Feature Stories

Beat Battle Champion Sikwitit's Family Lost Their Home to the Tornado

Sikwitit’s mom may have saved his life over the weekend. The Dallas producer started off his holiday with a familiar routine: Meet his sister and brother-in-law at their house in Rowlett and make the trip together to visit their mother in Carthage. The plan was to return the day after Christmas, but their mother convinced them to stay another day. After they got home they thanked their mom for saving their lives.

What’s really stunned Sikwitit is how close he came to an encounter with a tornado. They’ve made that trip countless times: They arrive back in Rowlett the day after the holiday, in the evening; he crashes and goes home the next morning. But this time their mother was able to convince them to deviate from their routine. “We were packed up and ready to go,” he says. “But our mom convinced us to stay around a little longer just to have more family time.” They would have arrived back in Rowlett just in time for the tornadoes if everything had gone according to plan.

Sikwitit — a renowned beat battle DJ who won last year's Beast of the Beats showcase in New York in a field of over 1,500 competitors — was enjoying the extra time with his family in Carthage when the sirens started screaming in North Texas Saturday evening. Then they started getting texts from concerned relatives and friends. They started watching the news and the home security system company called. The alarms were going off and they were unable to reach the police. A friend offered to check the house out, but the neighborhood was pitch black when he arrived. The neighbor sent pictures that clearly showed some exterior damage.

But the damage was much worse than anticipated when they returned to Rowlett on Sunday. “We thought the house would still be livable,” Sikwitit says, and then his voice trails off. The garage was gone. Windows and doors were busted wide open. There was debris from outside in the house and debris from the house outside. They realized the structure of the home was so damaged that it might not be safe to enter, and moreover, there were many stories passing around of houses being looted in the neighborhood.

It was dark and breaking in wasn't even necessary; anyone could just walk in. Sikwitit’s mom and sister quickly started packing while he and his brother-in-law started boarding up windows. “We took some really important things that we needed to get out of the house immediately,” Sikwitit says. His voice is weak, but he is happy to have it back after losing it out in the cold.

The tornado tore into the roof and left it exposed to extensive water damage. He spent several hours out in the cold wind and rain clearing out a house soaked with water from front to back. “We just tried to get whatever was salvageable,” Sikwitit says. “We started packing up stuff and hauling it off to different places to store it temporarily.” The realization that he narrowly dodged being in that house when the tornado struck has also taken its toll. He feels sick and tired, but lucky to be alive.

The damage stretched across the entire city of Rowlett. Half of his sister’s neighborhood is at least somewhat intact and half of it isn’t. Judging from the damage, it looks like a tornado touched down and tore a path that either started or ended with his sister’s home. “Hers was damaged really bad,” Sikwitit says. “But others were just totally wiped out.” Some areas have had gas shut off due to leaks. With water damage to carpet and upholstery in homes, it’s just a matter of time before the smell of mildew permeates the air.

Sikwitit and his sister, a junior high school teacher, both had cars destroyed by the storm. His insurance was liability only, so now he has the expense of a new car at a time when he is trying to achieve financial stability in his career as a producer, having spearheaded the Dallas Producer Collaboration Project earlier this year. His sister’s house may be demolished and rebuilt, but that has yet to be determined. Also yet to be determined is what exactly the insurance will pay for. In the meantime, his sister and brother-in-law are incurring all sorts of expenses saving what they can, replacing what was lost, setting up a makeshift home and preparing to go back to work next week.

He immediately started posting pictures of the damage to social media and was touched by the outpouring of support. Now Sikwitit has set up a GoFundMe account to help pay for a new car as well as help his family deal with all sorts of expenses while they get the runaround from insurance companies. “We’re having to buy a lot of stuff,” Sikwitit says. “There are a lot of out-of-pocket expenses that we weren’t expecting just to get back to normal life.”

Sikwitit has had some success participating in beat battles, working as a producer and performing as a DJ in Dallas and other cities. But he has stayed loyal to this one, even drawing attention to the diverse talents of local producers and studios with the weeklong Dallas Producer Collaboration Project. The project culminated with the release of a free beat tape and video documenting the collaboration. Sikwitit cheerfully explained the effort as a way of giving the music scene an extra boost. But now he finds himself asking for support.

“It’s just very real,” Sikwitit says. “This is one of those things where you know it can happen, you’ve heard about it happening, but you don’t really get it until it happens to you.”
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Jeremy Hallock