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Locals Only: : Sweat blood until you sweat

360 Degree Coalition faces last-minute issues with Cincinnati's debut Hip Hop Summit

By Mildred C. Fallen · September 1st, 2004 · Locals Only
Dale M. Johnson

RaKwaun "Roc" Biuins of RaRa Enterprises, Inc. (left) and Ms. Nickee of Diva Day DesignZ

As he spoke to artists and panel contributors of the inaugural Cincinnati Hip Hop Summit in mid August, streams of sweat trickled across Richard Mohammad's forehead. Not only was the room exceedingly hot, but Mohammad found himself under fire, forced to find another venue for this weekend's Hip Hop Summit days after being told his attendance expectations of 300 to 350 people exceeded the capacity of the West End Lincoln Community Center's gym.

Despite the setback, each participant present at the meeting was called to task.

RaKwaun "Roc" Bivins told them, "There's going to be a lot of people paying attention to Cincinnati from this summit. We are trying to make a strong statement. Step your game up."

Days before, summit directors Mohammad and Bivins looked optimistic as they explained how resources for the Cincinnati Hip Hop Summit came from three interactive programs: E.T.H2.E.R. (Education Through Hip Hop Entertainment Resources), H.I.P.-H.O.P. (Health Is Power-Healing Our Peers) and S.I.T.E. (Self-Improvement Through Education). Mohammad read aloud from the summit agenda: "Together we must confront and overcome fear of one another and work for the betterment of the Hip Hop community, our city and our nation."

Fear and doubt crept into the Lincoln Center's basement room, bringing the interview to a screeching halt.

Uninvited, Cincinnati Police Officer Chris Schroeder caught Mohammed and Bivins off guard with questions, unaware that an interview with CityBeat was still taking place.

"Who gave you permission to do this event?" Schroeder asked. "We knew nothing about it."

Leafing through the agenda, Schroeder centered his focus on a caption above a photo of Cincinnati recording artists Down Da Way Hard Hitters.

"Does this mean they're from O-T-R?" Schroeder asked, confused by references "down da way" and "hard hitters."

Although the summit weekend participants range from spoken word poets, graffiti artists and sociopolitical panelists to Hip Hop fashion models, Gospel rappers and DJ exhibitionists, Schroeder summed up the whole agenda as being "scary." And, according to Bivins, CEO of Ra Ra Enterprises Inc., the officer later inquired about the residential neighborhoods of some of the performers.

"People are scared after what happened last weekend at the Black Family Reunion," Schroeder said, referring to the female bystander who was shot during the riverfront celebration.

Bivins replied that the incident happened despite 40 Cincinnati Police officers present on foot patrol. When he explained to Schroeder that Ra Ra Enterprises planned to provide their own security staff instead of Cincinnati Police, he says Schroeder told him he needed six officers present at the concert.

After the interview, Mohammad says he was approached by more officers in front of the Lincoln Community Center, this time questioning if the facility could contain the concert's expected attendance. Undaunted, Mohammad chalked the situation up as police sweating him because the event's overall theme is Hip Hop.

However, when Cincinnati Police Officer Princess Davis learned about Schroeder's surprise visit to the summit organizers, she was confused. As the neighborhood beat officer in District 1 since 1994, she wondered why no one spoke to her about the concert or capacity concerns.

"I feel like I've been undermined," Davis says.

Davis speaks favorably of the effort Hip Hop Summit organizers were making to bring a positive event to the West End. She also says she knows of other events held at the Lincoln Center where a few hundred people attended.

Jenny Wright, the event's co-organizer, agreed.

"As far as I know, far more than 66 people came to the opening of the center last year," Wright says, refering to the venue's official capacity.

Cincinnati Police Cpt. James Whalen and Schroeder could not be reached for comment.

Nevertheless, Bivins and Mohammad's fate had already been decided. No performances will be held in the main gymnasium, according to Lincoln Center Director Sharon Montavon. She says a fire marshal explained that because of the bleachers in the spacious gymnasium her capacity couldn't exceed 66 patrons.

On the wall of the smaller gymnasium, however, a sign reads "Maximum Capacity: 140."

"It's out of my hands now," Montavon says.

Just in time, Main Street's Rhythm & Blues Café and Imperial Theatre on McMicken Avenue and Mohawk Street agreed to hold the Friday and Saturday night concerts of the Hip Hop Summit. Other weekend events begin Friday at Lincoln Community Center, except Def Strokes Hip Hop Art Exhibit, which will be held all day Friday at the Arts Consortium. Other events include a Labor Day Hip Hop Hoop Classic, a youth peace rally, a Gospel Rap workshop titled "You Down With G.O.D." and a Hip Hop fashion show. Special sessions will also address artist management, AIDS awareness and advertising myths.

"One of our goals is to educate people in Cincinnati about Hip Hop culture," Mohammed says. "In its inception, DJ battling and B-boying were created as an alternative to actual physical confrontation. And people don't talk about that anymore, so those are the kinds of things that we want to put out to the public."

THE FIRST CINCINNATI HIP HOP SUMMIT takes place this weekend at various sites around the city. For more information, contact Richard Mohammad at 513-221-1791.


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