Student Lens-Mentoring Through Music: A Pinqy Ring Profile
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Resilient, empowering, and passionate are just a few words to describe Marisol Velez, a modern-day female rapper and educator from Chicago who also goes by the name of Pinqy Ring. A force to be reckoned with, Velez overcame obstacles throughout life and turned her negatives into positives.
In June of 2004, 19-year-old Velez fell into a coma after having been pulled out of a flaming car by off-duty police officers. As traumatizing as this moment was, for her, it was a rebirth and another chance at life. “I always liken myself to a Phoenix,” Velez says referring to the mythical Egyptian bird. “I have a Phoenix tattoo on my arm as well because that was the moment that my life changed,” she says.
Before the accident, Velez says she was not living her life in an honorable or respectful way, heading down the wrong path due to involvement with drugs, alcohol, and hanging out with the wrong crowd. It was this near-death accident that pushed Velez to change her life for the better.
“Waking up in Cook County Hospital and seeing a reflection of myself with broken teeth, a scar on my forehead and a broken nose made me realize that, that could have been the end of my story. That’s not how I wanted to go out,” she says. “That’s not how I wanted to leave the world.”
Determined to make changes in her life, Velez used settlement money she received from her accident to take a volunteer trip to Ghana. It was thanks to this trip that she found her passion for educating others and what pushed her to begin teaching ESL and GED classes at local schools in Chicago.
However, she was still hungry for more. An educator and artist, Velez found her saving grace in music. The liberation of creative expression in rapping is what inspires her to turn to hip-hop to tell her story.
“Music is the one place I can go to and be honestly and truly myself, and I think that that’s truth for a lot of young people who write music,” Velez says. “I realize that I want to be a rapper and a musician because it’s a way for me to represent Chicago, my Puerto Rican community, women, anyone that feels they don’t have a voice.”
Velez ran with her dream and put herself to work. Her first single, “Herstory”, debuted in 2013, and since then, she has released numerous tracks. Working on her music keeps Velez busy, but her dedication to make a difference pushes her to teach a weekly all-girls hip-hop class at Evergreen Academy Elementary School.
Making a difference in the community is not only a passion in her life, but also a priority.
“We need more mentors, we need more caring adults in these young people’s lives,” Velez says. “You can reach so many people with your music, but when you can be in front of them and you can guide them, it’s empowering the next generation.”
Velez also currently works with Guitars Over Guns, an art-based mentoring program that empowers at-risk youth. Velez’s experience allows her to make a positive impact in the lives of many young people like Jarmiah Scott, an eighth grade student involved with the program.
“I think of Marisol as a very close friend, almost like a mother to me,” Scott says. “She has told me to be myself, write freely, be that person that stands out in a crowd, and be different.”.
Another mentee, Vanessa Villa, 20, met Velez in 2014 when she taught her high school poetry course. The connection between the two was instant. Today, Velez continues to be a mentor and close friend to Villa.
“Marisol gives me advice on evolving as an artist - teaching me to pursue my craft and really believe in myself,” Villa remarked. “I really look up to her because of her tenacity. Knowing a lot of the struggles she’s overcome and looking at where she is right now in life and her persistent energy really drives me and gives me encouragement,” she says.
Velez ties both her passions together by including powerful messages in her music. Topics like promoting female empowerment and ending Chicago’s violence are close to the rapper’s heart and matters she often sheds light on.
“I want young women to know they are beautiful, good enough, worthy, and that anything they want to do is very possible.” Velez says. “That’s the reason why I continue to make music.”
Velez continues to be a source of motivation and strives to make a difference one lyric and student at a time. This ambitious, unstoppable, female rapper proves that anything is possible regardless of one’s circumstances. “I want other people to say, ‘She did it, and so can I’,” Velez says.