Boys and Girls Club Celebrates Hip-Hop’s 50th 

The rain didn’t stop the celebration at Knockdown Center Maspeth. Photo by Iryna Shkurhan

By Iryna Shkurhan | [email protected] 

In honor of the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, hundreds of kids from the Boys & Girls Club of Metro Queens celebrated with an afternoon of double dutching, breakdancing and graffiti in Maspeth’s Knockdown Center. 

The “For the Love” event, hosted by SiriusXM and Pandora, allowed the youth to learn about the history of hip-hop in an interactive and fun way. The free event also served as a culmination of their summer youth employment program that ended last week. 

Later in the evening, the legendary Wu-Tang Clan headlined the venue to an older crowd. 

On August 11, 1973, hip-hop was born at a small back to school party in a Bronx apartment. Clive Campbell, also known as DJ Kool Herc, got the idea to improvise with two turntables that played snippets in a continuous loop. In his honor, a range of free celebratory events were held across all five boroughs. While Wu-Tang hails from Staten Island, Queens takes credit for Nas, LL Cool J, 50 Cent and Nicki Minaj. 

“The vision really was for this to be a community event, because hip-hop started as a basis of the community,” said Nicole Hughey, Head of Diversity, Equity and  Inclusion at SiriusXM. “We want to help inspire them to think about the historical nature of hip-hop, and to think about what they can do to take it even further. We see them as the next generation of talent that will really take us to a new level in this genre.”

Nicole Hughey, Head of DEI and Social Impact at SiriusXM, was a key organizer of the event. Photo by Iryna Shkurhan

Over 250 kids who attended the event are members of the BGCMQ, which serves underprivileged youth with year-round programming that focuses on academic success, a healthy lifestyle and developing good character. 

In the summer, the organization places high school students who are eligible for SYEP in various jobs and internships across the city. Some even work at the center on Atlantic Ave. in Richmond Hill that serves as a recreational space where students can foster a sense of community while receiving resources.  

“They have been looking forward to this,” said Kimberly Paramhance, Director of Workforce Development at the Boys and Girls Club. “It’s so exciting to have the kids here today for them to be able to broaden their horizons and see what’s out there. The timing of it couldn’t have been better.” 

SiriusXM  presented a check to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Queens. Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM 

SiriusXM and Pandora, partnered with Cricket Wireless, presented the Boys & Girls Club with a check for $20,000 at the event.

“I just watched one of my kids break dance and so I didn’t even know he could break dance. That was fun,” said Paramhance, who grew up in South Ozone Park and has worked at the club for the past six years. 

Each attendee had the chance to decorate their own backpack. Photo by Iryna Shkurhan

For those who wanted to pick up some breakdancing moves, local dance professionals were on site to demonstrate and guide the newbies on how to nail floor rocks and flares. With strong determination, a handful of kids kept trying until they finally landed it to a round of applause from their peers.

Each attendee also received a white backpack filled with school supplies, which also served as a blank canvas to decorate with provided stencils and spray paint. In a tucked away corner, the kids focused on designing their new backpacks with words and drawings. In honor of the art of graffiti, a blank wall was designated for spray painting. By the end of the event, it had no white space left. 

Richard Whittingham, a 15 year-old from East New York, said that he was excited to attend the celebration because he had never been to a concert before. Like many others his age at the event, he hasn’t heard of Wu-Tang, the notable group that shaped east coast hip-hop.

“Is that a dance move,” replied Whittington, who says some of his favorite hip-hop artists are Lil Tjay and Lil Tecca, all of whom were born in this century. He chose to design his backpack with the words “Be Kind” in green paint. 

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