Amaris' tone magnifies as she reaches the nucleus of a poem about her "issues with the word revolution." Her voice lulls and peaks, tatting the crimson walls of Durham's Blue Coffee Company as the quaint gathering of hip-hop warriors stand poised and attentive. Tonight, listening is a dangerous weapon.
"Born into a solution/So I don't know how to sacrifice for change," Amaris admits. Her verses stream like organized random thoughts egged on by the bohemian-types, self-proclaimed anarchists and underground hip-hoppers who have signed "the list"--every poetry event utilizes "the list"--and wait patiently for their opportunity to vent.
The open-mic reading at Blue Coffee along with a Hip Hop Extravaganza slated for Saturday, March 13, featuring some of the Triangle's freshest talent, is the collective work of Hip Hop Against Racist War. The group deems itself a "multiracial crew committed to using hip hop as a tool to expose and challenge all forms of oppression." As open-ended as their mission sounds, Hip Hop Against Racist War has been busy organizing folks around the illest local and global dilemmas of the day.
The group's co -founder, Bryan Proffitt says, "Hip Hop Against Racist War was born out of an incident that happened to Najj Baptist, who was a junior at N.C. State in February 2002 majoring in political science." Baptist was reportedly told to "go back to Africa" by a white female classmate after a series of heated debates between himself and fellow students in a "law and justice" class. The incident led to the formation of a group of concerned students and faculty who began meeting to discuss and devise remedies to "racist wars." The students who came were few in number, but represented "the resilient spirit that gave birth to [hip-hop] culture in the first place," as the group's website reads. On Feb. 13, 2003, Hip Hop Against Racist War rallied over 200 Wolfpack students, faculty and community members in an anti-war march from Hillsborough Street to the Capitol, operating in conjunction with international anti-war rallies that took place the same day. The boisterous mix of kids and cause bombarded the Capitol with boom boxes pumping "Whose World is This" and "One Nation Under A Groove" as battle cries.
Hip Hop Against Racist War has since hosted a series of hip hop showcases at Berkeley Cafe, where artists ranged stylistically from Raleigh Emcee Cesear Comanche to Chapel Hill musicians Go*Machine and Durham-based poet Howard Craft. The group has developed a knack for blending "edu" and "tainment" with the same ease that DJ Merlin juggles records. Yolanda Carrington, who has been with Hip Hop Against Racist War since its inception, believes in hip hop's ability to bind ties. "Stuff we learn we don't learn in our original language," she says. "We have to translate [political jargon] into a better communication with 'real people.' "
Expect competent flows to rock bodies at March 13's Hip Hop Against Racist War Festival, which begins at 4 p.m. at Blue Coffee Company (202 Corcoran St., across from the CCB building in downtown Durham) before swinging over to the old Value Furniture warehouse space on Parrish Street. The event is unique in that it features a youth open mic from 4 to 7 p.m. (which is free to the public).
Blue Coffee co-owner and one of the evening's organizers, Denise VanDeCruz, is excited about the evening's line-up, especially the youth open mic. "There are no all-ages spaces in Durham, especially where you can find some nice hip hop." The Festival boasts a safe environment that satisfies the lyrical connoisseur and leaves no person or group feeling dignity-stripped.
Hip Hop Against Racist War ventures next to Fayetteville to participate in the anti-war march on Saturday, March 20, the one-year anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Organizers are aiming to fill two buses with hip hoppers to converge with other activist groups outside of Fort Bragg. More information about "The World Still Says No to War" rally will be available at The Hip Hop Against Racist War Festival.
Saturday, March 13
Youth open mic
Blue Coffee Company, 202 Corcoran St., Durham. 4-7 p.m.
DJ Divine spins
Value Furniture Warehouse, Parrish Street off Corcoran, Durham, 7 p.m
Grupo Capoeira Brasil, Mother Nature, Howard Craft, A.Q.U.A., DJ Chela #1, Shelly B, DJ Honeycutt, K-Hill, Loose Screws, Tyler Hypnosis, Agent Starchild, and Mr. Rozzi
$5-15 (no one turned away due to lack of funds)