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Killer Mike: Rapper, activist, and now the new member of a major Atlanta museum board

Atlanta-based activist Killer Mike joins the 85-person Board of Directors for a three-year term.

ATLANTA – A well-known hip-hop artist and activist has joined the board at a popular Atlanta museum.

Musician and activist Michael Render, known as Killer Mike, has joined the board of the High Museum of Art along with three other community leaders including Jean Hanges, Keinon Johnson, and David Park. Killer Mike and the other new members join the 85-person Board of Directors for a three-year term.

Killer Mike said it took only one phone call and not much convincing to accept the position.

"He's like 'yo, I think you should be on the board for the High.' I was like, 'Get out of here.'"

He said he didn't hesitate to take on another role.

"I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing… I'm a kid like you who is from here. We're from here. We're a product of the schools here. We were told by our parents to go out and make good and make sure your name is good in this community. So one more role is not going to hurt. That's what you're supposed to be doing."

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He said he has a vision to align the museum the artistic expressions of Atlanta.

"That's hiphop. That's R&B. That's Atlanta nightlife and culture," he said. "For me, I'm the working class social connectivity."

“We’re thrilled to add these community leaders to our board,” Rand Suffolk the museum’s director said. “Each believes that a thriving Atlanta can only truly happen with a vibrant, contributing, cultural sector. Together they’ll bring extraordinary new perspectives, voices, and talents to bear on our mission.”

The museum described Killer Mike as a community trailblazer who “connects the arts to activism through his albums as well as his social and political commentary on subjects including income inequality, police brutality, and systemic racism.”

The Atlanta native leads his label, Grind Time Official Records, and is part of the rap duo Run the Jewels.

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While many museums across the nation struggle to reach a diverse audience, from 2015 to 2017 the High Museum of Art's nonwhite audience tripled from 15 percent to 45 percent.

In an article from Artnet, Suffolk was quoted saying, “A lot of it is about owning it from top to bottom, inside and out... For all intents and purposes, I’m the chief diversity officer of our organization."

"You grow your audience if you want people coming in droves that look like me to the High," he said. "Engage them young and make it a safe place and space for them. Meaning they'll always feel welcomed and encouraged to come there."

Killer Mike said without art, he would be a failure.

"I'd still be a millionaire," he said. "I still would have figured out a way to be successful. But I'd be a failure because I would not be doing what I love. I would not be experiencing what I love."

When Killer Mike sees funding for arts taken out of schools, he looks at it as a travesty.

"Art and recess being taken out of your schools is one of the biggest public betrayals that we're doing to our children," he said.

The High Museum of Art is located in the heart of Atlanta and throughout the year presents distinguished collections and special exhibits.

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