During a Ford Foundation meeting in Miami back in 2007, the artist Marc Bamuthi Joseph suggested that the Hip-Hop Theater Festival (HHTF) develop a new program that supported artists from the Hip-Hop generation.
Looking back it makes complete sense that an artist like Bamuthi, who directly benefited and successfully leveraged the Festival’s support of his work, would in turn, give us more work to do!
In actuality, it was an acknowledgement that our work was leading the charge in serving as supporters and advocates for local, national and international artists from the Hip-Hop generation creating work for the stage.
The Festival was founded ten years ago with the idea that artists from the Hip-Hop generation deserved a place on the theater stages of America. Furthermore, despite the fact that New York City is the birthplace of Hip-Hop and the economic/cultural hub for the commercial aspirations of the culture, as well as a world-class city for arts, Hip-Hop culture itself is almost completely underserved and ignored, yet tourists still take Hip-Hop tours to the Bronx.
As a cultural institution, HHTF is asking what does Hip-Hop look and feel like today in the 21st Century locally, nationally and globally? How important is it to preserve culture? Does one get too old for Hip-Hop? Is it strictly a “youth culture”?
How do you support artists who came of age during a time where there was no “market place”, no communication or commercial enterprises international in reach, but yet contributed to the aesthetics of a culture that turned into a billion dollar industry?
Hip-Hop is like Jazz and we should learn from our history. More often than not, artists from the Hip-Hop generation are too often under-employed, are not actively engaged and rarely acknowledged or utilized for the greater good of our communities.
Our organization is working to explore these questions while broadening the conversation around Hip-Hop. To paraphrase Russell Simmons, the “new Americans” are a multi-racial, worldly and culturally sophisticated group of young people and young professionals who are not afraid to be smart and to dig deeper as aficionados and Hip-Hop is a part of their DNA.
HHTF believes, after 10 years of producing the Festival and working hard to establish relationships with some of the top cultural institutions in America that its time to take what we do up a notch and keep making a positive difference for our communities, for the theater and for Hip-Hop.
In the coming weeks, this blog will be a conversation about where our culture is going. Not just on the level of music or the streets, but in the classrooms, in the art studios and in the academic halls across the globe and most importantly, in our communities as a whole.
10th NYC Hip-Hop Theater