Between November 16 and 18, 2014, New York-based hip hop performer, poet and activist Toni Blackman participated in a multiple program on the theme “Hip Hop: Art, Education and Activism” in Rio de Janeiro. On Nov. 16, Toni was invited to close the third edition of FLUPP, the International Literary Festival of the Periphery, which took place in Mangueira. Toni shared the roundtable discussion “An Ocean of Words” with French rapper D’ de Kabal, and attended the finals of the 1st Rio Poetry Slam Poetry contest. Toni Blackman’s rap show officially concluded this year’s edition of FLUPP. The NYC artist invited D’ de Kabal and Portuguese rapper Alexandre Diaphra to share stage with her, and she also sang and danced with young Mangueira-based children in the audience.
On Nov. 17, Toni discussed “Hip Hop, Education and Activism” with 50 youth enrolled in “Galpão Aplauso” NGO’s socio-educational programs. She discussed the concept of cypher and conducted a freestyle poetry session with the kids. Later, she participated in a roundtable discussion on the theme “Women in Hip Hop,” at the headquarters of CUFA – “The Single Union of Shantytowns” NGO, in Madureira. Toni shared the panel with Brazil’s most famous woman rapper, Nega Gizza, who has been recently selected to participate in State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) exchange. The roundtable was streamed live via Google Hangout to other CUFA headquarters in several states in Brazil. As an outcome of this program, Toni Blackman invited Brazilian rapper Nega Gizza and CUFA to participate in the program “Hip Hop Heads,” which she intends to develop in 2016 with financial support from the National Endowment for the Arts. “Hip Hop Heads” aims at developing a global cypher connecting 40 hip hop artists from six different countries – the U.S., Brazil, Senegal, South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania – who will engage in cooperative freestyle improvisation via the Web.
Toni Blackman’s program in Rio closed with her participation as the keynote speaker of the second edition of the São João de Meriti International Literature Festival of the Black Diaspora (FLIDAM), on Nov. 18. Located in Rio’s metropolitan area, São João de Meriti is one of the most densely populated cities in Latin America, but faces major socio-economic-educational challenges, including the existence of only two formal libraries for a 460,000 population and a total lack of bookstores . U.S. Consul for Press, Education and Culture Jessica Simon participated in FLIDAM’s opening dais, together with federal, state and local government officials, NGO leaders, academics and activists. Toni Blackman’s keynote address focused on “Poetry, the Spoken Word and the Literary Arts.” The program in São João de Meriti concluded with cultural activities, including a visit to a “candomblé” site and Afro-Brazilian music and dance performances of “jongo” and “afoxé.”
Toni Blackman reached out to an audience totaling 650 people, including federal, state and local government officials; hip hop artists, poets, rappers and DJs; cultural leaders; academics, educators and students; Afro-Brazilian and social activists; NGO and religious leaders; journalists; and underserved urban children and youth. Toni gave interviews to “O Globo” newspaper and TV Brasil.” “O Globo” also published a note on the program at “Galpão Aplauso.” In her remarks and press interviews alike, Toni described cypher as “a circle gathering of hip hop artists – MCs, DJs, dancers, slammers, graffiti writers, theater actors – who engage in collective improvisation, with the purpose of giving and exchanging energy, information, feelings and ideas.” According to her, spoken poetry, freestyle improvisation and cypher have challenged the elitism of literature. Toni concluded that “the purpose of cypher is not battling or competing, even if it can be a powerful weapon in the spiritual war that we live today.”