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Hip hop festival kicks off in Durham

Hip-hop culture permeates the world around us, in ways that are not immediately obvious; the rhythmic constructs of the music perpetually influence other genres, wordplay and the poetic flash of MCs are an independent art form, and politics have never been so directly affected by the work of luminaries like Russell Simmons.

In Durham this week at the Hayti Heritage Center, the Spoken Word and Hip Hop Festival: Words For and From the Community will address these and other issues facing the hip-hop community, with seminars, open discussions and performances. The festival is being held at the Hayti and hosted by the St. Joseph's Historic Foundation and National Performance Network, starting with a set of in-school residencies from Monday, Nov. 8 through Wednesday, Nov. 10, and kicking in further through the weekend until Sunday. Working through the identities and responsibilities of members of the hip-hop and spoken word communities is an organic process. So, naturally, people need to talk, hash things out, but not without getting in some fun along the way.

Among the stellar cast of poets, performers and lecturers are legendary spoken word artists The Last Poets, who heavily influenced the politically focused work of groups like Public Enemy. There also will be local hip-hop sets from folks like Language Arts and Zayd Malik and multi-disciplined group MUGABEE (Men Under Guidance Acting Before Early Extinction).

The busy schedule of events also includes such notable topics as "Give and Take: Exchange between Hip-Hop and the Community," "The Role Women Play in Spoken Word Hip-Hop Culture," and the sure-to-be engaging "Graffiti: The Art and History." Rounded out by dance workshops like "Hip Hop Yoga" and essentials like "The Skills of Djing," the scope of the festival is wide, with the focus on strong community. On Sunday, Nov. 14, there will be a series of films including Scratch, Tupac: Resurrection and Beat Street.

For more info, contact the Hayti Heritage Center at 683-1709 or visit

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