Hip Hop Removes Its Stigma at 6th Annual Raising Kings and
Queens Concert Event
by Jon Minners
Photos provided by Cool Clyde and taken by LA Hendrickson
Other photos taken by Kristy Caruso
Call it Hip Hop with a conscious. Tired of all the negativity associated with the culture, one pioneer took Hip Hop back to its roots, creating a groundbreaking concert event that highlighted the positive and rid the genre of the stigma that has become associated with the art form in recent years.
That was DJ Cool Clyde’s dream and it was the culmination of that dream that saw thousands of Bronx residents and beyond show up at Rosedale Park, commonly referred to as the birth park of Hip Hop, to take part in United We Stand Entertainment’s 6th Annual Raising Kings and Queens Concert on Sunday, August 13.
“Hip Hop has been stolen from us and we are taking it back,” said Assemblyman Ruben Diaz, Jr., as he looked around to see the large attendance of Bronxites, young and old, taking part in the festivities amidst the bright, summer sun.
Diaz smiled as he watched children jumping around in bouncers, families chow down on various types of barbecued food and so much more going on around him. Young performers took the stage and showcased their dancing abilities. Legends like ShaRock, the first female luminary MC, took to the stage highlighting the abilities that helped to make them the stars of yesterday.
In addition, the stars of today, such as Dr Bob Lee and Wendy Williams, of concert sponsors, WBLS, talked up the crowd and helped MC the show, while special guest DJ Funkmaster Flex, of Hot 97, played a set much to the crowd’s delight.
There were no curse words, no talk of drugs and no negative references to women or gang life. This was Hip Hop at its purest and the elected official, affectionately called the Hip Hop Assemblyman, loved every minute of it. “What you have been hearing on the radio is not Hip Hop,” said Diaz. “Concerts like this are what Hip Hop used to be about,” he added, referring to the genre’s roots when it was created out of the rubble of burned out buildings in the south Bronx, as a way to lead people out of poverty and have fun.
“We should have more events like this,” he continued. “It’s a great way to keep the community united.”
And also keep them informed. Part of the brainchild of Clyde’s not-for-profit organization, the concert was not all about music…it was also about vital information. Whether it was a local college or a health agency, there were a number out there keeping residents swimming in knowledge.
“This is a community event and it is about getting to the people on a grass roots level,” said Isolina Liriano, community relations associate for Urban Health Plan. “One of the major issues affecting the Bronx is health – obesity, asthma or air pollution – and people are not always aware that there is free or low cost health care available to them.
“It’s hard to inform people about this during the week so events like this, where people have time, are perfect to discuss programs with families, answer questions and get the word out to the people,” she continued.
Also on hand was a New York youth facility, Gaining Groundz, which is looking to open up a Bronx location in the coming months. Offering Hip Hop and African dance classes to kids and teens, among other programs, Gaining Groundz hopes to provide youth with the positive influence that Hip Hop has to offer.
“Hip Hop doesn’t have to be about violence,” said founder Mayuri Jennifer Breen. “It really depends on how it is used. We are harnessing it to do good. When you take out the negative, Hip Hop is still really the rawest way to communicate a feeling and that’s what we hope to teach the children who get involved with our program. With so many Bronx kids taking part in our classes, we look forward to opening a facility here and are happy to be here today.”
Firefighter Tom McKeon manned a table teaching fire safety education. “These types of events are where we really reach children,” said McKeon. “We teach children at school, too, but students sometimes treat it as ‘just another class’ where here, it is more laid back, and families attending are more inclined to listen while they are enjoying themselves. And they really take it in more; more so than adults do.”
Elizabeth Reyes, student ambassador for Monroe College, was joined by fellow student ambassador Elizabeth Espinosa, to reach out to concert attendees about the benefits of going on to college. “We are here to reach out to the community and empower them,” said Reyes. “A lot of the people here do not have a GED or college education. We are here to make them aware of the job opportunities that will be presented to them with a college education.”
Reyes handed out DVDs of a previous graduation ceremony to highlight the positive aspects of accomplishing a college degree. “An event like this where a number of youth come out to enjoy themselves; it is important for them to see students like ourselves,” she continued. “They identify with us. We go through the same struggles and can relate with them better. If 3,000 people attend and we get to half of them, I think that’s wonderful; a great accomplishment. That’s what really matters.”
Gary Axelbank, who represents Monroe College and also has his own television show on Bronxnet, was proud to attend the event and provide information to the community. Axelbank, who included Hip Hop on a BronxTalk/Bronxnet CD last year, believed the concert was beneficial to the surrounding community.
“We are arming the people with information and every year I attend, I see this event growing and developing,” he said. “We are talking about a community that over the last couple of decades was fragmented due to economics, AIDS, drugs, but concerts like this one…look…it brings the community together.”
Those thoughts validated Clyde’s beliefs as he looked over the crowd that attended. “We have people from Toronto, California, Philadelphia, New Jersey and so many other places all around us,” he noted. “They are getting a great appreciation for Hip Hop and the Bronx. This is about peace, unity and harmony. It’s what Hip Hop is really about and events like this are long overdue.”
For more information, go to www.unitedwestandent.org.