Alabama Values and VibRaNtaKe Welcome Hip Hop Caucus To Montgomery

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It’s not everyday you get to host The Hip Hop Caucus in your home state, and Team AV wanted to make the most of our time with this great organization (who is celebrating their 20th anniversary this year!) as a few members of their team visited Montgomery, Alabama. We joined forces with the culture curators at VibRaNtaKe to ensure we were providing the perfect Southern hospitality experience for our newfound Caucus friends, which resulted in an impactful Wednesday for all involved.

The three organizations first met at The Co-Lab Collective for breakfast and introductions. These initial discussions organically spanned from politics to music and beyond, and we soon found it was time to begin the day with a walk over to the Equal Justice Initiative’s Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice. For those who haven’t been, you simply must go when in Alabama’s capital city as this collection of history provides crucial context on the formation of the country we call home and the impact slavery mindsets have on our lives today.

The Legacy Museum starts by remembering the many lives that were forever transformed after being placed on slave ships headed towards the incomprehensibly evil chattel system to build the USA. Those who survived the journey overseas were put through even greater inhumane conditions, and as you walk through the Legacy Museum you walk through the decades of torture, de-humanization, and the determination of an oppressed people to fight for something better. Slavery turns into Jim Crow, which turns to the fight for Civil Rights before the museum ends with the current form of slavery for profit: mass incarceration.

Needless to say, there was much to process during and after our shared trip to EJI’s large-scale documentation on the continued oppression of Black Americans. The Hip Hop Caucus, VibRaNtaKe, and Alabama Values all gathered to share their thoughts and reflections. Sentiments ranged from grief for the past to affirmations that we are doing the right work in our present lives. 

While a trip to EJI’s Legacy Sites was more than enough to make for a fulfilling experience, Alabama Values and VibRaNtaKe wanted to ensure that Hip Hop Caucus was able to witness first-hand the creative and activist communities that make Montgomery so special. This came in the form of a Midweek Kickback at The Co-Lab which focused on networking and a “Fireside Chat” where attendees could discuss complex issues in a casual setting where every voice is heard. The discussion was led by a panel that featured Alabama Values Executive Director Anneshia Hardy, Hip Hop Caucus Deputy Development Director Reggie Weaver, Professor of History at Florida A&M and Founder of The History Consultants Dr. Kimberly Brown, and Art Director/VibRaNtaKe Co-Founder Chris Hardy. 
Other participants in this open conversation included Montgomery musicians, visual artists, entrepreneurs, religious leaders, and more. Discussions included personal experiences that shaped people’s views on the intersections of race, culture, and democracy, the balance between individualism and community, how capitalism shapes our priorities, and so much more. The earlier trip to the Legacy Museum contributed to the conversation as well, with a focus on a segment that particularly impacted Alabama Value’s Social Impact Program Manager Destiny Williams. This segment discussed how during the time of enslavement, rebellions were so rampant that martial law had to be called to suppress them. Destiny went on to share how personal that felt as every day she feels the joy, sorrow, anger, grief, passion, hope, love, and everything else that comes with being a Black woman in America today. 

All of those emotions are a part of what made Wednesday, June 12th, in Montgomery, Alabama so special. A group of people with different hometowns, backgrounds, passions, priorities, and perspectives – but a common struggle and the willingness to share their thoughts – came together to not only talk, but listen, and grow together in community. All while Isaiah Rashad was playing in the background. 

What a special evening.  

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