La Pena Embracing More Hip-Hop



Susie Lundy
  • Leo Docuyanan
  • Susie Lundy
La Pena Cultural Center in Berkeley has always held hip-hop events, but thanks to its relatively new development director, Susie Lundy, the community center plans to refocus its efforts on drawing in the hip-hop community — in all its various forms. Lundy, a 34-year-old arts educator, dancer, painter, and muralist who grew up in Fremont, says she’s been working on booking and commissioning more hip-hop-oriented artists — from emcees to filmmakers, skaters, and chefs. “It’s wanting to open up the space and make it accessible to folks,” Lundy said. “Because I’m really a B-girl myself, I really understand that hip-hop isn’t really contained. It really is hybrid.”

Some upcoming scheduled events include a local hip-hop film festival in June and a skater-themed series of films hosted by K-Dub in May. Next week, on Wednesday, February 10, Blitz the Ambassador will perform live hip-hop fused with elements of jazz and reggae. On Sunday, February 21, vegan soul food author Bryant Terry and choreographer Amara Tabor Smith will curate an evening of performance and food. It’s the first installment of three of La Pena’s Food Justice Series (2/21, 3/14, and 4/25).

Convincing other staff members that La Pena — which celebrates its 35th year this year — should focus on hip-hop wasn’t so much of an issue for Lundy. Indeed, the venue is one of the few local places that hosts all-ages hip-hop shows, and has helped incubate local talent to regional and national recognition. Since Lundy came on board in June, La Pena has increased the amount of hip-hop shows it books. Yet getting neighbors on board has been another challenge. “In the past there may have been complaints from the neighbors because of noise or people hanging out in the streets,” said Lundy. “But we’re trying to do outreach” and educate neighbors on “understanding the culture.” As part of that effort, Lundy booked an all-female hip-hop show for March 13. “It stands in the face of what a lot of times older people think about hip-hop — being misogynistic or just wild.” Conscious Daughters, Pam the Funkstress, and Lundy’s own crew will be among the performers.

Lundy hopes more young people will see La Pena as a place to call their own. “I encourage people to really take ownership of the space by contacting us about their ideas,” she said. “We’re trying to cultivate open communication and part of our mission is really being a community center that is accessible to everyone.” If you’d like to submit ideas for programming or want to perform, e-mail her at