Monday, March 17, 2014

Story of a Show: Native Hip Hop Showcase at Daybreak Star

On March 7th, 2014, I had the honor of joining Sista Hailstorm and a host of other Native Hip Hop artists at Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center for a powerful event and showcase. Drawing together elders, families, and youth, the gathering featured sets from a broad base of indigenous artists from all over the region and beyond including Jacmov Jay T, Tiny Lokota, G-Field, Native Styles 1, Mista Chief, Stryk-9, M.U.S.T I Mind, Salish Son, and Epidehmik and Phillosphy, with DJ Too Quick holding down the tables for the night and Shigg Says Radio holding down interviews and a live broadcast of the show. The 206 Zulu Shakas lent their support for security, and host of the evening was Lady Belknap, emcee and organizer of the night.

Deeper than your average Hip Hop show, this event occurred on the eve of the 44th anniversary of the militant, grassroots reclamation of the land and space which is now Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center, and the significance of this was not lost on attendees. Prior to the event, Lady Belknap convened a circle of introductions, blessings, and thanks for all involved. Amidst burning sage, traditional song, and the exchange of gifts, staff, elders, artists, and volunteers went around and shared their backgrounds, stories, and gratitude. Particularly moving for me were the words of Pam Nason Kia/Elder at United Indians. As a
close friend of the late Bernie Whitebear who spearheaded the reclamation, Pam has worked with the center since its inception and the depth of her connection to the space and its legacy was apparent as she spoke. Through teary eyes, she thanked everyone for our presence, for breathing life back into the struggling Daybreak Center, and for the inspiration and promise of better days to come through solidarity, mutual support, and community building. 

Below is an interview I did with Lady Belknap on the origins of this event, its impact and the intersections of culture, struggle, Hip Hop, and decolonization. A more thorough write up on the performance aspect of this showcase by Ramona Ridgewell, along with more photos from the show is available here

JULIE C: What was your vision for this event?

LADY BELKNAP:  My vision for the Native American Hip Hop Concert was to showcase Native rappers to the Northwest publically, including myself, Lady Belknap. Never did I dream that this event would be so publicized and there would become a demand in the state of Washington for more Native Hip Hop concerts in the future because of this event. Initially, I simply wanted to help keep the doors of the United Indians/Daybreak Star open because they were about to foreclose on the property and lose everything. I had a strong burden in my heart to help and do something, anything no matter how small the effort was. From the time I pitched the idea to United Indians to have an All-Native American Hip Hop Benefit Concert line up, a big check came in to help keep the doors open at Daybreak Star. Therefore the concert then became a fundraiser effort for the Seafair Pow Wow, which needed money to happen this year as well. 

JC: How does Hip Hop relate to the legacy of struggle at Daybreak and to that of first peoples in general?

LB: If you read my Lady Belknap Profile, you will see that my music is a story of the evil that has happened to Native American People over the generations since Assimilation of First Americans-Native American People in North America.  Daybreak Star/United Indians struggle to stay open is pretty much the story of Native Americans simply trying to stay alive and exist for generations.  To me personally, this is completely mind-blowing that we as a First Nations people would have to fight to live and thrive because we were here in the United States long before it ever was a country.  The struggle at Daybreak is no different than the struggle of Native American Populations all across America today and in the past.  Our people seem to have to fight just to stay alive and exist as sovereign nations as promised in many treaties in the past.

Indian Health Services Statistics say that Native Americans have at least 100-300% higher rates than other races in suicide, domestic abuse, teenage pregnancy, high school dropout, drug/alcohol abuse, death to preventable things like car wrecks, diabetes complications, etc.  The unemployment rates are usually in the 90th percentile on most Indian Reservations in the U.S. Native American Children put in foster homes in this nation is sort of an epidemic.  This is sad to know that the indigenous people of this nation have such oppression in this day and age.

Native American Hip Hop has become an outlet for Indian rappers, emcees, singers, and so forth to have an outlet to their pain and frustration, like mine personally about Native American People’s conditions today.  Hip Hop has also become an outlet that Native Artists can actually have a career in music when no other options are available.  The Native Rappers/Emcees can use their God-Given Talents to showcase to the world professionally in Hip Hop.  You will find there are so many Native American’s with talent in Hip Hop and simply need a helping hand to show case their talent, encourage them, and point them in positive directions to success.  This is what the Native American Hip Hop Benefit Concert at Daybreak Star was about to Lady Belknap, the host and performer.  The traditional Native American Way is to help others, especially your own people and this was the underlying motto.

JC: What made you reach out to 206 Zulu shakas to hold down security force?

LB: I had been networking via Facebook with 206 Zulu for a very long time.  There were many in time that I grew to know on a professional level in a two years time concerning Hip Hop in the Puget Sound.  I had been watching 206 Zulu for some time and started going to their events with my family when invited or when I saw them taking place.  Many 206 Zulu Members told me that they would always be of any assistance for my rap career and all I had to do was ask.  I kept this in the back of my mind for the future.

I attended the 10th Anniversary Zulu Event on Valentine’s Day, February 14th, 2014, and was blown away by what I saw! Sista Hailstorm is a rapper who I only saw on Youtube before, but have been wanting to watch perform live was spitting on stage with Julie C, and they tore that stage up with fire on that microphone!  I WAS EXCITED!  So when it came time for the line-up to be chosen for the Native American Hip Hop Line-Up to be chosen at Daybreak Star, the first performer that came to my mind was Sista Hailstorm

When I went to the 206 Zulu 10th Anniversary I witnessed so much love, compassion, caring, and family values I ever saw at a Hip Hop Event.  I saw a lady rapping on stage with a baby on her back! [Olisa 'Spyc-E' Enrico] I NEVER WITNESSED SOMETHING SO BEAUTIFUL IN HIP HOP! In my mind and heart, I had to collaborate with 206 Zulu on behalf of Daybreak Star/United Indians because I knew they could teach us how to be unified and love each other on that kind of level in time as I witnessed on Valentine’s Day of all days!  I was introduced to King Khazm by Miss Jocie Hamilton, 206 Zulu Member from the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in Montana.  I’m from Montana too and had been networking with her for a long time via Facebook and met her for the first time in person that night. 

I also saw Sista Hailstorm acting as security at the 206 Zulu 10th Anniversary Event and had approached her about being security for our event at Daybreak as well.  I know that Sista Hailstorm is very traditional and cultural in the Native American Ways and I knew I could count on her and 206 Zulu to carry that same respect and reverence as an artist and as security at the Daybreak Star Facility.  We were also on a zero budget as well, and I knew that 206 Zulu would be empathetic to help and volunteer their time and services.  

I had been watching DJ Too Quick aka Back Pack Chris spin for about a year and a half at Columbia City Theatre and was very impressed with his skills and professionalism which is why I asked him to participate as a DJ, and he said yes immediately.  I didn’t know that he is Native American from Alaska as well.  I was very shocked and very happy that he was the disc jockey who represented the 1st Nations as well.  The audience loved DJ Too Quick as did the volunteers and rappers.

Shigg Says Radio was broadcasting the event live and I had asked him because of his DEEP love and reverence for Underground Hip Hop and a friend was very impressed with his skills and the way he works well with people.  He’s a person who loves to exhort and lift others up with a positive mental attitude always!  I chose to ask Shigg because of these things.  Of course, he was excited to broadcast the show live and had so many interviews that he could barely keep up!  I watched him at the Native Hip Hop Benefit Concert as excited as a little kid in a candy store or toy store, haha.  J  Shigg wants to follow all of the artists who performed Native and Non-Native in our careers.

My vision for this Native American Hip Hop Fund-Raising Concert surpassed anything I had initially envisioned.  I’m excited to take the contacts and team mates I gained and do something with hip hop professionally not only in the Puget Sound in Seattle, but in Washington State and all over Indian Country in North America!  

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