Theatrical Frederick Douglass

This year Santa Monica College opened its doors to various performers in celebration of Black History Month, focusing on the hip-hop culture including spoken word.

"Hip-hop doesn't discriminate, it has no boundaries; hip-hop is propelling our generation into a solidarity, into a unity," said Jeronimo Saldana, Associated Students president.

Saldana organized the Black History Month events with the help of Mark Gonzales, a spoken word performer from HBO Def Poetry Jam.

"We wanted to make it something they (the students) could identify with. Hip-hop is relevant to their lives; it's a way for them to communicate. Hip-hop is the language of life," said Saldana.

On Thursday, March 3, at 11:15 a.m., the A.S. and SMC celebrated the last day of Black History Month with its first Hip-Hop Theatre performance. The thought-provoking performance that attracted and captured the minds and souls of students was by the award-winning playwright, founder of Hip-Hop Theatre and UC Riverside Theatre Professor Rickerby Hinds.

For those who may have missed it, the hip-hop theatrical demonstrated the reoccurrence and influence of Frederick Douglass' ideas within the hip-hop culture and lyrics, whereas the lecture consisted of an actor performing Douglass' monologues, while Hinds deconstructed their relevance to today's culture and youth.

Wondering what Hip-Hop Theatre is? "Hip-Hop theater is theater and creativity, using the founding elements of hip-hop; MCing, DJing, Graffiti Art, and Beat Boxing," said Hinds.

Hinds, who is originally from Honduras, has been writing since 1987, and has received two degrees: a B.A in liberal arts from UC Riverside and an MFA in playwriting from UCLA.

"I write for me and my friends; we see the world through the eyes of hip-hop," Hinds said.

Throughout the performance more students began to gravitate towardsthe hip-hop congregation so engrossed in the two men behind the microphone. As Frederick Douglass took us back in history, Hinds invited us on a ship, docking in different ports of the hip- hop culture.

"Hip-hop culture takes negative experiences to positive. We flip it!" said Hinds.

Never apologizing for what he believed, Hinds voiced his views on rap and art among other things.

"Students who participate in the arts do well in school.... graffiti art came about as a result of the elimination of art programs in the school," said Hinds

When questioned, Bill Parks portraying Fredrick Douglas said about his feeling on the state of America, "the current state of America is changing and for that I am satisfied, there was a time when there were no changes."

As the performance came to an end, various students flocked to both Hinds and Douglass for a chance to voice their opinions on their outstanding performances.

"It was touching; it's not often we have events like this on campus. I'm proud of the progress," said SMC student Debra Randall.

"Today's performance illustrates the way in which African ideology and hip-hop culture are not stigmatized nor linear," said Gonzales.

With over 10 publications including his new book "Blackballin" and Hip-Hop Theatre festivals, Hinds is constantly thinking of ways to enlighten the world of hip-hop Theatre.

"I believe Hip-Hop Theatre is the next movement in the hip-hop culture. My goal is bringing in the generation I grew up, the hip-hop heads, into the theaters," said Hinds.

His new adventure plans to do exactly that.

"Within the next year my plan is to have the Mobile Theatre Movement - which is basically a large U-Haul truck with the sides taken off and turned into a performance stage that can be used to broaden the hip-hop theater culture no matter where they are. I truly believe what I am doing will have an effect on the world," said Hinds.

If you would like to experience Hip Hop Theatre and the gifted Hinds, go to his 5th annual Hip Hop Theatre Festival from April 25 to April 30 at the UC Riverside campus and throughout the community.