The rhythmic beats of looping breaks pound loudly through the small stereo speakers inside the Pros Arts’ studio workplace at Dvorak Park in Pilsen. It’s noon, the peak of the summer day heat, yet the four youth sitting around a table are seemingly unmoved by the warmth and humidity that permeates through the room.
Busily typing away at their laptops, they share links and promote the event they have so adamantly marketed through the summer.
They are the Promo Pros committee. A group of youth who have taken on the task of marketing and promoting the sixth annual We Are Hip Hop festival, a youth-led Pros Arts event that aims to positively showcase hip hop while simultaneously encourage anti-violence and community unity.
“These days hip hop is what you hear on the radio, it’s all about violence,” said committee member Elizabeth Del Valle, 17. “That’s not what it’s about. It’s about people from this neighborhood coming together, promoting peace and bringing the old idea of hip hop back.”
Led by Lizette Garza, 21, Del Valle, along with four other local youth (Eduardo Caballero, 16, Albino Franco, 17, Laura Najera, 17, Daniaja Davis, 16) meet four days a week to plan and strategize innovative ways to spread word of the festival.
“With this generation of youth, business professional skills are often lost, especially in the streets,” Garza said. “Providing them with the opportunity to learn these skills is essential in both their professional and personal lives.”
In the case of Franco, being a part of the Promo Pros committee has allowed him to promote himself as an artist both musically and artistically to better influence the community he grew up in.
“Pilsen is a big deal for me,” Franco said. “There’s a lot of violence around here, and to tell you the truth I want my community to stop having their mindset on violent tendencies. Hopefully, whatever they see [at the festival] will help them see that there are other, more positive ways of dealing with a situation.”
So far, the committee has secured over 1,200 attendees to the festival on Facebook, a number, according to Garza, that has far surpassed any of their expectations.
“It’s something we haven’t seen before,” Garza said. “It’s great to see the impact of social media and the manner in which the community is responding.”
The festival showcases live local artists, young poets, emcees, graffiti artists, b-boys/b-girls, and deejays, all gathered to promote the festival’s mission of spreading peace through hip hop.
“We’re all a community, we should all work together and try to stop this violence,” Franco said. “This nonsense has been going on in our community for so long, there has to be an end to it and that’s what we’re trying to do here.”