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Mills hosts 7th Annual Hip Hop For Change Conference

Founder and Executive Director of Hip Hop For Change, Khafre Jay, performs at this year’s Hip Hop for Change Conference. (Dajanae Barrows)
Founder and Executive Director of Hip Hop For Change, Khafre Jay, performs at this year’s Hip Hop for Change Conference. (Dajanae Barrows)

Beats and rhythms echoed across campus as musician DJ Johnny Juice and drummer Chris Swiss walked an audience through the history of hip-hop sounds.

Music directors, b-boys (breakdancers), DJs, music artists, graffiti artists, students and hip hop fans alike visited Mills College on Saturday, Apr. 18, for the 7th Annual Hip Hop For Change Conference. From 12:30 PM to 6:00 PM, attendees moved between Adam’s Plaza, the Student Union and the Natural Science Building (NSB) for workshops, live performances, entertainment and networking.

Hip Hop For Change is a non-profit that works to help people learn about the culture of hip-hop and how it can be used to enact social changes.

Khafre Jay, the founder and executive director of Hip Hop For Change, worked with Sabrina Kwist, Mills College director of Engagement and Inclusion, to host the conference at Mills College.

The conference rotates between Mills College, University of San Francisco (USF) and San Jose State University (SJSU). Mills has hosted the last two conferences due to SJSU’s venue being renovated, Kwist said. According to Kwist, the college is more than happy to host the event again.

Throughout the conference, besides Kwist, performers and students were speaking with Jay about the event and Hip Hop For Change.

“This is my favorite hip hop event,” Jay said. “I’ve been to a lot, but this one has a focus on learning about the culture, and the beauty of this event is that it’s a way of life, not a process. People are here talking to connect.”

The day included  four different workshops in NSB and the Student Union that guests could choose from. Davey D. held a workshop about the history of hip hop; Tres Mercedes taught about upcycling; Ras Terms spoke about Graf/Street Art and NastyRay shared his b-boy skills.

Hareer Mohammadi, a sophomore at SFSU, was impressed by the conference and appreciated the Graf/Street Art workshop. According to Mohammadi, the group was asked to doodle during the session. 

“I like how we got to freehand,” Mohammadi said. “It all originated from our own minds, and we got to learn how and what it means to make our own label.”

In addition to workshops, there were live performances by Jay, Swiss Chris, DJ Johnny Juice, MADlines and Honey Gold, as well as raffles and vendors.

Three of the guests who performed and held workshops during the event have close ties with Mills.

During the conference, Honey Gold, a current transfer student at Mills,  debuted her album 4:44 AMwhich won’t be  officially released until May 8. Tres Mercedes, who labels herself as a self-taught artist, is a Mills alumna who graduated in 2010 with a BA in ethnic studies. MADlines  graduated from Mills in 2012 with an MFA in poetry and literature.

Throughout Honey Gold’s debut performance, DJ Agana‘s artwork, DJ Johnny Juice’s tabling, Swiss Chris’s drum beats and MADline’s interactive freestyling, people were clapping their hands and dancing.

“We are in the center of the community,” Kwist said. ” We have these hip hop scholars and people from the community. We have space and this event is to bring in the whole community and Mills.”

Chardonnay Collins, a sophomore at Mills, was glad she was able to attend the event and experience the conference. 

“I really enjoyed Hip Hop For Change,” Collins said. “I got the chance to delve deep into the meaning and cultural significance of hip hop in America.”

Those who were part of the conference were grateful for performing at the event, working with Kwist and spending the day with people who wanted to learn about hip hop culture.

“We are raising the focus on the fifth element of hip- hop,” Jay said.

The five elements of hip-hop are DJing, break dancing, rapping, graffiti and knowledge.

“People forget the fifth element is knowledge. This is edutainment — education and entertainment,” Swiss Chris added.

For multimedia coverage of Hip Hop for Change, see the STORIFY linked here and Flickr for photos.