America’s first large scale global hip-hop festival wrapped up yesterday at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. The Trinity International Hip-Hop Festival brought together performers and participants from numerous countries around the world, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, France, Haiti, India, Israel, Iraq, Kenya, Korea, Mexico, Nigeria, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Tanzania, Sierra Leone, Senegal, and Uganda.

The weekend event (April 21-23) was free to the public, and included panels, workshops, film screenings, photography exhibits, guest speakers, and concerts. More than 500 people attended. There were presentations on a wide range of current issues in global hip-hop, including Israeli/Palestinian hip-hop, gay and lesbian hip-hop, African hip-hop, and graffiti in the age of terrorism. A candlelight vigil was held to acknowledge the conflict in Darfur, Sudan.

Festival organizer Magee McIlvaine (a.k.a. DJ Magee)—a senior at Trinity in International Studies—says the event was conceived as a way of building community within the city of Hartford. “Connecticut is one of the richest states in the country and Hartford is one of the poorest cities in America,” Magee explains, on the line from the festival. “The city is a microcosm for the economic disparities in the U.S. as a whole.”

“Hartford is a very international city. We wanted to create an event that everyone could relate to, regardless of what country they came from or what language they spoke. The whole point was for it to be free and open to the public and a family event—so that no matter where you where from, everyone could get down together.”

“Outside of the U.S. hip-hop is a lot more political,” he notes. “In a lot of cases, the mainstream artists are also activists.”

“Musically, international hip-hop takes U.S. hip-hop and adapts it to different cultures, languages, traditions, musical instruments and styles,” he adds. “I studied abroad in Senegal, and that’s where I saw how hip-hop could maintain cultural traditions in an urban context.”

Highlights of the weekend included a panel on women’s role in hip-hop, which was headed up by hip-hop ambassador Toni Blackman. “That was the flagship event of the festival and I think that’s an important statement,” Magee explains. “Female involvement in hip-hop is not something you can ignore, and often one does. When Toni Blackman steps to the mike, you can’t ignore that.”

Mexican rapper Bocafloja traveled to the festival from Mexico City to perform. “The festival was important because it was an opportunity to exchange experiences with other international artists,” he says, via email. “It showed that even when we don’t speak the same language we can communicate through rhymes, beats, flows or energy. We are oppressed by the same system in different parts of the world, so our local experiences help a lot for a global strategy looking for social and political change.”

Nomadic Wax and Calabash Music have released a mixtape in conjunction with the event, Nomadic Mixtape Vol.1: International Hip-Hop. The tape includes 14 tracks from artists from around the globe and can be purchased online.