Related Articles: Literary, All

The Liberated Zone

The word is the cultural weapon of choice for the organizers of The Liberated Zone, a brand spankin' new hiphop open mic and freestyle which started up at The Jahva House this month.

The popular coffeehouse is crowded with youthful faces that don't seem to mind that it's taking awhile for the program to begin. Folks are just hanging out and the atmosphere is very congenial -- some playing chess and others lounging on couches that are strategically placed around the stage area.

Eventually, guest host Malik Cooper, a 26-year-old rapper who owns his own clothing company, starts up the freestyle, calling up a host of rappers whose names reflect their socially conscious lyrics. Each MC is warmly received by the crowd, which chants and cheers when the MC drops words to their liking and even dancing to different beats that the DJ upstairs throws down for the MCs. When the first female MC of the night gets up on stage, Cooper rallies the crowd behind her.

There are only two rules for the open mic -- no disrespecting of anybody and no battling crews. When one of the MCs breaks out lyrics that the host finds the women in the room might find offensive, Cooper intervenes with a gentle reminder.

"You can rep the hood, just don't down other people," says Cooper.

The Liberated Zone was started because organizers Suemyra Shah and Troy Nkrumah saw a need for a space in Oakland for young people to have an outlet for hiphop expression.

Troy Nkrumah, a law teacher at Oakland's School for Social Justice, wants The Liberated Zone to be a place where his students can come and take part in. hroughout the night, Nkrumah is busy chatting it up with students who have come out to listen to MCs like Ise Lyfe,who storms the mic while criticizing the commercial hiphop station, KMEL.

Shah also has both organizing experience with Power Movement (People Organizing With Each Other for Revolution) as well as event production for such Bay area artists as Michael Franti and Spearhead.

The hope for The Liberated Zone is to keep the social justice and political vibes and make the spot into a launching point for projects for participants such as albums and tours. If Monday night is any indication of the power of political hiphop, we're in for a whole lot of world-changing.

The Liberated Zone
The Jahva House
3306 Lakshore Avenue, Oakland,510.282.4485
Every 1st & 3rd Mondays, signup at 7-7:30pm, 7-10pm
All ages, Free