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Landmark the AMP! Protect L.E.S. hip hop

BY KEVIN HARRIS | We demand that a plaque be affixed to the East River amphitheater — “the AMP” — to celebrate and honor all of the legendary artists that performed at the epic “Wild Style” event.

Preserving this important generational artistic space acknowledges not only the Lower East Side’s contribution to the five elements of hip hop and epic staging of the “Wild Style” concert in 1983, but also the amphitheater’s prominent standing as an international landmark that marks a significant multinational and multicultural culture, lifestyle and movement generated straight from here, home!

Brothers Kevin, left, and Troy Harris produced a two-part documentary on the history of hip hop music on the Lower East Side. (Photo by Clayton Patterson)

In the same breath, the economic value of artistic intellectual property that produced this legendary musical tradition — which is on par with classical, jazz and bluegrass music — has generated and established a consistent international income stream in the billions. So to attempt to destroy a landmark so important to the fabric of the Lower East Side, the Bronx, New York City and the world is stunningly insensitive, arrogant and, under the surface, outwardly racist. It’s racist since this travesty is being done because of the neighborhood where the amphitheater rests and particularly to the people of color who shaped it, utilized it and call it home.

I’m putting all of this on proverbial “wax” to landmark, save and preserve the beloved East River amphitheater for future generations to come. Currently, the only organizations standing shoulder to shoulder to represent the L.E.S. on this effort to prevent significant emotional and environmental changes to the landscape of East River Park are East River Park ACTION, Village Preservation (Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation), Clayton Patterson Outlaw Gallery, L.E.S. the 6th Boro Clothing and L.E.S. in the Backpack Media.

Dancers rehearsed a few weeks ago at the East River Park amphitheater as local activists gathered in the seats to strategize on how to save the park from being demolished for the East Side Coastal Resiliency project. The amphitheater had become rundown but was rebuilt after the 9/11 attack when groups were pitching in to help Lower Manhattan’s recovery effort. (Photo by The Village Sun)

This is “all hands on deck”! We have lost many things on the Lower East Side. The East River amphitheater must not be sacrificed for a better river view that will satisfy a future inflated apartment lease announcement.

This call to action is in recognition of the great L.E.S. developer / innovator Lillian Wald, who started alternative theater on the L.E.S., and Joseph Papp, founder of Shakespeare in the Park, whose first production, “Julius Caesar,” was performed at the amphitheater.

More importantly, this is a call to action to protect and preserve our culture! L.E.S. hip hop culture! One of the foundations of all hip hop! A culture braided to “Wild Style,” the quintessential film of hip hop’s “golden era,” by director Charles Ahearn. The film is based on legendary L.E.S. artist Lee Quinones, and depicts when the “boys from the Bronx and Harlem” came Downtown to “jam” on the grounds of the Lower East Side.

We demand that the amphitheater — this native, internationally acclaimed structure — be preserved and enhanced by erecting a “Home of Wild Style” metal banner over and above the structure, including a plaque placed on the structure honoring Lee Quinones, Nate Ingram and other artists that performed at the epic “Wild Style” event.

Again, it’s all or nothing. Hip hop needs the L.E.S. to stand up!

Please, everyone — petition and vote and support saving the amphitheater and installing a commemorative plaque.

Crown the “holy ground” of “Wild Style.” Save L.E.S. hip hop culture.

Harris grew up in the Lower East Side’s Bernard Baruch Houses. He’s a public-health program coordinator and H.I.V./AIDS test counselor. With his brother Troy, he produced a two-part documentary film, “No Place Like Home: The History of Hip Hop in the Lower East Side.”

11 Comments

  1. John Cohen John Cohen September 27, 2020

    Yes we need this to happen long overdue salute

    • Kevin Harris Kevin Harris September 28, 2020

      Salute King! Yes, thanks for the support and appreciate you!

  2. Jose Quiles Jose Quiles September 27, 2020

    Great article Kevin Harris, I support this movement all the way the world needs to know about the Lower East Side’s involvement in Hip Hop history.

    • mamaduke22 mamaduke22 September 27, 2020

      Congrats Kev n the disco boy…Going way back on you..Thank both of you for starting a movement to preserve our culture of hip hop and how influential the lower east side is and the many and i do repeat many contributions to hip hop this Boro has either brought to the game or kept it preserved to be reintroduced to those who really dont know bout the L.E.S..I SALUTE YOU 2 KINGS..

      • kevin harris kevin harris September 28, 2020

        Salute Fam! THANK YOU for your greatness!
        Thanks for the support!

    • Kevin Harris Kevin Harris October 1, 2020

      Appreciate you King! LES has a strong hip hip history never talked about but that’s going to change!

  3. Lawrence Henderson Lawrence Henderson September 30, 2020

    Thank you Harris Bros – your work is greatly needed and appreciated!

    • Kevin Harris Kevin Harris September 30, 2020

      Thank You King for your support!

    • Kevin Harris Kevin Harris October 1, 2020

      Thank you so much!

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