Jean Grae’s friends will tell you that she gives great hugs. But if you were in NY this summer hanging out around Union Square you may have found that out for yourself. The multi-hyphenate talent (she’s added everything from acting and stand-up to being in comic books to her rap resume) set up a Hug Station this summer to help her fellow New Yorkers deal with some trying times.
“I created the ‘Hug Station’ because there was a lot of general tension and I was pretty much crying violently every night watching the TV, watching everything that was going on in Ferguson,” she tells WatchLOUD.com. “The Mike Brown shooting had just happened and I couldn’t go [to Missouri]. And I didn’t know what it would do if I went, how am I really helping? What can I do if I’m here? If I’m on social media I’m not just hash tagging #Ferguson, it doesn’t do anything. At least find some tips on pepper spray, gas masks tips, what you should avoid, listen to police scanners. That feels efficient to me, but beyond that, emotionally, it doesn’t feel ok. Sometimes you really, really just need people to touch and say ‘hey, things are ok.’ Or maybe they’re f*ckin not. Maybe they’re not ok. Everybody needs a hug. Who doesn’t need a hug?”
So Jean and her friends, including rapper Donwill of Tanya Morgan, set up the Hug Station complete with balloons, free candy and a menu of embraces that ranged from group hugs to create your own.
“It was an amazing experience. People would come up and ask ‘what’s the catch?’ and there was no catch,” she says. “There was a huge menu of artisanal, organic hugs. If you wanted a group hug you could have a group hug, or create your own. And it went amazing.”
Jean says she will be setting up another Hug Station soon, so follow her on Twitter at @JeanGreasy for the wheres and whens.