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Festivals Combine Hip Hop and Education

September 29, 2007

Weekend Festivals Combine Hip Hop and Education

By Kwan Booth

All across the country, educators are seeing the benefits of using Hip Hop and youth culture as educational tools. While many older institutional figures continue to clamor about the music’s social significance and graphic sexual depictions, many young educators, many of whom have grown up in the culture and understand its potential, are adapting Hip Hop’s four core tenets –the “Four Pillars of Hip Hop,” for the classroom. The Bay Area, with its history of supporting alternative education, is a hotbed for these programs that wed youth interests and culture with traditional education. This Saturday, two events in Oakland will showcase the results of this marriage.

Conceived by Oakland artist Keith “K-Dub” Williams and professional skateboarder Karl Watson, “Hood Games 4,” taking place Saturday in Downtown Oakland, aims to use graffiti, dance, and skateboard culture to raise awareness of youth issues in the Bay. Watson and Williams organized the event with the help of Comet skateboards, a Downtown Oakland skateshop creating a name for itself for its socially conscious community work.

“This is my way of having events that celebrate youth and youth culture,” says Williams, himself an accomplished skateboarder, teacher, graffiti writer and Hip Hop inspired visual artist. He sees skateboarding as a metaphor for life. “The Concrete will humble you…It teaches you to fall down and get right back up.”

This is the fourth Hood Games since 2005, with two events taking place at the East Oakland Youth Development Center and a third in Williams’ native Los Angeles. The event is free but donations will be accepted to help build a skateboard park in Oakland. In addition, Williams hopes to shed light on a sport that is becoming more and more popular with African American youth.

Although black skateboarders have been around for years, mainstream Hip Hop artist Pharell Williams brought the sport to national attention with his laid back, Virginia Beach skateboarder lyrics. The attention has swelled with the success of Chicago’s Lupe Fiasco, whose hit song “Kick, Push” tells a romantic tale of two young inner city skateboarders. Pharell “Skateboard P” Williams even recently created his own skateboard team under his Ice Cream record label. “Skating is found within every type of culture, from Punk Rock to Reggae to Hip Hop, it’s about expression,” confirms K-Dub.

Using urban arts as a means of expression is a well-known subject for Sam Mulberry. Mulberry is the Oakland Director for Weapons of Mass Expression (WOME), an urban education program that uses graffiti and mural painting to engage youth in the educational process.

In the last year, WOME has made noise in the local alternative education community with programs such as the free Weekend Wake-Up events for youth, as well as organizing the “Lost Art of Letters – Works of Students and Masters,” graffiti exhibit at San Francisco’s Luggage Store Annex.

This Saturday, at Calvin Simmons Middle School, WOME is collaborating with the Urban Arts Academy, an East Oakland after-school program, to present “Skool-Yard Skolarz,” an end-of-the-year Hip Hop extravaganza that builds on the success of the Weekend Wake-up and the two groups other year long projects.

Big Dan of the popular Hip Hop group, the Brown Buffalo Nation, will host performances by many of the top East Bay youth Hip Hop programs, such as the Unity High DJ project, Youth Movement Records, BUMP records, and Youth Speaks, along with local artists Azeem, Ise Lyfe, Nac One & DJ Gigs.

There will also be sign-ups for summer after-school programs, information tables from numerous local organizations and a screening of the San Francisco graffiti documentary, “Piece by Piece.”

Both events take place this Saturday, May 13. Hood Games will be held from 12-4 in Downtown Oakland at 14th and Franklin. For more information contact Keith “K-Dub” Williams at (510) 967-5399.

“Skoolyard Skolarz,” will be from 12-5 at Calvin Simmons Middle School, located at 2101 35th Ave. For more information contact Sam Mulberry at (510) 625-9940.


One Comment leave one →
  1. August 29, 2008 6:58 pm

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