Every year we have the esteemed privilege here at Northwest Folklife to dig in deep to a cultural community with roots here in the Pacific Northwest through our Cultural Focus program. Last year we looked at “India and Its People” and the year before that the unions with “Washington Works.” Every year it’s an eye opening and treasured experience and this year is not different.
“Beats, Rhymes, and Rhythms: Traditional Roots in Today’s Branches” is a powerful Cultural Focus and we are honored to be connected to and working with Seattle’s powerful Hip Hop community – namely, for purposes of this post, 206 Zulu, the Seattle chapter of the Universal Zulu Nation. They will have a helping hand in bringing Folklife’s 2015 Cultural Focus to life this year.
206 Zulu’s focus is to utilize the artistic elements of Hip Hop and urban arts as a platform for positivity and community empowerment within youth and families. They will be celebrating their 11th Anniversary with a series of community events, February 6-8 (you can learn all about these on our Community Calendar here) and in their honor, we’re excited to share a little bit more about 206 Zulu.
206 Zulu co-founder and executive director King Khazm took some time to shed light on his organization, their mission, why the 2015 Northwest Folklife Festival’s Cultural Focus is so important, and what they’ve got planned to celebrate their 11th year. Take a read!
Hi King! Thanks for taking some time with these questions. Tell us, what is your personal relationship to Northwest Folkilfe?
The Northwest Folklife Festival has been an annual gathering spot for myself and peers since around the mid-90s when Hip Hop was first introduced to Folklife. Our organization was established in 2004 and we began a community partnership with Folklife, hosting various Hip Hop events as early as 2008.
206 Zulu is Seattle’s Hip Hop cultural and community organization that utilizes the artistic elements of Hip Hop and urban arts as a platform for positivity and community empowerment within youth and families. 206 Zulu is also the Seattle Chapter of the Universal Zulu Nation, Hip Hop’s founding family and international community organization that has been pivotal in the inception and expansion of Hip Hop culture since the early 70s.
Happy 11th Anniversary! That’s big news. What does this landmark year mean to the organization and its community?
This February 6-8, 2015 we’ll be celebrating our 11th anniversary of 206 Zulu. The anniversaries are our flagship events of the year where we host a weekend full of programming that often includes music performances, workshops, panels, art showcases, local vendors and non profits, and dance competitions and showcases. Hip Hop has many artistic “elements” that it’s comprised of, however it isn’t always combined together. Our anniversaries are special because we unite the elements and bring respective communities together under one roof in the spirit of “Peace, Unity, Love & Havin’ Fun”.
206 Zulu has grown from a very small grassroots community group to an internationally esteemed non-profit organization. We are still “grassroots” in some regards and operate without any full time paid staff, however are so fortunate to have such an amazing community, and programmatically and organizationally have accomplished so much over the last decade.
How did 206 Zulu create its community?
206 Zulu’s membership is comprised of musicians, artists, producers, dancers, organizers, teachers, and various people in the community who either love Hip Hop or just want to be a part of something positive that is about serving the greater community. We build community through our interpersonal relationships with friends, families, peers, through our partnerships with other groups and organizations, as well as various schools, community centers, venues and spaces we connect with.
To see Hip Hop grow over the years and expand in new ways unimaginable has been truly remarkable. I would have never imagined a focus around roots of Hip Hop would be a Cultural Focus at Northwest Folklife. It’s a beautiful thing.
What would you like to see in Northwest Folklife’s Cultural Focus programming line-up?
DJ/turntablist exhibitions, live producer showcases, breakdance competitions and cyphers (open dance circles), graffiti and urban art expo, lots of music and performances, spoken word and poetry, drum circles, photography exhibitions, workshops, panel discussions, classes, but also the lineage of Hip Hop, which is just as important. (There is so much!) Funk, Soul, Blues, Reggae, Jazz, Gospel, African rhythms, Salsa, Rock, capoiera, martial arts, comic books, etc.
Who needs to know about this Cultural Focus and why?
Everyone – especially people who hate Hip Hop. People who hate it often don’t know the full spectrum of what it is and generally get their perspective of it through the media, which is often a complete misrepresentation of Hip Hop. Think corporate interest/market driven, commodified, materialistic, misogynistic, demonizing, ignorant, etc.
It’s completely understandable if the music of Hip Hop isn’t your cup of tea, but most people don’t see what the full spectrum of Hip Hop is, much less that it’s not just a genre of music.
Our anniversary is not just about celebrating the organization and its accomplishments, but celebrating our beloved community and the many communities within the community. Bringing people together in the spirit of positivity and community empowerment. Bringing generations together; honoring and preserving the past but also introducing the elders to the newest generations and seeing how Hip Hop and its elements are evolving. Children are present and become inspired while having fun with their families and other children. All of this IS the roots of Hip Hop. Hip Hop has very little to do with what you see on TV and hear on the radio. It’s much bigger than that. That’s why we do what we do and have events like these.
Aside from speaking to the roots of Hip Hop through practice, many of the workshops and panels elaborate and speak to the roots of Hip Hop directly, philosophically and historically.