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Social worker, event planner, and occasional singer/rapper Aria Des Jardins scheduled KRS-One to perform a benefit concert Monday night when she heard that the Washington Neighborhood Center was facing total closure. The center has been supportive of Sacramento's hip hop community and had held many hip hop concerts, she explained.
"Hip hop is about people, things that don't have anything to do with entertainment," said Eric Duran, associate advocate for the Temple of Hiphop. The organization was formed by emcee and peace advocate KRS-One, who is known for his Stop the Violence campaign as well as his efforts pioneering hip hop culture.
Sacramento's young people proved that they would have been happy to entertain themselves in Washington Neighborhood Center even if KRS-One never showed up. As they waited Monday night, a diverse group of nearly 200 young men and women break danced, painted graffiti, spun records and rapped.
The Washington Neighborhood Center, whose mission is to "provide a safe and positive environment for youth and adults", recently received a funding cut. As a result, the center, located on the corners of 16th and D streets, was forced to close all but two days per week.
The center provides free art and dance classes, as well as free tutoring. Open since 1955, the center has also been the home to a nationally-recognized boxing program.
Back in March, while working for Wind Youth Services to provide assistance to homeless youth, Des Jardins met KRS-One. She was impressed a speech he gave, she said, so she decided to invite him to help the community center, and he agreed to help.
Half of the ticket revenues made Monday go directly to the community center.
At around 6 p.m. Monday evening, Wind Youth Services, Capitol Roots breakdance crew and the Northstar Chapter of the Zulu Nation, an arts organization promoting hip hop, began setting up booths inside the venue.
After Des Jardins introduced the mission of the event, performances showcased a plethora of local hip hop talent: DJ Kool Kuts, Verbalistic, No Identity, Funky Fresh breakdancing crew, Digital Martyrs, Justlove, Augustus Thelephant, Random Abilities and Butterscotch. Multiple times, microphones were passed around to budding emcees in a cipher, or a continuous loop of rapping.
A little bit after 10:30, KRS-One entered the building quietly to greet Butterscotch, world beat boxing champion, moments before she went onstage to back Random Abilities. He would greet fans, take pictures, and perform his hits late into the evening.
Though the previous night at Rock the Bells in Mountain View KRS-One mingled backstage with the likes of The Roots, Talib Kweli and Nas, he seemed more in his element among the young hip hop fans. Regardless of the venue, performing in a community center gym instead of an amphitheater, his enthusiasm for hip hop remained the same.