Rep. Maxine Waters paid homage on Friday, Sept. 14 to an ever-developing form of African-American culture, hip-hop, that employs poetry, dance, music and examples of real life situations as a means of illustrating the story or painting the portrait.
And to make the celebratory message crystal clear, the California congressman welcomed both experienced and upcoming artists to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 48th Annual Legislative Conference at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Northwest.
“I thank you so much for saluting hip-hop culture because so many people had shunned it during the time when you embraced it,” said Lonnie Rashid Lynn, better known as “Common.”
“Now it’s the music and culture of so many generations that’s influenced the world,” he said.
Common served as an added bonus to a panel, which included three other artists and poets, entitled “Young, Gifted and Black.” The others on stage and in the spotlight included two Prince George’s County, Maryland natives, Bomani Armah and YBN Cordae, who grew up in Suitland (born Cordae Dunston) and Marlanna “Rapsody” Evans, a product of North Carolina who said she realized her artistic talent through constant support.
“I discovered my artistic talent at 6 or 7 [years old]. I could draw and people would always need me to help draw things,” she said. “People in my community would continue to uplift me. I had milestones to learn my creativity and talent.”
After Waters asked each person to give opening remarks on what helped them discover their talents, she invited them to share a taste of their abilities with the audience.
Cordae wooed the crowd with these free-style lyrics: “All your bills overdue, all your people over you. Only one option remains, you just go to show and prove. And if I ever have a daughter, I would teach her to be like Mrs. Maxine Waters.”
Armah, who teaches creative writing through hip-hip throughout the D.C. area, engaged the audience with a poem, “Rhetoric, just Frederick,” named after abolitionist and author Frederick Douglass.
“When I have my young people, I make sure they use that rhetoric for positive things,” he said. “Use your words to talk people into something.”
Waters invited interested teenagers or young adults to come up front and showcase their artistry.
Victoria Cerini, 13, of Merchantville, New Jersey, accepted the challenge and presented her skills as a contortionist.
“The stage is my home,” Victoria said after her one-minute performance. “I sing and dance. I love to perform. I’m used to this.”