Beats and rhymes to fill summer air

Hiphop in the Park: Edutainment, Resistance, CultureSunday 1-8 p.m. – FREEAlberta Park, 22nd and KillingsworthPolice accountability, low-income housing, educational equality, institutional racism, mandatory minimums and the criminalization of youth are but a few of our society’s ills. Who has the power – the guts – to take on these and other pressing issues? Roderick Franklin, the man behind “Hiphop in the Park 2001: Edutainment, Resistance, Culture,” for one.

Now in its third year, “Hiphop in the Park” (HHIP) brings together a variety of microphone fiends, turntablists, musicians, spoken-word artists and community leaders for a day of activism and cultural celebration at Northeast Portland’s Alberta Park.

Franklin and his team of 40 volunteers have put together a lineup of some of the Northwest’s top hip-hop artists, including Cool Nutz, Michael Crenshaw (formerly of Hungry Mob), the Blak Scienz Tribe and tuntablists Opus X and Clan of the Cave Mack. This event is not exclusively hip-hop. Also appearing will be a flutist, an “urban-Irish fiddle player,” reggae, R&B, fusion groups and much more.

Franklin got his start in events promotion putting on rave parties in Missouri, where he attended Southwest Missouri State University. From the start, his events have focused as much on social activism as they have on music and good times. “Art as a revolutionary tool is not a new idea,” he said.

After moving to Portland three-and-half years ago, Franklin quickly got involved with local activist groups. One of his biggest ongoing projects is working toward the release of Philadelphia journalist Mumia Abu Jamal, whose death sentence for killing a police officer is viewed by many as a frame job perpetuated as punishment for his political activism.

Soon Franklin found himself organizing HHIP, an event that has proven extremely successful, drawing over 2,500 people in the past two years. This year, HHIP attendees will have the opportunity to sign various petitions and peruse tables manned by representatives from such organizations as Sisters in Action for Power, the NAACP, and PSU’s own Black Cultural Affairs Board. HHIP works as a coordinator for these and other like-minded groups, bringing together community members from across Portland for a truly diverse event. And at the price of “free,” this event is a bargain in a world where quality music and positive social change usually come at a very high price.

Franklin maintains that this is an important event for everyone, not just residents of North and Northeast Portland, as these issues affect all of our lives. Responding to a query about one community group’s involvement in bettering the lives of “at-risk youth,” Franklin was quick to put a spin on that tag.

All youth are at risk,” he said, “because all communities are at risk.”Take him at his word. No one knows better than Franklin.