Queens Public Library honors 50 years of hip-hop with 6-month-long celebration

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  • Published on March 16, 2023
  • Last Updated May 15, 2023
  • In Culture

Queens Public Library collaborates with groups nationwide to honor hip-hop over the course of a six-month “Collections of Culture” celebration.

In honor of hip-hop’s half-century anniversary, the Queens Public Library (QPL) has revealed collaborations with more than 30 institutions across the country, including other libraries, museums, colleges, universities, and archives.

Since its inception in the Bronx on August 11, 1973, when graffiti artist and b-girl Cindy Campbell hosted a back-to-school-party featuring music by her brother DJ Kool Herc, hip-hop has had a significant artistic and cultural impact around the world. This is definitely a commendable effort to recognize that. The recreation room of the apartment building at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx, now a legendary landmark of hip-hop culture, was the site of the famed party.

Dozens of in-person and online events will be held by the participating institutions over the course of the six-month celebration, titled “Collections of Culture: 50 Years of Hip Hop Inside Libraries, Museums, and Archives,” and was made possible by a $267,760 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

Panel discussions, author talks, educational forums, and workshops will be held to discuss the contributions of hip-hop musicians, DJs, dancers, MCs, graffiti artists, stylists, directors, photographers, and educators, as well as the genre’s history and influence on American culture.

In 2015, QPL hired Ralph McDaniels, also known as “Uncle Ralph,” as its first-ever hip-hop coordinator in recognition of the significant role Queens communities have played in hip-hop’s rise from a local art form to an international sensation.

Ralph McDaniels building with Run DMC’s Darryl (DMC) McDaniels.
Ralph McDaniels building with Run DMC’s Darryl (DMC) McDaniels. Bryan McDaniels

McDaniels is widely regarded as one of the culture’s gatekeepers; he created the landmark music television show “Video Music Box” and served at its helm for decades. His current position involves developing content to increase exposure to the five pillars of hip-hop culture: MCing, DJing, graffiti, breakdancing, and knowledge.

The Queens Public Library (QPL) is committed to preserving the history of hip-hop in Queens by collecting materials such as photographs, magazines, audio and video recordings, manuscripts, newspaper clippings, flyers, and oral histories from people who have been involved in the genre at various points in its evolution.

According to a press release sent to Detour, the three public library systems of New York City are among the primary 15 participating institutions (Queens Public Library, Brooklyn Public Library and The New York Public Library, which covers the Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island), along with the Universal Hip-Hop Museum in the Bronx, NY; the Black Caucus of the American Library Association and Las Vegas-Clark County Library District in Las Vegas, NV; L.A. County Library in Los Angeles, CA; the Free Library of Philadelphia in Philadelphia, PA; Oak Park Public Library in Oak Park, IL; Great Plains Black History Museum in Omaha, NE; Trap Music Museum in Atlanta, GA; The Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History in Atlanta, GA; Museum of Graffiti in Miami, FL; Black Beauty Archives in New York City; and Black Women Writers Project (online).

By working together, libraries, museums, and archives can reach a wider audience, be more welcoming of diverse perspectives, and provide greater access to their respective collections, programs, and knowledge bases.

The program is designed to fully engage in a two-day summit in Queens, New York, on August 3-4, where attendees will delve deeper into the origins and impact of hip-hop in fields as diverse as economics, politics, education, other musical genres, marketing/advertising, and social justice.

Given Queens’ major significance in hip-hop’s history and culture, QPL served as the catalyst for the multi-organizational collaboration. Hip-hop acts including Salt-N-Pepa, Run-D.M.C, A Tribe Called Quest, Nas, LL Cool J, 50 Cent, Mobb Deep, Ja Rule, and Nicki Minaj all got their start in this city’s borough.

“Hip-Hop has been used as a learning tool for many years,” QPL Hip-Hop Coordinator and legend Ralph McDaniels said. “We are humbled by the IMLS grant and the response we have received from our partners and collaborators and excited that communities around the country will come together to deepen their understanding of hip-hop as it turns 50.”

“Never in the history of libraries, museums and archives have over 30+ institutions come together to lead a charge of this magnitude. We are honored to support this extraordinary feat,” The Gates Preserve founder Syreeta Gates said.

For more information on the upcoming events and other details, be sure to visit the event’s website and sign up.


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