By Jennifer Conn Spectrum News
Published April 20, 2022
Ameer Williamson’s Alien Arts nonprofit exposes kids to the positive side of hip hop and the entertainment industry. (Photo courtesy of Ameer Williamson)
Young people who enjoy hip-hop culture will be exposed to the positive side of the genre during Minus the Alien, a hip-hop experience at the Kenmore Branch of the Akron-Summit County Public Library.
Minus the Alien will perform as part of the library’s Sounds of Akron series, which showcases local musical talent. The event will run from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., Thursday, April 28 at the library’s Kenmore Branch, 969 Kenmore Blvd.
Minus the Alien will be accompanied by DJ Dramatize & Holbrook Riles III, aka HRIII.
Off the stage, Minus the Alien is Ameer Williamson is a recording artist, youth mentor and community outreach activist. Williamson launched the nonprofit Alien Arts several years ago to provide kids with a platform to enjoy hip hop and rap without being exposed to negative messaging.
“When you say ‘hip hop,’ the first thing that comes to people's minds is all the negative stuff, and that’s really not where it originated from,” he said.
The Kenmore library hip-hop experience will include a concert, storytelling and a history of hip-hop culture, Williamson said. Organizers hope the event will draw kids who attend the nearby First Glance Skatepark.
Hip hop began in New York City in the early ‘70s when a young man known as DJ Kool Herc set up dueling turntables in his Bronx neighborhood, Williamson said. DJ Kool Herc’s public jams for neighborhood kids sparked what is now known as hip hop, with rap said to have sprung from rhyming chants he used to encourage the “break-boys” and “break-girls” to come to the dance area as the music played.
That’s the spirit hip hop was intended to embrace, Williamson said.
“My messages are uplifting and motivating,” Williamson said. “And, you know, we talk about social issues in the music and things like that.”
Partnering with area organizations, Alien Arts also hosts hip-hop boot camps designed to expose kids to the fun aspects of the hip-hop culture, such as songwriting and mural creation, and to help them learn about careers in entertainment, from DJing to music production, he said.
A Hip-hop Boot Camp is planned for this summer, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday, August 1 to Friday, August 5 at the Weathervane Playhouse in Akron, he said.
Williamson is also working on launching the Ohio Urban Arts Initiative, which is planned to bring together local educators and musicians to continue exposing young people to the positive aspects of hip-hop through programming in schools, he said.
“It all boils down to positive programming, is what I call it,” he said. “If they feel like the music is influencing them in a negative way, we can do the opposite as well.”