Houston's 'Life Is Living' Set in Motion with Hip Hop Festival

HoustonArts and CultureArtEducationColleges and UniversitiesPoetry

HOUSTON - This fall marks the launch of a major new initiative hosted by the University of Houston Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts. Life Is Living is a national campaign that connects urban street arts with environmentalism and sustainable living.

The Mitchell Center launched the Life Is Living initiative in Houston with a kickoff event on November 7 at Discovery Green in downtown Houston.

The Life Is Living Houston Kickoff featured hip-hop legend MC Lyte, a performance by artist and Life Is Living national organizer Marc Bamuthi Joseph, and a range of participatory activities for all ages, courtesy of local organizations specializing in break dancing, graffiti art, athletics, compost-driven gardening, bike repair, skate boarding and spoken-word poetry. Participating organizations included Aerosol Warfare, CKCStart Street and Urban Arts & Graffiti Research Lab, Last Organic Outpost, Workshop Houston, Project Row Houses, Youth Advocates, DiverseWorks, the UH College of Architecture, The Global Movement, and youth slam poetry group Meta-Four Houston.

Among the special guests at the event was Texas Senator Rodney Ellis. "I'm excited to join Life Is Living in the effort to create innovative ways to engage our communities in the fight to ensure a clean, green and efficient energy future," said Senator Ellis.

This event kicked off Marc Bamuthi Joseph's two-year residency in Houston working with residents of the Third and Fifth Wards and University of Houston students. His residency will produce Life Is Living: Houston, a one-day festival in an under-utilized neighborhood park that will feature urban arts and focus on empowering communities of color to connect with, influence and benefit from the environmental movement. Similar Life Is Living festivals have been held in Chicago, Harlem, and Oakland, California.

At the conclusion of his stay in Houston, Joseph also will present "red, black and GREEN: a blues," a performance incorporating hip hop, poetry, dance, film, visual art and music created from Life Is Living festivals across the country. This final performance piece will draw content from Joseph's exploration into Houston's Third and Fifth Wards.

Life Is Living will also be the catalyst for a series of outreach programs in Houston, including weekly slam poetry workshops for teens in the Third and Fifth Wards, run by Meta-Four Houston.

"Our two year initiative with Marc Bamuthi Joseph and Life Is Living celebrates hip hop as a multi-disciplinary art form," says Mitchell Center Director Karen Farber. "Bamuthi's work in Houston has already inspired a spirited dialogue between UH and our surrounding communities about issues that matter to us all. Life Is Living will help us sustain and enhance that dialogue."

Houstonians were introduced to Joseph in March 2008 during his participation with the Mitchell Center's "Systems of Sustainability: Art, Innovation, Action" (S.O.S.) symposium where he presented a preview of "red, black and GREEN: a blues." Its theme is centered on the idea that low income communities and communities of color can be logistically and psychologically included in the green movement.

"I personally am of the belief that the movement for social change and environmental accountability are one and the same, and that focusing on steps to sustain the planet ultimately forces us to envision a pathway to sustaining humanity," said Joseph.

In the fall of 2007, Marc Bamuthi Joseph graced the cover of Smithsonian Magazine after being named one of America's Top Young Innovators in the Arts and Sciences. He is the artistic director of the 7-part HBO documentary "Russell Simmons presents Brave New Voices" and an inaugural recipient of the United States Artists Rockefeller Fellowship, which annually recognizes 50 of the country's "greatest living artists." A gifted and nationally acclaimed educator and essayist, he has lectured at more than 200 colleges and universities, been a popular commentator on National Public Radio, and has carried adjunct professorships at Stanford University, Mills College, and the University of Wisconsin. Bamuthi's proudest work has been with Youth Speaks, where he mentors 13-19 year old writers and curates the Living Word Festival for Literary Arts.

The Life Is Living Houston Kickoff was presented with support from Discovery Green, the Houston Arts Alliance and Youth Speaks. To learn more about Life Is Living, visit www.lifeisliving.org/core.

Facebook updates at The Living Word Project page. Follow @lifeisliving on Twitter.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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