Bronx Artist Collective to Open a Hip-Hop Library

From left, Nelson Seda (Chief69), Rodrigo Venegas (RodStarz) and Claudia De la Cruz organize books for the Richie Perez Radical Library, to open in the South Bronx. (Photo by José Acosta/El Diario-La Prensa)

The South Bronx is known as the cradle of hip-hop, urban music that was born as a cultural expression of the community’s needs. The genre’s influence and history has inspired a group of local artists to open a library where new generations can learn about hip-hop through literature.

“We collaborated with the feminist bookstore Bluestockings, and in eight months we’ve already collected donations of more than 350 books about hip-hop, politics, African-American history, and biographies, for example, Malcom X,” said Claudia De la Cruz, a member of the Rebel Díaz Arts Collective (RDAC-BX), the organization behind the initiative.

The library will be called the Richie Pérez Radical Library in honor of the prominent teacher and legendary activist of the South Bronx, who passed away in 2004. Pérez was a member of the radical Puerto Rican political movement known as the Young Lords and a co-founder of the National Congress for Puerto Rican Rights.

Rodrigo Venegas, 33, known as RodStarz, said the idea was to create an independent space where people can learn about hip-hop culture, MCs (rappers), DJs, breakdancing, and graffiti art.

According to Venegas, the library will solidify the fifth element of hip-hop culture: knowledge.

MC RodStarz a.k.a. Rodrigo Venegas of the Rebel Diaz collective, the group behind the Richie Perez Radical Library. (Photo by Shira Golding, Flickr Creative Commons License)

“Besides hip-hop, we want to encourage reading among youth. Our message to young people is that if they read, they’ll be better MCs because they’ll have more topics they can rap about,” said Venegas.

Five years ago, the hip-hop group Rebel Díaz, whose members are RodStarz, G1 and DJ Illanoiz, took over an abandoned space in an old candy factory at 478 Austin Place in the South Bronx, which they renovated and made into the Rebel Díaz Arts Collective.

The collective includes the Nuestra America Media Center – which was created with support from the Venezuela-based Simón Bolívar Foundation – a meeting room, and a recording studio where artists can produce their own CDs and learn how to edit videos.

As part of a fundraising campaign, Rebel Díaz held a concert recently at their home base.

The library will benefit people like 21-year-old Nelson Seda, known as Chief69. He is a rap singer, an artist and a breakdancer.

“The problem with education is that youth are taught to memorize, not analyze, and I think that creating this alternative library will give us access to a literature that represents us,” said Seda.

The group wants to raise enough money to rent a more accessible space for the community. They are planning on opening the library next winter, and besides having books, they will create study groups to promote collective learning.

If you are interested in working with the project, visit their website at www.rdacbx.org

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