattle in the 1970s. These experiences showed Chukundi that with the right advocacy and support, every child has an opportunity to succeed.

ONE-HUNDRED BLACK PARENTS MENTORING PROGRAM

Enter the One-Hundred Black Parents mentoring program. Now a father himself, Kun saw the need for better educational resources at schools in Seattle’s Central and South end. Chukundi gathered volunteers for a series of community activities aimed at inspiriting under-served youth. It started with “welcome back” meet-ups at local elementary schools, high-fives for kids returning from summer break; and growing into tutoring/mentoring programs at high schools, and scholarship fundraising events such as the revival of Bubblin’ Brown Suga.

Haven’t heard of Bubblin’ Brown Suga? For GHS students its a part of history, as precious as the mascot itself. Dance crews from around the city sent their best to battle for the top performer bragging rights. Chukundi approached Garfield HS principal Ted Howard with the idea of bringing back Bubblin’ Brown Suga as a fundraiser for student scholarships. Howard agreed and Chukundi moved forward with a plan to make it happen.

SOUL PRIDE NORTHWEST

One of the biggest events for BIPOC in Seattle is the annual Soul Pride NW event. This event welcomes our LGBTQ neighbors of all ages, races, ethnicities, and sexual identities to come together in celebration. A long-time ally of the community, Chukundi created the event as a way of honoring his older brother Hiram, who passed away from AIDS in 2005.

When I asked Chukundi to give me one best and one worst memory of his time at Garfield, he let out a quiet sigh and began sharing about his brother, Hiram.
“Hiram had it doubly bad,” he said. “He was gay, and he was black, at a time when Seattle didn’t accept those things. He was bullied, harassed, and assaulted
every day. Luckily, he was big enough to fight back! A lot of kids weren’t. He didn’t get beat up like other kids, but emotionally it was killing him. Those memories still haunt me. Today, thankfully, things are better.”

YOUTH GREEN CORPS

His best memory, however, lightened the mood as
Chukundi shared about his High School trip to Hawaii. Again, stating the importance of youth having advocates in their lives. Mr. Craig MacGowan, the Marine Science instructor, announced that he would be taking a few students to the island of Maui, to witness the solar eclipse. It was MacGowan, working with Principal McWashington, who ensured that the trip expenses were paid and that Chukundi was part of the team. It was here that Chukundi first saw black sand beaches and clear water sailing, and began to appreciate how important our environment truly is. Fast forward to 2020, and Chukundi has spent over 20 years as part of the Seattle Parks & Recreation department, where he shared his love for the environment by creating and developing the Youth Green Corps educational platform. In 2020, the YGC celebrated an 11-year partnership with Seattle Goodwill to bring job training classes in the environmental field to inner-city youth.

“We Love You! We Love You! We Came in Peace, We are going to Leave in Peace. Don’t let anyone Disrupt our Movement! We Came with Purpose, We’ll Leave with Purpose!”

May 30th Peaceful Protest

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Chukundi is that the thing he is MOST famous for, his DJ’ing skill, is only a small part of his artistic ability. Being known as Seattle’s #1 DJ is due to the popularity of his Annual Virgo Party; a year-end event that began in 1990, and welcomes on average about 2000 people to the year-end shindig. In the 29 years of hosting, Chukundi has never had an event end in violence or social disruption. Chukundi says it has a lot to do with how he engages the crowd at the end of the show, sharing his recipe for a successful night of peace and love.

“At the end of every night, I get on the microphone and say to the crowd, I love you! We love you.” Chukundi goes on to say, “then I invite the crowd to join me. We love you! We love you! We love you!”

“I want to send people home feeling good, feeling positive.”

Chukundi brought his message of peace to the streets on May 30th, as throngs of people gathered in downtown Seattle, protesting the murder of George Floyd. Worried that things might escalate to violence, due to a co-opting of the message by outside agitators, Chukundi addressed the crowd ~

“We Love You! We Love You! We Came in Peace, We are going to Leave in Peace. Don’t let anyone Disrupt our Movement! We Came with Purpose, We’ll Leave with Purpose!”

CHUKUNDI-CLAUS

Although Chukundi’s Virgo party is a great way for friends to gather in celebration of the upcoming new year, Chukundi has not forgotten the value that this time of the year has for the kids; which is why Chukundi has spent the last 5 years spreading holiday cheer as Chukundi-claus, aka Black Santa!

Serving about 500 kids at both Seattle and Tacoma locations, Chukundi says that this is one of his favorite times of the year. “There are so many families that can’t afford a professional photographer. This is a way to make Christmas memories, and all it takes is a cell phone.”

Chukundi-claus arrives early and stays late, to be sure that every child gets time with Santa. Often, he is able to send the kids home with a small gift, courtesy of donations from community partners via giving trees and other solicitations. At the very least the child can leave with an inspirational word, a cool photo, and a great memory.

KUNDI-COMICS! Lil Bigfella

One of the most precious Chukundi treats is his new comic book, “Lil Bigfella”. Partnering with longtime friend Josh Cheatham, Chukundi brings you a family-friendly look at the struggles of pre-teen life in modern America.

The premier issue introduces Lil Bigfella and his best friends, a group of middle-school kids struggling with what it means to be young African American students, dealing with pre-teen life and adjusting to an unpredictable world around them.

In issue #1, the group witnesses police brutality, as they see a parent being
harassed outside of the school. In a storyline that is ripped from today’s headlines, the kids lay down their basketball jersey’s in protest of the action. The story takes a poignant turn when we find out that the coach himself has a day job on the police force.

A great tool to help when talking with kids and young adults about community involvement and social justice issues.

2021 and BEYOND!

Class of 1987, and never far from home!

As we wrapped up the interview, I asked Chukundi if there are other artists whom he would like to work with in 2021. Without missing a beat, Chukundi answered, “tomorrows artists!”

“There are a lot of outstanding, established Seattle artists on the national stage right now. But to be honest, my focus is on working with tomorrow’s stars. Working with those kids out there that have the talent, that have the hunger and the drive, but need that big break. That need someone to believe in them.”

“Building each other up. Helping each other to make it to that next level. That’s what this life is all about.”

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