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Hip-Hop Showcase promotes peace, unity

Man speaks into microphone
The Hip-Hop Showcase features popular artists in a family-friendly environment.

Modern hip-hop music often gets a bad rap for encouraging violence. But do a little digging and its roots reveal quite the opposite.

"The hip-hop culture was (based on) peace, love, unity and having fun," said Ismail Al-Amin, executive director of Keepers of the Art Inc.

Al-Amin founded Keepers of the Art in 2006 to preserve that integrity. For the past two years, the group has worked with the city of Akron to present the "Stop the Violence" Hip-Hop Showcase, an event that features popular artists in a family-friendly environment. 

A $10,000 Community Fund grant from Akron Community Foundation contributed to a recent showcase, which featured the talents of hip-hop legend KRS One. The event brings together people of all ages, helping close what Al-Amin refers to as the "generation gap" in Greater Akron.

"(At the showcase), you can see people ages 40 and up peacefully enjoying themselves with young people under 18," he said. "The showcase provides those old and young who grew up on hip-hop with a family-friendly venue where they can enjoy the classics."

Al-Amin said the showcase helps to encourage young, urban professionals to stay in Akron and become mentors for the next generation. It also offsets the destructive images frequently found in mainstream music and reminds people that music and the culture surrounding it can be a positive influence.

"So much of the violence here in America can be attributed to the powerful and pervasive images from popular culture and the media," Al-Amin said. "More progressive venues like the Hip-Hop Showcase are needed to help counteract the irresponsibility of mainstream radio and television."

Last year's event, held at Lock 3 in downtown Akron, attracted more than 6,000 people, making it the largest annual hip-hop concert in the state. In addition to a hip-hop-centered youth literacy initiative, the showcase included a live graffiti art demonstration as well as music by seven performers. Akron Deputy Mayor Dave Lieberth said it was a great opportunity to highlight the cultural diversity of our community.

"The city of Akron supports the use of hip-hop as a springboard for themes that advocate for a peaceful community and are opposed to violence in all forms," he said.

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