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Hip Hop History

Underground Railroad is Subject of Hip Hop Theatre Piece at UC Riverside Jan. 15

Rickerby Hinds’ “Straight from tha Underground” will help mark Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday

(January 5, 2006)

Professor Rickerby Hinds in the Arts building, photo by Peter PhunEnlarge

Professor Rickerby Hinds in the Arts building, photo by Peter Phun

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( -- The University of California, Riverside will honor the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. with a historical hip-hop theater production called “Straight From Tha Underground,” at 7 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 15, in University Theatre.

Author and director Rickerby Hinds, an assistant professor of theatre at UCR, said the play combines a hip-hop sensibility with the story of the Underground Railroad. The production is sponsored by UCR’s African Student Programs.

“I am extremely excited about this production,” said Hinds, who earned his undergraduate degree at UCR and then returned as a professor. “This performance in the University Theatre, in a way, brings me full circle because this is the site of my very first play, “The First Day of The Rest of Your Life,” back in 1987 while a student here at UCR."

This is the first time that a full version of “Straight from tha Underground” has been performed on campus. The play includes eight actors and six singers. It has been performed in several venues across the country including Memphis, TN, Cincinnati, OH; Loma Linda, Riverside and San Bernardino.

The story follows B-Boy, a hip hop fan from Compton, who falls back in time through a hole made during the construction of a commuter train and finds himself on the underground railroad running for his life. The five former slaves he meets learn many things from B-Boy including reading and writing and the fact that "Folks get paid to play sports" where he comes from. He learns from them the most valuable lesson of all, price and value of freedom.

Tickets cost $12 for general admission and $8 for students. Children 12 and under will be admitted free. Parking on campus costs $5. The event follows a candlelight vigil around the bell tower in honor of Dr. King’s birthday, scheduled for 6:30 p.m.

Rickerby Hinds is an accomplished playwright whose works have been developed and performed by the Mark Taper Forum, The Royal Court Theatre, ASK Theater Projects, The Bay Area Playwrights Festival, Imua! Theater, and Arena Stage. As a leader in the Hip-Hop Theater movement, his works explore issues surrounding race, gender, and culture and their function in a multi-cultural, interconnected world. His plays and screenplays include: Keep Hedz Ringin’, Birthmark, Blackballin’, One Size Fits All, and Straight From Tha Underground. Hinds is also a screenwriter and was commissioned by Showtime Network to adapt his play Birthmark into a screenplay in 1999. Born in Honduras, he grew up in South Central Los Angeles and received his bachelor’s degree from UC Riverside and his MFA from UCLA.

“Straight From Tha Underground,” was named a "Network To Freedom Site" by the National Parks Service in 2005. There is also a CD soundtrack of the play, featuring the award winning choir “Another Peace.”

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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