A few weeks ago I was at the Art Garage for Electric Relaxation, which was having a salute to the year 1988 and the movie School Daze (okay, I was at a party). I was grooving along, shaking, jiggling and grinding to the sounds of some old school Hip-Hop and R&B when suddenly, and most unexpectedly, the DJ lowered the music, turned up the stage lights and open the mic. Now, having been to my share of ‘hood parties, I had just assumed that either: A). a fight has broken out or B). the cops had shown up to shut things down. But this wasn’t exactly that kind of crowd. To the contrary, this party was a Liberation Family and Blake Montgomery-sponsored event, which meant that this party came with a purpose.
A few moments later, (Leah) Keturah Ceasar aka Ms. K, a locally-renowned hip-hop dancer, activist and filmmaker, along with her partner Kash Kuumba, another local hip-hop artist, stepped to the mic. At first I thought they were about to rap, to which I would have taken that as my cue to go to the bar. Not that I had something against them rockin’ the mic but I had worked up a sweat on the dance floor and could have used a brief intermission to refill my glass. But instead of spitting a hot sixteen, the two used the platform to speak about the need for neighborhood transformation, better education and job creation. Then they did something totally unexpected: The two Hip-Hop artists, mostly known around town for beats, breakin’ and rhymes, had officially announced their candidacy for Philadelphia city council.
Simply put: They wanted us to not only vote for change but to cast our vote for Hip-Hop.
My refill would have to wait for a few minutes more, as I needed to get closer to the stage to hear them better. I was both intrigued and excited. With Hip-Hop dominating all aspects of U.S. culture – scratch that, international culture – is it possible for Hip-Hop to make the leap from the streets to City Hall?
Later that evening I approached Ms. K about her (and Kuumba’s) run for public office. I asked if we could hook up later to talk more about this budding Hip-Hop Party. She agreed and the following weekend, we met at Kaffa Crossing, Philadelphia’s favorite Ethiopian coffee shop, for a little lunch, a little politics and a little hip-hop.