The Fresh, Bold & So Def Symposium Celebrated Women In Hip-Hop At Lincoln Center

The Fresh, Bold & So Def Symposium Celebrated Women In Hip-Hop At Lincoln Center

Source: Johnny Nunez / Getty

HipHopWired had the opportunity to speak with Martha Diaz about the symposium held at Lincoln Center celebrating the contributions of women in Hip-Hop.
On Friday (April 5), the Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center in New York City was home to a groundbreaking event that focused on the numerous contributions that women have made to the culture of Hip-Hop. The Fresh, Bold & So Def Symposium came together as an initiative to highlight the trailblazing women who lent their abundant talent and style to an industry dominated by men and to further empower the next generation of women in the culture.

The all-day symposium came about through a partnership between Martha Diaz, the award-winning activist and community organizer who serves as the founder and chair of the Hip-Hop Education Center and Lincoln Center. The Fresh, Bold & So Def Symposium, inspired by Diaz’s initiative championing intergenerational Hip-Hop feminism began with a panel on mentorship for women and girls in the culture.

It featured veteran designer Misa Hylton, Sophia Chang, Tiffany Miranda and Michelle “Lady Bird” McPhee, a lecture by Rap Coalition founder Wendy Day, and a fireside chat on self-care with Shanti Das and Toni Blackman before the evening’s panels. The panels featured a lecture by Dr. Joan Morgan and a ladies’ cipher discussion led by Diaz with pioneering MCs MC Sha-Rock, Pebblee Poo, Dr. MC Debbie D, Lisa Lee and a panel on innovation with Dr. Rosa Clemente, Jazzy Joyce, Claw Money and Erica Ford, moderated by Kathy Landoli.


The audience in attendance was diverse and was welcomed warmly, with Diaz and her team warming the crowd up in between. Each panel discussion and lecture provided vital information and perspective that garnered enthusiastic applause. A few days before the symposium, HipHopWired had the honor to talk with Martha Diaz about what inspired the symposium and the way it all came together.

HipHopWired: As vital as it is to emphasize the importance of women in Hip-Hop, what prompted the creation of the symposium for this point in time?

Martha Diaz: This symposium has been decades in the making. Since the 1990s and the early 2000s, I wanted to create an initiative to show the contributions of women to Hip-Hop. It just felt like we weren’t getting our props, and that we were being erased from history. So when we met with Lincoln Center, they embraced the idea and the message.

Could you share a little bit about the process and working with Lincoln Center to be a partner in the symposium?

We spoke about the education within it. It wasn’t just to celebrate women, but how could we inform the community about the different roles that we are paying tribute to? It’s about education, celebration. It was about informing people of our roles and our contribution. And we wanted to have a look and conversation about some of these inequities. So carefully curated, so that we could have the best representatives talk about these issues as well. And we wanted it to be intergenerational. So we didn’t want it to be like “oh, the old school,” we wanted to engage young people as well.

So the programs in the morning have workshops, fundamental Hip-Hop 101 workshops so that young people can learn about the history and the elements of Hip-Hop. And then you know, we have master classes for those kids who are a little bit more advanced. And then we have something for the young professionals who are kind of isolated from the culture but are in the music and entertainment industry, so we have something for them. And then we also have the evening portion, much more deeper conversations around erasure and self-care and being disruptors in Hip-Hop culture.

You don’t have to follow everyone else, we can actually make some changes in our culture. That’s pretty much how we kind of developed the day. Lincoln Center as a partner, I have to mention how important it is for them to believe in us, just like how you reached out and said: “Hey, I want to cover this.” They gave us the resources that can help us amplify our base message. So I just really cannot stress enough how important it is and how this is going to be ongoing. It isn’t a one-off.

That leads me to my last question. I’ve noticed that the panels and lectures are extremely impressive. So what was the response from those involved when the organizing team contacted them to take part?

Oh, they were excited. Most of the women, I would say 98% of the women said yes immediately. The other 2% said no, because they have other commitments, but had they not had those other commitments they would have joined us. It is our moment, it’s our time. We are finally having our “Me Too” movement, with everything that’s happening with Diddy.

And it’s great that we finally get the safe space to have these conversations that are delicate and necessary. If we’re gonna evolve as a culture, women have to have this space to have the conversations and create boundaries and guardrails so that you [other women] don’t have to go through some of the things we went through.

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