These days, our world can sometimes seem a bit plastic, somewhat disengaged, overly mechanic and lacking of that certain human touch and spirit that we’re all in need of from time to time. You can blame it on whatever you want: daily technological advances, the explosion of social networks, entertainment and information available at the push of a button whenever you want it, the ever-popular, up-to-the-minute 24-hour news cycle that enthralls us and keeps us in its clutches, or what have you. And because of that, being able to connect on a human level is becoming more and more rare, even if we don’t realize it, or don’t care to. We’re still here with each other physically, but simultaneously, it’s as if we’re getting pulled further and further apart as a human race.
But essentially and unequivocally, we’re all exactly that: human beings that need to connect on a human level. Like the old gospel song that some of us used to hear at the end of every service says: “You are important to me…I need you to survive.” And though it may not be as prominent an idea as it used to be, the concept of community was and is at the center and the foundation of Hip-Hop culture. Be it the block parties in the Bronx of the late 70s and early 80s, crews and labels like Wu-Tang, Boot Camp Click and No Limit Records in the 90s, or even current day super groups and collaborators such as Random Axe, Bad Meets Evil, Maybach Music and Young Money/Cash Money, it’s a dead giveaway that you won’t get anywhere without the support of a community backing you up.
And on a more basic, everyday people level, one could definitely have gotten an up close and personal glimpse of the increasing importance of community while attending the BHF ‘11 Family Day event this past week. This year’s Family Day festivities served as an independent event meant to compliment the all-era-encompassing BHF performances that and helped tremendously to provide a powerfully wholesome and communal atmosphere where people of all ages, races, ethnicities and regional backgrounds could come together under the flag of Hip-Hop and have an enjoyable time. No pretensions, no exclusions, no unnecessary divisions.
You could see community walking throughout the Brooklyn Bridge Plaza and Tobacco Warehouse, viewing the enormous displays of graffiti, seeing people interact with festival vendors as if they’d known them for years while purchasing their goods. You could hear community in the voices of young children constantly drilling their parents on all things that were unfamiliar to them, be it the capoeira workshop or the visual art or display. You could smell community with the scents of homemade jerk chicken and ribs wafting throughout the warm summer air. You could even taste community by sampling some homemade organic baked goods, mint lemonade and other treats available for indulgent, sumptuous pleasure.
But most importantly, you could hear community in the voices of people about the importance of Brooklyn Bodega putting on an event like Family Day and how it benefits Brooklyn as a whole. From food vendors to owners of clothing boutiques to representatives from agencies working for the public good of the residents of the Brooklyn and pretty much everything in between, you got the sense that everyone was in attendance at Family Day to be part of something much bigger than themselves.
“This is my first time at the Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival, so it’s incredible to be here and to see all of the vendors out here,” said Phil Gordon of Belief Clothing Boutique of Astoria, Queens. “It’s great that [Brooklyn Bodega] has set this up and has done it so well. Everybody knows about it and wants to come out and be part of it. It’s a really monumental thing for Hip-Hop and it’s a reminder of how fun Brooklyn can be if everyone gets together and sets up great events.”
“Hip-Hop is Brooklyn and Brooklyn is Hip-Hop,” says Brandon King, a first-time attendee to the Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival and representative from BKBooth Photo Booth Company in Fort Greene. “It’s great that DUMBO embraces the festival and that there are so many people out here to enjoy it and celebrating Hip-Hop.”
This being considered by many to be the biggest BHF yet, it was obvious that it would be the biggest BHF Family Day, in turn. From the wide-ranging workshops on beat boxing, song making, DJing, stepping and B-boying to sponsor organizations such as Yelp and 7-Eleven in attendance with all kinds of free giveaways, it was clear from the jump that Brooklyn Bodega wanted this BHF Family Day to last in the hearts and minds of every fan and supporter that showed their face in 2011.
Going beyond the whole “bigger is better” mantra, BHF Family Day put on full display the importance of the small business and entrepreneurship. In an age of constant corporate takeovers, mergers, buyouts and big-time growth for the sake of big-time growth, the thought of businesses serving their local communities can sometimes get lost in the shuffle. Family Day allowed Brooklyn to show off some of its most intriguing up-and-comers in terms of business and sales from just about any field that you could think of.
“We’re a Brooklyn-based company; we don’t have a brick and mortar yet, but we do have a kitchen out of Harlem. We do all types of affairs: weddings, festivals and all kinds of catering for events,” says Joy Hibbert, owner and head baker of Brooklyn-based LoveJoy Sweet Treats. “For us it’s very important to be here to interact with our customers so we can see them face to face, which is how business grows. It’s also important just to be part of this great day. We know that food brings everyone together, and we appreciate being invited to this event. We love Brooklyn Bodega!”
According to Espi, owner of Conversation Piece, a company that creates one-of-a-kind handbags, “[Being here] is very important for us because it allows our brand to get noticed, and just being around the families and being part of this event is great. I think Brooklyn Bodega is doing a wonderful thing. I love Hip-Hop and it’s really in my soul. And the good thing is that this is not just for adults, it’s for kids too. Hip-Hop is a culture, it’s not just a type of music.”
“Planet Brooklyn Academy represents all part of Brooklyn. We represent the whole movement, the spirit, the lifestyle and the culture of Brooklyn,” says Hassan Sharif of Planet Brooklyn Academy Clothing and Lifestyle. “Brooklyn itself has a family community vibe. With the festival, this is our first year vending, but our third year attending. I think it’s important because it has to be organic and has to grow from the roots. I believe it’s relevant and that Brooklyn Bodega is making it happen. But we just gotta keep it going.”
If BHF ’11 Family Day is any indication, the concept of community is very much intact and isn’t going anywhere for a while. Yes, we’re living in a world that’s far more tech savvy and not quite as warm and fuzzy as it used to be. Yes, we’re living in times that can be considered volatile, troubling and event turbulent. Yes, we’ve entered a period of rapid transition and change, and we cannot turn back the hands of time.
But being part of a community is something that is, indeed timeless, universal, and is a need for all of us. And hopefully, this year’s Family Day festivities made the concept of community that much more important to that many more people.
We did it, Brooklyn!
Follow Ron Grant on Twitter @RonGreezy