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Using Art to Encourage and Communicate in the Community

hip-Hop Legend Curtis Blow

Hip-hop legend, Curtis Blow, gave a memorable performance to residents of the North Lawndale community.  Saturday, June 22 the community came together to enjoy the 5th Annual Hip-Hop Revival, 2111 S. Hamlin.

The revival introduced the new Firehouse Community Art Center, an old Chicago fire house on Hamlin Street that is gradually being rebuilt into a center for youth.  Young people will be able to express their talents as well as sign up for classes that will either, help them to improve a familiar skill or teach them something new.  The second floor is ready for use but the center is not entirely finished.  Upon opening later this year, dance, mural, engineering and more will be available to youth, hopefully by the end of this year.

Pastor Phil and Curtis Blow Pastor Phil, Associate Pastor of Lawndale Christian Community Church, Senior Pastor of “Tha House”, a hip-hop church and Founder of the new Fire House Community Arts Center said, “The plan is to have it open by the end of the year.  We won’t have a grand opening until, maybe 2014.  We’ll have staff ready and everything.  [The Firehouse Community Art Center] will be open to students 12 to 25-years-old of North Lawndale and Little Village.”

The community got a taste of what to expect from the art center in the near future; an art table was set-up outside where people couldFirehouse Art Center assist in decorating boards that are used to cover/close abandoned buildings in the neighborhood.  There was the unveiling of a mural that was dedicated to community outreach leader, Khaldun Everage who died last year.  The mural was filled with bold colors of orange, yellow and red, plated with colorful glass pieces.  Two young faces stood out in the mural with shadows in the background, two banners hung across the painting that read, “Heaven awaits the moment when youth will arise and act on behalf of their generation”, and, “go out and do something great today.” A small portrait of Everage was included at the lower right corner of the mural.

Free to the public, the revival collaborated with other Chicago organizations like: The Chicago House, an organization that works with HIV patients as well as educating the city about prevention; Emmas Ministries, that provided the free HIV tests (along with North Lawndale Christian Health Center) and Art Forward, a non-profit organization that uses art to build and beautify the city.  The revival was based on invigorating hip-hop back to its roots of peace, love, unity and fun. Celestial Minitries

Performances by local artists like Kick Bricks, Lyric Squad, Celestrial Ministries which is a youth marching band, were just a few of the acts that took to the stage.   Dance teams came out and impressed the crowd with their break-dancing moves, graffiti artists were  given no more than four hours to decorate the side of the center and a rap battle that consisted of encouraging your opponent.

Pastor Phil said, “It’s about community, it’s about great lyrics, it’s about peace and it’s about uplifting people.  KRS One said, ‘Rappers rhyme for what’s mostly illegal, MCs rhyme to uplift the people’, so we’re trying to create something that people won’t usually see if they went to a typical mainstream concert.  It’s also to bring the community together around hip-hop to those who see it as negative and see young people as negative in their own community; we want them to see value in this.”

Not only was there entertainment but free food was served and free HIV tests were given.  Eric White, a resident of North Lawndale said, “I see that people have a heart to reach out to young kids and that’s nice; you also meet a lot of interesting people.”  The night ended in prayer and everyone volunteered to help put stage equipment away.

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