Kathleen Adams is the co-founder of Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen: The Soup Kitchen for the Hip Hop Soul (MHHK), a multifaceted hip hop event designed to showcase women artists, especially women of color. MHHK serves as a social justice community-organizing platform that educates and empowers women of color on issues that impact their lives, including HIV/AIDS and reproductive justice.
Kathleen double majored in women’s studies and urban studies with a concentration in architecture and a minor in environmental policy from Fordham University. In May 2012, Kathleen graduated with her Master’s in Urban Studies from Fordham University.
Professionally, Kathleen wears many hats. She is a consultant at Virtcom Consulting, a diversity and business strategy boutique consulting firm and also is the Marketing & Partnership Manager at Fusicology, an urban art, events, and marketing company.
Kathleen is on the board of the non-profit, Faith Aloud. Faith Aloud’s mission is to eliminate the religious stigma of abortion. Additionally, Kathleen serves on the board of the non-profit, Hollaback! which works to end street harassment using mobile technology.
Q&A With Kathleen Adams
BS: How did you come up with the concept of “Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen”? Where did your passion for education and community outreach initiate?
Kathleen Adams: Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen came about due to the love that my business partner (Lah Tere) and I have for hip-hop and women’s issues. I love going to concerts and shows and I felt like women were always singing the hook for songs or were background singers. I wanted to create a platform for women to perform and take center stage. I also wanted this environment to be a place where we could shine a light on HIV/AIDS and reproductive justice issues. We call it “Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen” because women congregate in the kitchen to talk about different issues in their lives. We’ve created a metaphorical “kitchen” with our event!
My passion for education and community outreach came through my desire to give back to the community. I feel that I am a very fortunate individual, and I enjoy being involved and giving back to the community that has given me so much.
BS: Why did you select Hip-Hop specifically as the tool to address and build awareness about education?
Kathleen Adams: I selected hip-hop as a tool to address and build awareness around education because hip-hop in its nature is a form of education. Hip-hop was started in the South Bronx and people used it to communicate the horror stories of the conditions in the South Bronx. I also selected hip-hop as a tool because hip-hop is a part of popular culture, and the best way to connect with people, is to connect with them on their level. With the communities that we work in, hip-hop is a part of their daily lives!
BS: What is the goal of MHHK? What programs/events do you host or have you hosted to accomplish the goals of the organization?
Kathleen Adams: The goal of Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen is showcase women artists, especially women of color artists in the world of hip-hop. We strive to empower women to take control of their lives and be knowledgeable around issues concerning HIV/AIDS and reproductive justice. We are very proud to be celebrating our 6th anniversary of our annual event. In addition, we also have conducted extensive college tours including the University of Delaware, Columbia University/Barnard College, and Edinboro University of Pennsylvania among others.
BS: Tell me about your proudest achievement.
Kathleen Adams: My proudest achievement has been getting my Master’s in Urban Studies at such a young age. I was the youngest person in my family to have a master’s degree. It was really hard, but I got it done! While completing my master’s, I was working, volunteering, studying, and running Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen, among the other things I do in my life. It was a lot of juggle, but I got it done! In my family, we have a saying ‘TCB’ which means “Take Care of Business”. I feel like I ‘TCB’d and made my family proud, especially due to my family roots. My grandfather has a master’s degree, but while he was younger and working, he was unable to put his education to use due to segregation, etc… I feel like the tables have turned and I am actually able to put my education to use!
BS: What was one of the most difficult periods in your life, and how did you deal with it?
Kathleen Adams: I had a really hard time my sophomore year of college. I was going through a time of exploration and change, and it was really hard dealing with that while being in a college environment. I surrounded myself with good people and learned how to channel my energy and follow my passions. That year was one of the hardest years of my life, but looking back now, I am a much stronger person and learned so much from that year of turmoil.
BS: Who has impacted or inspired you the most in your career and how? Did you have any mentors?
Kathleen Adams: My professor in college, Dr. Mark Naison from Fordham University has inspired me so much. Without him, I don’t think I would be where I am at today. When I was an undergraduate student at Fordham, I thought for a while I wouldn’t make it at Fordham, but Dr. Naison helped steer me on the correct path and helped me channel my energies in a positive manner. Dr. Naison always is a music aficionado and knows a ton about hip-hop and funk music. I too love hip-hop and funk and this really helped connect the two of us. He helped me with my career because he has always challenged me to push harder and never take no for an answer. I have used his guidance in my career and I am so happy to call him my friend, mentor, and professor!
BS: How has Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen impacted people’s lives? Where do you see “Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen” in 5 years?
Kathleen Adams: We’ve seen young girls grow up and mature through the relationships they build through Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen. For example, we have an amazing 15-year-old poet, Nene Ali who has been with us since year one. Her voice and story is so mature, and she has only grown and gotten better each year with Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen. Nene Ali performs nationally, but she says that she waits anxiously for Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen every year because she loves the sisterhood that is created at our event. Another great story is about the Xclusive Step Team. They say their step team anniversary always falls on our annual Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen event because our event brought them together and made them a cohesive team. Another favorite story of mine is that of a young girl who came up to me after one of our events. The girl was about 7 or 8 years old and she said that she wants to be an MC because of our event and that she feels she has the confidence to rock the stage due to all of the inspiring women at our event. Before our event she never thought women could command the stage and demand attention solely through their artistry, but now she believes its possible. Stories like this solidify why our event is so important, and why I love what I do!
Within the next 5 years, I want to take Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen on the road more. I also want to do smaller events throughout the year. I would love to write a Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen book. Maybe even a cookbook. Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen will just continue to get better and grow even more!
BS: What was one of the most difficult decisions that you’ve made regarding your organization, MHHK?
Kathleen Adams: The most difficult decision regarding MHHK has been to be very cautious with who we accept money from for sponsorships and donors. We want to uphold the integrity of the women we work with the community we represent. It could be easy for us to seek out sponsorship money from many different companies and organizations, however, we only want and accept sponsorship from organizations/companies that respect women and put women in a positive light. This has been difficult because very few companies exist, that meet our criteria and that have the funds to support us! It has been very challenging for us.
BS: Why was this organization designed to showcase women artists, especially women of color?
Kathleen Adams: Our focus is on women artists, especially women of color due to the fact that very few all female safe spaces for women to perform exist. We wanted to fill this void, and that is why we focus on empowering women to create art and show the world that they can be talented and attract crowds without having to take their clothes off.
BS: What is one of the most important lessons you have learned throughout your career? How would you describe success?
Kathleen Adams: The best lesson I’ve learned throughout my career is to never let someone steal your shine. I’ve been told over and over “there’s no way Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen can make it”. I’ve never let other people’s comments get in the way of my goals and dreams. The fact that we are in our 6th year with Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen proves that Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen is needed, and will be around for a long time. This also proves that Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen is successful. We’ve had over 500 artists apply for our events over the past 6 years and thousands of people attend our event. In my book, you can’t get more successful than this! We are still at the beginning and will keep continuing to grow. Watch out! There’s much more to come!