Thursday, March 19, 2009

Hip Hop Congress, Explicit Ills takes a stand for Economic Human Rights

The Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign and Hip Hop Congress are collaborating to promote the award-winning film Explicit Ills, which features an all-star cast including Rosario Dawson, Tariq Trotter (Black Thought of The Roots), and more. The story is about poverty, drugs, and the healthcare crisis in the United States, and is centered on a sick boy and the community that rallies behind him. But unlike many movies on this critical issue, Explicit Ills doesn’t stop at simply portraying, or even analyzing the complex dilemmas people are faced with. Explicit Ills chronicles the real beginnings of a movement led by the poor for Economic Human Rights, and shows how any community can channel their energies into making real change. Check the trailer here.

Mark Webber, writer and director of Explicit Ills, is the son of Cheri Honkala, internationally renowned human rights activist, and executive director of the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign (PPERC). Cheri’s reputation for getting the job done is driven by her action-oriented tactics which include housing and capital building takeovers, building “Bushville” homeless encampments all the over the country, and organizing tens of thousands of poor people in protests for the past three Republican National Conventions. At the 2008 RNC, Hip Hop Congress teamed up with PPEHRC, Rosa Clemente, and many others to unify thousands in The March for Our Lives through the militarized streets of Minneapolis. The march also included students from Hip Hop Congress’s Evergreen State College Chapter and HHC’s Portland head and emcee, Mic Crenshaw. Explicit Ills ends with a scene reminiscent of that march, where movie characters and KWRU and PPEHRC members, leaders, and friends march through the streets of Philadelphia demanding healthcare and other Economic Human Rights. “Working with PPEHRC to get the word out about Explicit Ills is a great opportunity for us,” said D’Labrie, HHC National Outreach Director, “We are trying to get out an important message: that Hip Hop has always advocated for healthy communities, health care, and economic justice for all.”

“What you have in Explicit Ills, the story of the boy, is the fictional depiction of a social catalyst, something that creates a surge of energy from the people, something we are experiencing more and more in our own backyards due to the state of the economy,” said Julie C, HHC’s Northwest Regional Director, “But the question then becomes who is channeling those energies where and why? If we’re not clear on the political undercurrents, our direction as artists and organizers is always with the wind. This is why relying on the star power of Hip Hop celebrities has never been an effective strategy for building a Hip Hop movement. It’s superficial. But cultivating our own networks to get around the distractions, that’s power. That’s Universal Zulu Nation, Hip Hop Congress, Silicon Valley Debug in San Jose, Global Fam in Portland, the Umojafest P.E.A.C.E Center and Hidmo in Seattle, J.U.I.C.E in Los Angeles, the Hip Hop Chess Federation in the Bay Area, Mississippi Artist and Producer’s Coalition in Jacksonville, Women in Transition in Kentucky, IMAN in Chicago, that’s a movement. Now, how do we all move as one to create some real changes?” Suntonio Bandanaz, Northwest Outreach Director for HHC added, “The more awareness people have that Hip Hop is actually already a part of this movement, the closer we get to realizing our strength. Hip Hop is not just a bunch of words and rapping [be it on tracks, in the classrooms, on panels, online, or in the magazines], it’s action and community.”

As Hip Hop Congress continues to build towards its 2009 National Conference in Seattle, Washington July 29th- August 2nd, the organization plans to utilize Explicit Ills in education and outreach, and their partnership with Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign as a part of their ongoing mission to provide the Hip Hop Generation and the Post Hip Hop Generation with the tools, resources and opportunities to make social, economic, and political change on a local, regional, and national level.

For more on Explicit Ills, including cities and screening information click here.

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