50 years of hip hop: How we celebrated

Hip hop is more than music and dance, says Director of Equity & Anti-Racism Stephen Jackson. “It is culture. It permeates every fabric of American life. It is the way people talk, the words they use, the way people wear their clothes.”

This year, our library was one of more than 30 organizations around the country—including other libraries, museums, colleges, universities, and archives—partnering to celebrate the culture of hip hop as it turned 50. The collaborative initiative, Collections of Culture: 50 Years of Hip Hop Inside Libraries, Museums and Archives, was led by the Queens Public Library and funded by a $267,760 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Library staff member models a costume based on that worn by Missy Elliot in "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)" in the hip hop fashion show

In Oak Park, we put on a supa dupa fly fashion show, film screenings, spoken word and arts workshops, a T-shirt design contest, karaoke in the Idea Box, and more.

Reflecting on hip hop at 50, Jackson says: “It was born out of taking resources out of already impoverished communities and the community members using what they had available to get what they needed. Look at it now. Hip hop, I am proud of you.”

‘We are all sacred story keepers’

Topping off the six-month celebration, Jackson and colleagues traveled to New York City in August for the two-day Hip Hop 50 Summit.

Library staff Stephen Jackson, Juanta Griffin, Latonia Jackson, and Chibuike Enyia pose with Ralph McDaniels (center) at the Hip Hop Summit

The main agenda of the summit was to archive and document hip hop, says Multicultural Learning Coordinator Juanta Griffin—”this history of a people that came from broken concrete, burning buildings, and marginalized communities.”

It was hosted by Ralph McDaniels, Queens Public Library Hip Hop Coordinator and co-founder of TV’s Video Music Box (pictured here).

“This is really huge for the culture,” Jackson says, explaining that Video Music Box “preceded MTV, BET, VH1, and any other music television stations that had a music video show format.”

Griffin says that throughout the summit, she was impressed by the spirit of humility, teamwork, and love.

“Everyone was family,” she says. “It felt like a reunion. And we all understood the assignment, to archive the history of hip hop. We have become the Grios of Hip Hop. We are all sacred story keepers of 50 years of hip hop, and I accept this responsibility.”

Learn more about the summit and the initiative »

Keep celebrating with your Oak Park library card

Check out library materials—in all formats, for all ages—that celebrate hip hop culture (music, movies, dance, style, and more).

More: Stream hip hop albums, movies, and more available digitally on Hoopla »