Arts News: KC Artist Ay Young Receives UN Recognition

Kansas City singer/entertainer AY Young is known for putting a fun twist on his commitment to energy sustainability in appearances at Chiefs’ tailgating festivities and performances at other local gatherings. He is the founder of Battery Tour, so named for his use of solar powered batteries as a concert energy source.

In October, Young was off to LA to begin a new life/career phase — one that was expected to include Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind & Fire and others. The trip marked the beginning of his two-year project as one of the United Nations “Young Leaders for Sustainable Development Goals” announced in September. Young was the only recipient from the U.S.

His task is to produce a global album to include 17 songs highlighting the 17 sustainable goals identified by the UN, including gender equality, clean energy, clean water, education and climate action. For each song, Young is assembling teams of artists, corporations and charities who share a particular goal. Brian Kennedy, who has worked with Rihanna, Joe Jonas and Ciara, and is also from Kansas City, is serving as executive producer. Paul Hawken of Project Drawdown, a non-profit that aims for a decline in greenhouse gases, is also on board.

Besides spotlighting global concerns, the album will be the first album produced sustainably.

That Young has been entrusted with all this is remarkable, because in his own words, “I know what it’s like to be told ‘no.’”

He grew up in the segregated Ivanhoe neighborhood, was an Eagle Scout and was homeschooled. He pinpointed the “power of music” as his calling, and he dreamed of performing in the Sprint Center. As a singer and keyboardist, he pursued gigs with the Plaza Art Fair, Boulevardia and other local events, but received no responses.

He began offering daily, all-ages concerts on street corners in Kansas City, with diverse artists mirroring “what America looks like.” He powered them solely with renewable energy stored in solar batteries. He invited artist and activist friends to join him on stage, performing genres from country to Michael Jackson and Prince. The concerts were interactive, with singing and dancing by the audience, and they lasted up to 10 hours. By his third concert, Young was drawing crowds of 300. He developed a strong fan base — for his music, for the opportunities he offered the audiences to express themselves, and, overwhelmingly, for his dedication to sustainability and energy consciousness. Donations funded future concerts. He took his now-named “Battery Tour” on the road, first to Kansas, Oklahoma and California. The exposure led to his appearance on the “X Factor” TV show in 2012.

Young subsequently commenced an extensive national tour, released an album, reached top levels on urban, rap, R&B and hip hop music charts and opened for artists Wyclef Jean, Shaggy, Aaron Carter, Flo Rida, T-Pain and others. In that period, he also became aware of the billion people worldwide without electricity. He began raising money and donating energy devices to 17 countries in need. The first battery case went to Haiti. He did micro-concerts in Honduras.

Young returned home determined to grow his plans and his future. He was awarded a 2017/2018 Arts KC Inspiration grant. He enrolled in Kauffman FastTrac and learned how to run and promote a business and how to support artists and other entrepreneurs. “My whole life changed,” he said.

About a year ago he attended the “Climate Week” conference in New York, where he met Al Gore and other world leaders and promoted his energy sustainability ideas. Those contacts led to his recognition by the UN.

Production of the UN album launches in January. A tour of 17 dates will then be scheduled and, following that, a documentary two-part series (each with 17 episodes) will be available for streaming. Extensive fundraising collaborations will take place in 2021 and 2022.

Young may soon be hobnobbing with Paul McCartney and Chris Martin. “We’re all outlets for change,” he said, and with “everyone plugging in,” he believes we can improve our world. He urges everyone to “take one action every day.”

Young is also determined to give back to KC, to “stimulate this economy” and to obliterate the “Troost Divide” that motivated him way back when. After all, Water.org, which works to provide safe water to people around the world, started here, so a grassroots energy sustainability movement may just be the next big green advance forward.

For more about AY Young and Battery Tour, visit www.batterytour.com.

About The Author: Rebecca Smith

Rebecca Smith is an impassioned supporter of local performances of all types, who welcomes the  opportunity to promote them to KC Studio readers.

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