There are certain places that act as great equalizers. Where your background, appearance and abilities don’t matter. In these unique atmospheres it’s our sameness that’s overwhelming … whether you’re hot or cold blooded, scaly or feathered, ferocious or meek // rich or poor, employed or not, young or old.
One of those magical places is the Bronx Zoo.
And it’s becoming even more accessible — for everyone — than ever this summer, as Windows of Hip Hop and the Bronx Zoo present “Boogie Down,” a celebration of the music, dance, art and food that make the Bronx our city’s best example of an equalizer.
“Look, man,” says hip hop star Scorpio of Furious Five, “growing up in the ghetto, the Bronx Zoo was like our personal Disneyland. It’s the first place I actually saw white people — no joke! Integration in action in the Bronx, yo. And I learned that we’re all the same — little white kids were gettin’ yelled at by their mommas same as I was when we’d all run off to look at the animals. It had a really big effect on me, learning that those kids and I share the same city, and these animals and us, we share the same world. It made me want to go out and learn about the world. To see where these creatures came from — whether that’s the dude from Staten Island or the lion from Africa.”
Scorpio’s performing, along with a roster of other emcees and artists, at Boogie Down, and feels that by opening the zoo’s doors to hip hop, that sense of inclusion will only expand. “People are gonna go who may not have before, because it’s even more representative now, and maybe they’ll feel how I felt as a kid. It’s miraculous, really.”
Bronx-based non-profit Windows of Hip Hop worked closely with the Bronx Zoo to curate the program, choosing elements of local salsa to throw into the mix along with the food and fun on the calendar. WOHH is a women-led, women-run organization that’s focused on invigorating, educating and inspiring audiences and entrepreneurs, students and community advocates to invest in the neighborhood through the arts.
“The Bronx is really a small town,” says President and CEO Melissa Libran. “It’s a community like none other in the city. And the thing about working with the zoo is that we were ALL born in the same neighborhood. Like, I was born a mile away from where that snow leopard was born — it extends to the animals that live at the zoo! And it’s so exciting that all of us locals can get together on their turf and share music and dance and art and food that can’t be found anywhere else but the Bronx.”
Boogie Down looks to recreate the feeling of the block parties once pervasive in the Bronx — the creative petri dish that gave us hip hop, breakdancing and so much more. So be sure to head uptown this summer with open ears.