A boisterous World Regions crowd welcomed Ugandan street dancer and philanthropist Abraham "Abramz" Tekya to Burruss Auditorium Tuesday night for a presentation on tragedy and triumph in his war-torn African home.
The main event of the evening was a screening of the award-winning, Red Bull-sponsored documentary “Bouncing Cats,” which profiled Breakdance Project Uganda. BPU is an organization that was formed in 2006 to empower disadvantaged youth in Uganda through hip-hop.
Tekya sat down with the Collegiate Times to discuss the project, his aspirations and the global appeal of hip-hop culture.
How do you think people are responding to the film and to BPU?
We’ve got a lot of positive feedback from people who’ve seen the film and also people who’ve seen our work. We’ve been able to impact people who we’ve never met because they get to see the work before they even get to see us. We get emails from people from all over saying, “Hey, I watched the film, I was inspired, I’d like to get involved, I’d like to support it, I’d like to invite you here.”
Do you think the publicity and awareness the film has generated has helped your efforts back in Uganda? If so, how?
Yeah, it has definitely helped because we have new partners, as well as international partners, who saw the film. Some have just seen the trailer, but they get attached and say, “Wow this is really good. I watched the trailer. I read about the film, read about BPU and I’d love to see how we can work together.”
We’ve also been invited to places like Austria and Italy where we’ve been able to connect with people, but it was through watching the trailer for “Bouncing Cats” that they were inspired to read more about the organization.
Also in Uganda as well because there’s a lot of people who know about it, but there are some people who happened to get more respect for the project after seeing something like this happening.
The film really seemed to strike a chord with the younger audience through the use of hip-hop. Is part of your intention with this to appeal to the youth, to educate them — not just youth in Uganda but around the world — about what’s going on in Africa?
Definitely, because it is our aim to use hip-hop to educate young people all over the world. Before “Bouncing Cats” was done, we used to post little bulletins on Myspace and Facebook. We used to have discussions with people around the world, people from different colleges and universities. They used to email us asking us about the breakdance program and how we do our work — and that was way before "Bouncing Cats" came out.
When "Bouncing Cats" was done, it just made a lot of things easier, you know? It’s just hard to give someone a proper understanding of our neighborhood and the work and everything we go through, through a YouTube video. But through something like this … it’s crossed many boundaries.
Someone from India can be hip-hop, an Italian can be hip-hop, an African can be hip-hop, or an American, or a Catholic, or a Muslim. It’s a type of culture that doesn’t take you away from who you are. Everyone can learn through it, and everyone can embrace it, and everyone can make it their own.
What is it about hip-hop that you think gives it such universal appeal?