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!
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.
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.”