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Venezuela: Hip-hop revolutionaries

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“Capitalism is crumbling and this is our time”*
By Jody McIntyre and Pablo Navarrete

Venezuela’s Hip-Hop Revolución (HHR) movement was founded in 2003 and brings together like-minded young people from across the country. As well as organising several international revolutionary hip-hop festivals in Venezuela HHR has created 31 hip-hop schools across the country, which teenagers can attend in conjunction with their normal day-to-day schooling.

Whilst filming in Venezuela for our forthcoming documentary on HHR, we were told that normally those attending the hip-hop schools learnt hip-hop skills for four days per week and had one day per week of political discussion. However, in some schools those attending had decided they preferred the ratio the other way round.

Once participants have ‘graduated’ from the course, they are encouraged to become tutors to the next batch of attendees. Most graduates come from low-income backgrounds, and many go on to establish schools in their local areas.

At a hip-hop school we visited near Charallave, about an hour south of Venezuela’s capital, Caracas, one student told us how he had done just that. First, he approached the political leaders in the area, and they agreed that the project was a strong idea. Then, he approached the gang leaders in the neighbourhood, and they agreed to make sure the kids got to and from their classes without being hassled. To many of the participants, the hip-hop schools are another element of a new spirit of unity and solidarity in their local communities. In their eyes, hip-hop and the political struggle are inextricably linked, and this is their chance to play a tangible part in building the better future they want to grow up in.

HHR took us from the school to a nearby barrio, where music equipment had been set up for a show local HHR members were putting on for the community. As the music started kids came out from their houses; most of them were still dressed in their school uniforms. Entire families came out to their balconies to watch what was going on below.

These hip-hop workshops are a monthly occurrence, so the young people in the area know when to come. Unfortunately, that afternoon it was pouring with rain, which apparently kept many people indoors. Nevertheless, a crowd quickly grew. Many of the kids were very young, and, without shoes or a care in the world, they washed their feet in the huge puddles of rainwater. The barrios are at the heart of the HHR movement, and the crowd at the workshop we visited were captivated by the rapping and break-dancing on display.

Our trip to Venezuela also coincided with the inauguration and first ever conference of CELAC, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States. Thirty-three presidents from all of the countries of the Americas (except the US and Canada) were in Caracas for the event. Photo exhibitions displayed on central avenues of Caracas in the days preceding the conference expressed solidarity with the people of Cuba, Libya and Iraq, the workers movement in Argentina, the Palestinian people, and the Occupy Wall Street movement in the US amongst others.

‘CELAC is the most important development in the last 200 years,’ Jamil, a member of HHR, told us. ‘We respect Chávez, because he understands our struggle, but we are always looking to be self-critical in order to keep our revolution moving in the right direction…

‘I’m a revolutionary from my heart. Chavez fucks around and flips on us, we’re gonna flip on him. And that’s what I think he expects from us. You know what I mean? That’s why he is so serious with his proposals and with what he does. He has the confidence that he won’t flip on the people. And he understands that capitalism is crumbling. And this is our time, this is our moment, you know, for Latin America, for Venezuela and for us.”

For more information on ‘Hip Hop Revolución’ and a video clip of the film, visit: http://www.alborada.net/alboradafilms.

*This article is a web exclusive of an article to be published in Red Pepper’s February/March 2012 issue.