By Genoa Barrow | OBSERVER Senior Staff Writer

While it’s fellow female legend Queen Latifah whose anthem talked about U-N-I-T-Y, MC Lyte talked about the power of unity and sisterhood, and using one’s personal platforms to bring about change.

Music, meditation, massage and her mama.

That’s how MC Lyte centers herself for the work. The hip-hop legend shared these and other insights as part of the Sacramento Kings’ Team Up for Change summit at Golden 1 Center on Monday.

The Team Up for Change initiative, in its fifth year, is designed to inspire, unite and activate around a call for social justice and racial equality. Held during Women’s Empowerment Month, the event highlighted the contributions of women leaders working in the social justice movement.

In a fireside chat moderated by Sacramento artist and activist Marianna Sousa, MC Lyte spoke about how athletes and rappers often step up and lend their voices and platforms to important social issues.

“The music side is such a space where you’re able to not only use your voice to speak to the multitude of folks that exist in all regions of the world, but then you’re also able to just speak through music to your brother, to your sister, to your community, to your family. When we often talk about music and sports, they kind of go hand in hand because the community that we came from sort of reveres us in the same sort of way. We dealt with the same sort of family living, upbringing, school systems – all of the things that are still in desperate need of change, we all had the same experience. So we’re just living out our forms of expression in different ways.”

Sousa agreed. “Some of the issues that we’re dealing with at home are so similar,” she said. “The same thing the brother who’s rocking the mic is trying to get away from and not have to deal with the rest of his life, most of the brothers with the ball are going through the same thing, and our sisters too. There’s some unity in that struggle even though we’re on different sides of that court.”

The pioneering rapper is best known for classic songs such as “Poor Georgie,” “Paper Thin,” “I Am the Lyte,” “Ruffneck” and “Lyte as a Rock,” which was later featured in the film “Love & Basketball.” She also dropped a memorable verse on the socially conscious 1989 single “Self Destruction.” MC Lyte was the first female hip-hop artist to earn a gold single and to receive a solo Grammy nomination.

Hip-hop legend MC Lyte, left, was in town Monday, speaking during the Sacramento Kings’ Team Up for Change summit before performing at halftime that evening as the team played the Milwaukee Bucks. The discussion, about the role music and sports have in activism, was moderated by local artist, activist and author Marianna Sousa, who many know as Miss Marianna. (Photo by Russell Stiger, Jr.)

Whether she’s DJ’ing, writing theme songs for television shows or lending her unique voice to singing dolls, MC Lyte has continued to evolve, much like the genre she repped for 36 years.

During the local discussion, she spoke about the Hip Hop Sisters Foundation she co-founded in 2012 with attorney Felicia Shaw and finance coach and author Dr. Lynn Richardson. Its website lists its mission as promoting “positive images of men and women of ethnic diversity, bringing leaders together from the world of Hip Hop, the entertainment industry, and the corporate world” and being supportive of financial empowerment, health and wellness, mentorship, and educational opportunities.

“It was my dream to be able to send young girls to further their education and it was Dr. Lynn’s dream to empower them with financial literacy, so we’ve been able to do that for the last 12 years. We’ve given away close to maybe $1.3 million in scholarships, that’s with the young girls,” MC Lyte shared.

The organization also hosts annual WEALTH experiences.

“Womanhood, expansion, assets, leadership, transformation, and health. That’s the acronym and we all get together and it’s all about teaching what many adults still don’t know as it relates to the understanding of how money works,” MC Lyte said. “If you ever speak with anyone who’s been able to come to the WEALTH experience, they’ll tell you how life-changing it is. For me, it’s all about getting the information and getting it to the people and if that means just being a ‘via,’ using my platform to do that, that works out well.”

Sousa asked the involved rapper what keeps her “glowed up and showing up.”

“Prayer is a must,” she said. “Prayer, quiet time, meditation, that does it for me. There are certain instrumentals that I listen to that kind of put me in a zone of peace and tranquility, which is really important. I get massages regularly because we all, in taking on the world, carry a lot of stress in the shoulder area, so loosen those up.”

MC Lyte also talked about caring for her mother as she battles cancer.

“I’m sure it’s by no accident of God, my mother came to visit me like 10 years ago and she never left,” she said. “That is my call; having her with me is one of the greatest gifts and tricks that God ever could have played on her coming for the holiday and never leaving. She is always my home base. Wherever she is, that is home base. I’m very blessed to have her and she will get me together real quick if I seem to get a little flighty or floaty.”

As March is Women’s History Month, the fireside chat included remarks about empowerment and working together. MC Lyte remains independent, but she has come a long way from growing up a latchkey kid in New York.

“Even with that, I understood the power of community and family and unity. What I didn’t understand, though, and it took me until I became older and more mature, is the power of sisterhood – which, to me, is so much more for me to have gotten that memo in my 20s, so that I can actually learn and be open to all that there is in sisterhood,” she said.