Hip-Hop Theater Festival

Making Space in Harlem

The ongoing goal of Hip-Hop Theater Festival (HHTF) has always been to elevate and offer fruitful and sustainable art to the community through Hip-Hop Theater. We reach these goals by empowering artists to develop new works and build coalitions with artists and institutions around the world—supporting new relationships, and exploring new boundaries.

 

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Our mission for the past ten years has been to present live, professionally executed theater written by, and about the Hip-Hop generation. I have been with the festival since the beginning, over 10 years ago, like myself back then we were nomadic, constantly moving, inhabiting spaces, rooted in no one place but our own ideals and mission. One of the first spaces we produced in was PS122 at First Ave. and 9th St in 2000 with Sarah JonesSurface Transit.

We were producing and showcasing work about the community, its origins, and also its evolution. Both Harlem and New York City we know as breeding grounds for not only the elements of Hip-Hop but also a lot of our beloved urban written and theatrical productions. 12 years later and much further north, we have embarked on a new journey, a new space which is a storefront like gallery space located in East Harlem. The dust is still settling, paint is still drying but we hope to begin inviting our friends, comrades, collaborators over by the end of the summer. The new space is an opportunity for HHTF to have a public imprint in NYC but more importantly on the Harlem community. When audiences think of Harlem they think of a renaissance, they think of a culture of call and response on artistic and political levels alike. The Hip-Hop Theater Festival, the culture we stand for and the space we are creating, seeks to foster that exact relationship and keen memory. The new space we are building and establishing seeks to harbor the discussion, the cipher, and the recreation of all that we see fit to challenge and change. It is the community’s space and we want to ignite dialogue and social change through performance arts, invigorate the space by nurturing the creation of innovative work within the Hip-Hop aesthetic. We are excited. This is a new and big step for our organization.

 

When audiences think of Harlem they think of a renaissance, they think of a culture of call and response on artistic and political levels alike.

 

We will be having a visual arts space opening featuring the work of Mare 139. But what's really exciting is the opportunity to offer the critical breaks intensive, in which artists will receive dedicated workshop time space and support, in our new space, (of course), to tackle issues, themes, stumbling blocks in which break-throughs can happen.

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Thoughts from the curator

A series discussing the history and current state of theatre in Harlem, New York.

Harlem, New York

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The black hole of a matrix simulation
Where pixilated states are our situation
Where Schrödinger’s cat is live and croaked
And Black people are both wealthy and broke
Our history, a simulation within a simulation
A perpetuated state left to its own devise
Renders a soul on ice
This story is not only told twice
But exponentially, it equates itself thrice
And before you know it, the observed acts
While the dormant state is the true fact
But, remaining unseen
Most are not too keen
To know the fact from the Jack
The so-called African- American has been snatched, transported and dumped on the shores of a foreign experience with no logical idea of how to escape. Three Judeo/Christian scriptural examples, (two Old Testament and one new) urge the people of God (sometimes, persons as there weren’t too many people of God in Sodom) to vacate the premises. When confronted with great evil, they are admonished to leave. There was Egypt, Sodom and the Book of Revelation’s caveat: “Babylon the great is fallen, come out of her.” There is in the modern world no likely hood of a great migration of people; as there appears under current circumstances, nowhere to go.
The modern 21st century world is an organized condition of Communalization that was a long time coming; an odd political and economic structure of corporate socialism, communism and democracy; mandated by a behemoth like world government council. We are beginning to see early political and social models in China and India. As a result, human relationships are regarded far more complex in this one global governmental weltanschauung (world view) than even fifty years ago. One must consider, our children’s children will find Space Travel as common as air travel is today.
Human, faction and individual political perceptions, social awareness, and group identities will be co-dependent on critical premises of the essentials of acknowledged Human Rights.
This New age government will be a master stroke of autocratic rule by a plutocracy under the guise of a world democracy. There should be no mistake about it, it is coming.
However, the national plight of the so-called African American can enjoy no international forum of recognition. It is highly unlikely there will be a call for the “International Community” to rush to our aid as advocates, legislatives or combatants or otherwise. Considering the corrupt and defiled moral state of humanity; there is even less likely hood of a Deus ex-Machina, providing divine intervention.
The real African-American (those modern emigrates) are disdainful of us and puzzled to no end at our wretched condition in this, one of the wealthiest societies, opportunity laced, and affluent coordinates on the planet. While the governments of Africa itself are powerless, and unwilling, to intervene on our behalf, as sovereign nation states in this early 21st century era of regime changes, and political realignments. Which is quite remarkably disappointing for many Black Cultural Nationalist, considering the emotional capital expended by a nascent and very romantic, Dashiki dressed 60’s Black Consciousness movement; venting every effort to connect with our fabled roots in art, literature, religion and science. We so-called African Americans as a consequence, find ourselves in the 21st century alone and bereft of considerable acknowledgment of our needs as a separate and distinct people from all other ethnics groups in American society.
Once slaves, bound by laws which specifically controlled our conduct and relationship with our masters; having been emancipated, we are now although citizens, functioning more like lawful captives; subject to laws of the land, but somehow, failing to fully benefit from them. To wit: Our first Black president has failed to subjectively change our condition in a manner consistent with our hopes for his election and supposed power as leader of the “Free World”.
Considering that entire generations of so-called Black youth disdain formal education, being distracted and loss to unintelligent pursuits, a few decades ago with the exception of precious few, of career goals aimed at being pimps, whores, or numbers runners (hustlers) drug addicts, alcoholics; and currently, the rage is to be a “gangsta.” It is small wonder that we lack a vibrant youth culture helping to drive our communal agenda to the fore of our group’s collective fate. The importance of knowing individual progress is dependent on collective consciousness, has been lost on us; as we strive to go our separate ways of personal success, finally as Biblically admonished, to leave everything, it’s usually us. As individuals in our own personal enclaves of material success, we are in large part, rendered powerless as a group. As it stands, most forward motion is being achieved by a middle-class segment of our group, hated as being”bousie”; a derogative term, meant to and effectively does, separate the group into antagonistic and fictive class factions.
African Americans are by their historical relationship to the larger society are marginalized in the extreme. To engage divisive and imaginary class differences is a most grievous error. No other group is so alienated by racial distinctions as we are, branding our every effort as black; such as black theater, black history, black sports, etc. binds us to as outside the universal formats and singles out interest as something only black people can either understand or care about; and not a general agenda item. We are continually regarded by use of this tactic, as outsiders. A situation made even more unwieldy by self-imposed class divisions.