For Tamir Francis, it began when met a homeless man named Thomas in Monroe Park. “Before that, I never really understood how someone could become homeless,” the 28-year-old musician and MC says. “Meeting him changed my perceptions of what homeless people go through.”
Inspired, Francis (better known by his stage name, Tamir Rock) started Feed the City, an annual event that distributes food and clothing in the park on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. “The first year,” he says of 2009, “it was just me and four or five other people passing out juice boxes and sandwiches. The next year it just grew.”
That’s an understatement. For last year’s event, Tamir (pronounced “tah-meer”) landed sponsorships from local Wawa and McDonald’s franchises and WTVR-6, attracted 30 volunteers and received “tons of clothes” to give away. For seed money, the talented visual artist (see his work at everythingtamirrock.wordpress.com) sold paintings and sculpture and donated the proceeds.
Hundreds of people were helped. “It wasn’t just the homeless,” he says. “It was also families who didn’t have money for Thanksgiving dinner.” But the Meadowbrook High School graduate, a Texas native who moved to Richmond when he was 15, is careful not to grab too much credit. “There are people who do this kind of thing every week,” he says.
On the musical front, Tamir has released two CDs and is managed by Joyce Hawkins, the mother of singer Chris Brown (his song, “The Music,” was a featured cut on Style Weekly’s 2010 “Sounds of Richmond” release). Far from being the stereotypically self-absorbed rapper, he plans to make Feed the City bigger and better by adding free musical entertainment. “If you are able to help people,” he asks, “why not?”