Hip hop artists, activists converge at Ohio University through weekend
July 6, 2007
By Mary Reed
Hip hop is about many things, but most participants in this week's Sixth Annual Hip Hop Congress National Conference at Ohio University agree that the art form's primary goal is to give a voice to the voiceless.
"True hip hop culture is about allowing people to express themselves. (It's about) the truths that are going on in this country," said Ron Gubitz, a former high school English teacher and Hip Hop Congress board member. "Many of our people use hip hop to educate."
One hundred-plus hip hop artists, activists and scholars from around the country are meeting in Athens through Sunday to discuss issues related to urban music. Conference sessions include hip hop history, contemporary issues in hip hop, music industry workshops and nonmusical hip hop art forms, such as dance and graffiti.
Shamako (aka Shamako Noble), president and executive director of the national Hip Hop Congress, said the conference is the only opportunity for Hip Hop Congress groups from cities and campuses around the country to get together. "It's a time to get to experience the best of both worlds – in work environments and play environments."
See (and hear) for yourself
Hip hop artists in Athens for the conference will perform publicly at these times:
- 2 p.m. Friday, West Portico of Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium
- 10 p.m. Friday, The Union
- 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Mem. Aud. West Portico
- 10 p.m. Saturday, Casa Nueva
Interspersed among the conference proceedings are public performances on the Ohio University campus and in Athens. Organizers expect more than 500 people to attend the performances.
"We're educating people about the true nature of hip hop," said Anita T (aka Anita Tobin), a conference organizer. She is a senior majoring in African American studies, women's studies and sociology. "Hip hop is art, and it's not something to be scrutinized but appreciated because it's youth culture," she said.
Shamako added that America as a culture is disconnected from its art and that artists tend to be either broke and unknown or rich and famous -- with no middle ground. Hip hop, he said, allows people with no money to express themselves. "In an environment where art and music education continues to diminish, a cultural form that doesn't require instruments has an extremely educational force.
"Hip hop is made up of many elements of the community," he continued. "It is a 50 Cent and a Jay-Z, it's mothers and fathers, it's teachers, administrators, it's writers – it's people out in the community making a positive difference and using art to do that."
The Hip Hop Congress is a nonprofit corporation with an international scope, and its chapter program includes more than 50 groups in communities, universities and high schools.
"We chose Ohio University to host the conference because its local chapter has been one of our most successful chapters, and we wanted to honor its efforts," Aaron Berkowitz, public relations chair for the congress' national board, said last week.