For the last few years, Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen has celebrated the beginning of International Women’s Month by bringing some of New York’s best female MCs and poets to the Bronx’s Hostos Community College, raising awareness for HIV/AIDS and placing before audiences that cross otherwise rigid boundaries of age, race, neighborhood, and gender. In advance of Saturday’s event, the Voice spoke with Kathleen Adams, one of the original organizers, about the Kitchen’s growth and the challenges that the South Bronx faces.
How did you get this event going? How did it come together, originally?
So Lah Tere [of the rap group and arts collective Rebel Diaz] and I, we were friends and we knew each other and we both had a passion to use hip-hop in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Being in the Bronx, especially the South Bronx, and knowing how important hip-hop is and that the rates for HIV/AIDs are extremely high, we thought this would be a one-time event. When we had it February 2008, we thought only 75 people were going to come to showcase and over 500 people showed up. That kind of gave us the idea to keep this going because obviously there’s a need and a lot of energy behind this.
And how has it grown over the past few years?
Ever since we moved it to Hostos Community College, using their space from our March 2009 event forward, we were able to grow because they have facilities that can hold a much larger audience. We had over a thousand people at the second one and I think it was able to grow because we put on a really solid event with a good lineup and we’re very organized. So people come out, they bring a lot, and get a lot, and it’s just a great community networking environment. So that’s why the turnout’s so large.
Who has been coming to these events?
Our audiences have been very broad and diverse. We have local Bronx residents, local college kids, their parents, their grandparents, and people coming from all the five boroughs. People come in from D.C. and Chicago and Boston, so it’s pretty wide.
And who are some of the artists performing?
In terms of talent, this year we have a really great lineup with a lot of new talent that we’ve never used in our showcase before: We have the Guerilla Queenz coming all the way from the Bay Area; we have Aisling Peartree, who’s coming from Boston; this year we collaborated with Not Enough Mics, which is an amazing female artist/organization that is kind of similar to Momma’s Kitchen but they have, I guess you could call them chapters all over the Midwest and the East Coast. So we have eight women from Not Enough Mics Club performing a collaborative piece. And we have local talent as well, like the Hostos-Lincoln Academy Step Team. We also have the Pelham Academy Eagles, performing a dance piece, and an amazing spoken word poet Nene Ali, who’s been with us for the past five years. We’ve got a lot going on.
Awesome. So this year, you’re focusing on nutritional issues as well as HIV/AIDS, is that right?
For the past couple of years, we’ve been bringing up nutritional issues, but our main focus is always the rates of HIV/AIDS and reproductive justice, which is the right to be a parent, the right not to be a parent, and the right to parent your child. However, this year, there is a specific focus on bringing awareness to the reproductive cancers out there—breast cancer in particular—and how they affect low-income women colors, how Caucasian women are diagnosed at higher rate but African-American women are dying at a higher rate. And after African-American women are Latino women.
Have you seen, like in your audience or maybe in the Bronx at large over the past five years, more awareness about HIV/AIDs or any of these issues?
Yeah. Some of the clinics here offer free confidential HIV testing, so people can come to the event and they can get tested in the mobile vehicle.
Who does the screening? Is it Bronx AIDS Services?
Yeah, that’s them. And then there are a lot of community organizations tabling, so there’s a lot of information that people can access at the event. And instead of just the boring pamphlets, there is a lot colorful, interesting material and a lot of young people working at the tables, so it’s very hands on and approachable.
Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen takes place tomorrow from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Hostos Center for the Arts.