[caption id="attachment_359104" align="alignright" width="451"] Members of the Wu-Tang Clan.[/caption]
Conversations on topics such as health, financial literacy and civic engagement will be at the forefront of Hip-Hop Week MKE, an inaugural event series that kicks off today.
The citywide event, running Aug. 20 to 26, will celebrate the popular American music genre and its influence on society. It will feature more than 20 hip-hop related activities, including musical performances, historical presentations and educational seminars, held at different venues throughout the city.
Of course, hip-hop music itself will be a major focus of Hip-Hop Week MKE, but the event was planned with a greater purpose, said Milwaukee Alderman Khalif Rainey. He was the mastermind behind Hip-Hop Week MKE and sponsored the event's legislation, which was passed by the Common Council in January.
"The idea for Hip-Hop Week MKE is to take the platform of hip-hop, one that lots of people are connected to, and use that platform to have conversations about health, financial literacy and civic engagement," he said.
These conversations will be led throughout the week by local community leaders, including entrepreneur Jay Morrison, who on Aug. 21 will discuss financial intelligence, and Juice Kitchen co-owner Maanaan Sabir and chef and restaurateur Michael Feker, who will both discuss health and nutrition at the Hip-Hop Health Fair on Aug. 22.
National hip-hop industry leaders have also gotten involved. Bronx, New York rapper Mysonne on Aug. 24 will present "Sell Hope," his documentary on civic engagement, and Brooklyn, New York rapper Masta Ace on Aug. 22 will lead a discussion titled "Hip-Hop & Health."
The week will also feature a job fair, which will be held on Aug. 23 at Ascension Wisconsin's Wheaton Franciscan-St. Joseph Campus in Milwaukee's central city, and a networking event, which will be held tonight at Miller High Life Theatre in downtown Milwaukee.
"It's taking these topics and making the conversations about them more palatable, and putting them in a voice that's more familiar, which is hip-hop," Rainey said.
Hip-Hop Week will feature evening performances by both locally and nationally renowned hip-hop artists, including RZA and Ghostface Killah, both of popular hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan.
The week will culminate on Aug. 26 with its "Hip Hop on the Block" event, which will be part of the Milwaukee Bucks' block party and grand opening celebration for Fiserv Forum in downtown Milwaukee.
Rainey said he hopes the event will connect the Milwaukee community, especially during a time when the city seems socially and racially disconnected.
"One of the important things to acknowledge is that hip-hip was born out of a peace movement that took place in New York when gang violence was bad," Rainey said. "I think right now in our community, we should be considering every possible way to connect with people and show them alternative ways of living life."