York College Foundation and Friends of York this year recently featured a celebration in honor of the 50 years of Hip Hop.In collaboration with community partners, they honored the history of Hip Hop by displaying music, exhibitions, fashion, graffiti artists, dancers, interactive experiences, panel conversations, and more.
A committee was formed to launch the event. It was co-chaired by Dawn Kelly, York College Foundation Board of Directors and Founder & CEO of the Nourish Spot, and Pat Robinson, who held key roles at Hot 97, WBLS, and WLIB and is currently Chief Administrative Officer at Greater Jamaica Development Cooperation.
“We are grateful for the insight and ideas offered by Dawn and Pat, two leaders who helped us shape this important day,” said York College President Berenecea Johnson Eanes. “Their involvement has been central to our effort to ensure that Queens is recognized as a cultural influencer in hip hop throughout New York City, the nation, and worldwide,” she added.
In talking about what inspired her to help organize the celebration at York, Ms. Robinson said, “Hip Hop is my story. It is why I lead the way I lead today; it gave me swag and confidence. It made me believe. The culture provided me with a direct lens into storytelling that I held onto growing up in the projects in my childhood. Hip Hop influenced greatness within me, it reminded me of real-life challenges, but it always told me the story authentically. I am proud to pay homage to 50 years of Hip Hop and to the legends that skillfully created a global phenomenon that the world benefits from today.”
Kelly added, “The roots of hip hop are strong across Queens from Astoria to Southside Jamaica. From LL Cool J, 50 Cent, Lost Boyz, Nicki Minaj, Run DMC, Queens reigned supreme in the early 70s delivering hit after hit to the streets. I applaud President Eanes and York College/CUNY for recognizing the trailblazing work of hip hop icon Ralph McDaniels and for celebrating and studying the 50-year-old cultural phenomena and music genre.” Events included a Women in Hip Hop panel, graffiti art by Eric Black, a panel by B.Dot, a cypher curated by Chip Fu, and breakdancing by X-Fenz Crew and Team Wondrous.
On a separate level, an art gallery of photos by Kenneth Harris, aka KENTHEPHOTOGRAPHER, a Queens-based photographer whose gallery is a vibrant testament to the genre’s enduring cultural impact. Through captivating visual storytelling, this gallery pays homage to the pioneers, artists, and moments that have shaped the Hip-Hop movement. York College describes his exhibit, which is still on display as “a must-see journey through the evolution of a global phenomenon that continues to inspire and unite generations.”
Harris, who was feted by several of NYC photographers including the iconic photographer/dancer/artist Larry Love and Tyrone Rasheed from Jet/Ebony fame, commented, “I am honored that my work with so many prominent celebrities and tastemakers in Queens has been recognized by the Friends of York College, in particular, Dawn Kelly, CEO of The Nourish Spot, who was instrumental in organizing this event for York College. Too often, photographers are on the other side of the lens, but in this instance, I am able to be seen along with my images. It makes me heart smile. I have been documenting such artists as LL Cool J, Run-DMC and activists like Ericka Ford. I am grateful to have received this recognition in the Art Gallery and hope I inspire other photographers to keep shooting.”
At the conclusion of the day-long event, Ralph McDaniels, the CEO of Video Music Box, the longest-running video program in the world, was honored by York College at a hip hop-inspired reception whicch was created by events planner Yudy Carrera. McDaniels received a citation from New York State Senator Leroy Comrie and his accomplishments were noted Dennis Walcott, the CEO/President of the Queens Public Library and former NYC Chancellor, who acknowledged the outstanding work thaqt McDaniels does as an educational programmer at Queens Library. McDaniels, who has had a close and personal relationship with many music artists, received a special commenmorative miniature gold record. McDaniels recently released a children’s workbook, “Roscoe Learns About Video Music,” which was unveiled at the event.