MHHK Co-Founder Kathleen Adams

For the last five years the birthplace of Hip Hop culture, the South Bronx, has also been the home of the New York City’s leading event that celebrates female hip hop artists and encourages social justice through community organizing. In 2008 the inaugural Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen (MHHK) debuted as a way of empowering and educating women of color about important issues like reproductive rights and HIV/AIDS awareness.

Since then MHHK founders Kathleen Adams and Lah Tere have staged the event annually with each new showcase focusing on different themes like faith feminism, environmental justice, healthy nutrition, and physical activity.

This year’s Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen’s theme is “No Limits…Knowledge is Power!” with a goal of promoting educational opportunities. MMHK Vol 6 will feature female rap, dance, spoken word, and step performers. DZI: The Voice got the opportunity to interview co-founder Kathleen Adams about why she started MHHK, what she feels about the rising crop of mainstream female rappers, the fight against conservatives lawmakers limiting reproductive rights, and more.

Hip Hop in it’s nature is a tool of resistance and organizing.

Yohance Kyles: What inspired the name “Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen”?

Kathleen Adams: We call it “Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen” because women congregate in the kitchen to talk about issues and to connect. Our event is a metaphorical kitchen!

Lah Tere; source: Instagram

YK: How did you first connect with your fellow co-founder Lah Tere?

KA: Lah Tere and I met the summer of 2007 at the US Social Forum in Atlanta, GA. At the US Social Forum, we realized that we were both living in New York City and had a passion for Hip Hop, social justice, women’s rights, and reproductive justice. We both also were very involved in HIV/AIDS work in communities of color. 

YK: Why did you decide to incorporate Hip Hop into your organization’s mission of educating and empowering women?

KA: Hip Hop in it’s nature is a tool of resistance and organizing. Also, Hip Hop was created in the South Bronx, and the South Bronx is one of the poorest Congressional districts with one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS. We decided to use Hip Hop as our vehicle to organize and raise awareness around HIV/AIDS and reproductive justice. 

YK: This year’s MHHK theme is “No Limits…Knowledge is Power!” How do you plan to use MHHK to help impact educational reform?

KA: This year with Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen, Vol. 6: No Limits…Knowledge is Power! we plan to be very intentional with our actions. We are trying to connect young people with tutors in our community. We also plan on having smaller events throughout the year where we can offer, through various partners, financial education workshops among other workshops. 

YK: What activities and artists can we expect to see at this year’s MHHK?

KA: We have a fabulous line up of great new talent this year. DJ Jasmine Solano will be blessing us with her presence as our resident DJ for the event. Some of the artists joining us to perform are Nene Ali, Rhina Valentin, Full Circle Soulsistahs, Pelham Academy Eagles, Xclusive Step Team, Saylove, among others.

Rhina Valentin

Pelham Academy Eagles

YK: Did you feel there are any established Hip Hop artists out now that reflect the ideals you are trying to promote with MHHK?

KA: Unfortunately, I do not feel that there are many established mainstream Hip Hop artists out there that are promoting the ideals of MHHK. That is why we exist to fill that void!

I think that to really build a “movement” you need to involve the community, and involve the community in all aspects.

YK: What’s your opinion of the new rising female rappers like Azealia Banks, Nitty Scott, Briana Perry, and Angel Haze?

KA: The new rising female rappers that you mentioned are all great in their own unique ways. However, many of them are not doing work in the community with young people out there. I think that to really build a “movement” you need to involve the community, and involve the community in all aspects. I feel that many up and coming artists are neglecting this!

YK: Do you think mainstream hip hop will ever get back to the point where many different voices like conscious and political emcees can achieve national recognition and garner equal media coverage?

KA: I do think that mainstream hip hop will change for the better and will move towards a more positive existence. Grassroots artists and groups need to join forces to combine audiences and resources. I truly believe that through working collectively, grassroots artists will capture national media attention! I also believe that more resources need to be dedicated to teaching artists the business side of music. Without a plan and a strategy, indie artists will suffer and will never be able to gain national attention.

YK: You’ve received a bachelors degree in urban studies with a concentration in architecture, and you’ve stated that you plan to pursue a Master’s degree in architecture as well. How do you use your study of architecture in your social justice work?

KA: My plans have actually changed. I graduated with my Master’s in Urban Studies from Fordham University in May 2012. And through my Master’s in Urban Studies, my interest in business grew, so I’m actually looking at applying to MBA programs for fall 2014. I am working on a business idea regarding commercial composting and waste management. My background in architecture influenced me to solve the issue of commercial waste management and composting through design. At the end of the day, social justice has influenced my work, because I see my new company being a social enterprise that does good for the community through job creation and also benefits the environment through diverting food waste from landfills. 

…once pro-choice voices come together collectively, people will see how loud our voices are, and how many people actually support pro-choice points of view. 

YK: Despite the fact that the ability to have an abortion is constitutionally protected, many states across the country have been passing laws to limit and in some cases restrict abortions. As an advocate of reproductive justice, how do you think pro-choice proponents can work to ensure that the rights of women in those areas are protected?

KA: As a pro-choice activist from Ohio, I understand how difficult it is to influence others to supports reproductive justice in conservative communities and climates. I think in order to make real change, pro-choice proponents need to be vocal and show their support. But once pro-choice voices come together collectively, people will see how loud our voices are, and how many people actually support pro-choice points of view. 

YK: You’ve had the opportunity to travel all over the world. What’s your take on the advancement of the women’s rights movement globally?

KA: I do love to travel! I’ve been to every continent except Antarctica (I’m going in December!) From my travels I’ve seen women in empowered situations, and I’ve also seen women in subordinate roles. Out of all of the countries I’ve traveled to, I have to say that there are very strong women in Haiti, but due to patriarchal society, women in Haiti are still considered second class citizens, and for Haiti to grow and rebuild, the status of women needs to be elevated!

Adams in Haiti

YK: Do you have any artistic talents?

KA: I grew up as a dancer (Hip Hop, modern, ballet, African, and jazz). I danced in college, and actually stopped dancing when I started to organize Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen because my schedule got too hectic and crazy! I plan on starting back up and creating a piece. Maybe I’ll perform next year! But I also love to paint, and I sometimes help out with painting the mural and posters for Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen. 

YK: What’s next for Kathleen Adams and Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen?

KA: I want to take Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen on the road more. I also want to do smaller events throughout the year. I would love to write a Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen book. Maybe even a cook book. For me, right now I am studying for the GMAT for business school and working on my next business idea. I’m also planning on where I’m traveling to next. I’m going to Cape Town, South Africa in April and Barbados in June! 

All uncredited photos courtesy of Kathleen Adams and MHHK.org

Momma’s Hip Hip Kitchen Vol 6 2013 will take place 3/2/2013 at the Hostos Center for Arts and Culture located at 450 Grand Concourse Bronx, New York

For more info about Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen click it

To connect with Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen follow the event @hiphopkitchen 

To connect with Kathleen Adams follow her @kathleenadams56 

Check out recap videos of previous editions of Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen:

Previous: Strike Up The Band: Q&A with Brown Rice Family; Behind the Boards: Q&A with Producer Phil The Pain 

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