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Life is Living

Mitchell Center and artist-in-residence Marc Bamuthi Joseph showcase what sustains urban life

Marc Bamuthi Joseph

Marc Bamuthi Joseph is the creator and main contributor for the Life is Living series of eco-themed hip-hop festivals coming to Houston Nov. 6.

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A party in the park can spark a revolution.

Jams that rocked New York City blocks in the 1970s kicked off the hip-hop movement that transformed music, dance and visual street art.

In the 1980s and '90s, the Live Aid and Farm Aid day-long, outdoor concerts raised international consciousness about and millions of dollars for famine relief in Africa and economic relief to American farmers.

And now, Life Is Living, an eco-themed, hip-hop festival, seeks to nurture environmental awareness in urban neighborhoods across the country.

"Life Is Living is about what we do to live because when we value what we do, then we will value ways to improve our lives," says Marc Bamuthi Joseph, the festival's creator and main collaborator.

A playwright and slam poetry champion, Joseph produces the festivals as a living public art in city-center parks in partnership with local grassroots organizations and community stakeholders.

Life Is Living events have happened in Chicago; Harlem, N.Y. and Oakland, Calif., where Joseph lives and works.

This weekend, it's Houston's turn.

The free festival takes place 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday in historic Third Ward's Emancipation Park, at the corner of Dowling and Elgin streets. National Hip-hop artist Talib Kweli will perform.

That's followed on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with farm art and all-natural gardening at the Last Organic Outpost, 711 Emile St. in historic Fifth Ward.

UH's Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts named Joseph an artist-in-residence and facilitated his yearlong collaboration with more than 30 local arts, social services and community organizing groups to produce the weekend.

"We are thrilled to host Bamuthi for this residency, which shows us how the creative process can lead to real-world problem solving," says Mitchell Center Director Karen Farber. "Life Is Living is the University of Houston's chance to celebrate our own neighborhood, through the arts."

The Life Is Living festivals are the source material for red, black & GREEN: a blues, a new performance work Joseph is creating that will be presented at UH in Fall 2011.

"Black and brown people are living green and we have to show and celebrate how we do that," Joseph says.

"We have a long history of living beyond surviving. There's a long history of recycling and preservation. We have to pass down recipes, pass down clothes, pass down history."

—Shannon Buggs