Kat’s Korner: One Mic Conversations (RECAP)

Kat’s Korner: One Mic Conversations (RECAP)

In looking back on my involvement in the One Mic festival, I can’t help but smile a little as I reflect. What initially seemed like an unorganized attempt at “including the locals”, eventually morphed into a somewhat well-oiled machine of creatives with one mission in mind-highlight the positive and represent the culture. Yes, there are definitely things that could have been done better, but I am proud with the overall arc of the festival and really hopeful that this is in fact, the beginning of something special.

The conversations that I produced for One Mic, were born out of what I felt was a need for targeted discussions on a variety of topics. As long as my list was, I think the four that were brought to fruition, not only represented DC, but served hip hop culture as well. The following are my thoughts post festival on the panels that took place.


younglions.jpgYoung Lions & Lionesses: Despite the unexpected rain and cold, a good number of people gathered in the warmth and history of HR 57. With comfort food and drinks on hand, the panelists spun a tale of personal memory and observation where jazz and hip hop live together seamlessly. Tamara Wellons, the only woman on the panel, opened up the conversation with her rendition of “Fly Me to the Moon” accompanied by DJ 2-Tone Jones and it set just the right tone for the evening. The conversations were a mixture of jazz history lessons and narratives of personal discovery. The most important takeaway was the importance of recognizing the benefits both jazz and hip hop bring to the culture of music. It was a great start to the series.



PhotoGrid_1396530841897Who is the I?: To be honest this was the conversation I was most excited about. My goal was to approach the space of identity from the perspective of the shifting narrative. We lost a panelist to a scheduling snafu, but what was shared by the remaining panelists, far exceeded my expectations. The conversation ran the gamut and included not only dialogue on the importance of giving voice to self-identification from a gender perspective but also the fact of mainstream community homophobia and the artists that are pushing back in an effort to level the playing field. The intimacy of the UDC setting allowed for an seamless dialogue between the audience and panel, something, again, I had not expected. There were many times throughout the talk that I was floored by the perspective and the personal stories of the audience members.  There were significant takeaways as a result of this panel, but the one that sticks out most is that we need more conversations. There is so much that we fail to know simply because of proximity. There were so many teaching moments; the panelists lifted spirits, empowered hearts and opened minds.


In the Producer’s Studio: When I decided to do another edition of this concept, Low Budget Crew was top on the short list. As with all of the panels, it was important to me to have a strong representation of area artists, creatives and thought leaders involved in all of the panels. In my mind, members of this legendary collective at the center of an interactive discussion was the only way to go. Hosting the panel at the Kennedy Center in their Terrance Gallery was an added win. The intimacy of the space and the lighting backdrop only added to the beauty of having a DMV-based hip hop collective center stage in the hallowed halls of a major performing arts space. The discussion mainly centered around the equipment and processes the panelists used to create the signature Low Budget sound. The exhibitions were an added treat along with impromptu performances by Kaimbr (featured left) and yU. The audience joining in with numerous and engaging questions only made the night that much more rewarding. The overall takeaway, the budget may be low, but the quality of production is always high.










wpid-onemicfestsq51bw.jpgThe State of the U: There was so much leading up to this panel, that  I was a little nervous once the day finally arrived. There had been some intense criticism via social media of the festival regarding the lack of significant DC presence when it came to festival performances and there was an expectation that there would be a ruckus once the panel finally happened. In actuality, what transpired was one of the most honest and engaging discussions I have seen to date regarding the effects of gentrification on the DC music and arts scene. It was a big panel, but I felt that the story of U Street couldn’t be reduced to a few folks. There needed to be a continuum in terms of length of artistic service. All of the panelists were still active in their respective professions and had ‘been there” in the beginning of what would be considered one of U Street’s last golden ages. The night was filled with remembrances of the U Street of yesteryear and the moments of realization that things were in fact changing. One of the major takeaways (there were so many) had to be when spoken word artist Raquel Brown likened the changes along the U Street corridor to being “buried alive”. For her, the fact that of development came at the price of historical erasure even while artists were still creating. Powerful metaphor for sure and one that even a week later, still haunts me.

These conversations were just the beginning. I hope as we continue to build that we can revisit many of the themes discussed over the course of the three-week festival. I learned a great deal about myself and my process and am thankful for the opportunity to work on such a ground breaking effort. That being said, it only make sense to end on a note of thanks to: Hi-Arts,  The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Creative Ecosystem, LSP, Hans Charles, and all of the panelists and moderators for supporting and trusting my vision. As soon as the videos are ready, they will posted for your viewing pleasure. I am sure once many of you have watched, the conversations will continue.

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