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Elephant Rebellion Hosting Social Justice and Hip-Hop Event in Wicker

By Emily Morris | May 19, 2014 6:37am | Updated on May 19, 2014 9:21am
2014 Uprise 4 RNB Cypher
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WICKER PARK — Youth art and activist group Elephant Rebellion hopes to amplify the voices of young adults and let them tell their own stories through an afternoon of performance art and street graffiti at Canvas later this month.

"Uprise" was created about five years ago by a series of activist organizations in part to "illustrate the importance of valuing the work and talents of young people," Elephant Rebellion spokeswoman Stephanie "Soultree" Camba, 23, said.

But the event skipped a year after John "Vietnam" Nguyen, a major force in the rap and activism community, drowned in August 2012.

Inspired by Nguyen, Elephant Rebellion formed that fall, and now, the group is hosting the first Uprise since the 19-year-old's death rocked the ones who knew him.

 "Uprise 4" includes performances, graffiti and breakdancing battles at Canvas, 2313 W. North Ave., 2-8 p.m. on May 31.
"Uprise 4" includes performances, graffiti and breakdancing battles at Canvas, 2313 W. North Ave., 2-8 p.m. on May 31.
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Uprise 4

"We're trying to do the most that we can with everything that’s happened and do justice to the work and legacy that he left behind," said Camba, who has become known in particular for her immigration activism.

For "Uprise 4," the group is holding "social justice and hip-hop"-based performances along with graffiti and breakdancing battles at Canvas, 2313 W. North Ave., on May 31.

There's also hip-hop and R&B "cypher" contests leading up to the event, in which rap or R&B performers 22 and younger can upload a video of them rapping or singing and be in the running to win a prize. Uprise is free to attend and includes light food and drinks as well as raffles.

"It’s truly open event for young people to come and bring their talent," Camba said.

The Uptown-based collective, made up mostly of college-aged members, stages performances throughout the city in addition to creating workshops and participating in rallies, particularly those that focus on immigration and youth incarceration.

And in a time when the narratives of Millennials are sometimes simplified and reduced to negative stereotypes, Camba said Elephant Rebellion is inviting community members of all ages and hoping kids will feel listened to, rather than talked at.

"[It's for] older generations to look at young people as leaders … and not just as a side act or as people who are going to carry the torch, but as people who are doing real work," Camba said.

Another goal of Uprise is to allow teens and twentysomethings to express themselves in a safe space and destigmatize forms of art that have taken on negative connotations, like graffiti.

As art programs disappear from schools, graffiti may be an obvious outlet for kids to communicate and keep art alive, Camba said.

"Graffiti has historically been a way for people to express themselves and to have uplifting and kind of relative language and visual art in the community," Camba said.

And in Chicago, where minority kids often see themselves in the news as victims or perpetrators of violence, Camba said she hopes Uprise will provide a way for them to voice their own narratives.

"This is a place where young people are being celebrated," Camba said.

Uprise 4 takes place from 2-8 p.m. on May 31 at Canvas, 2313 W. North Ave. The event is free to attend, though Elephant Rebellion is welcoming donations.

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