By MALIK NICKENS, IndyKids Intern

Hip-hop group Rebel Diaz is using their influence to bring the local community together and create powerful, positive change. PHOTO: Hossam el-HamalawyHip-hop group Rebel Diaz is using their influence to bring the local community together and create powerful, positive change. PHOTO: Hossam el-Hamalawy

Hip-hop has always been the voice of the oppressed. Emerging from the South Bronx, hip-hop has become a multimillion dollar enterprise. Hip-hop group Rebel Diaz is using that influence to bring the local community together and create powerful, positive change.

Based in the South Bronx, Rebel Diaz is fronted by brothers G1 (Gonzalo Venegas) and RodStarz (Rodrigo Venegas) and DJ Illanoiz (Julio Calderon). Since 2006, they have performed at social justice events nationally and internationally. In September, Rebel Diaz released the video for “I’m an Alien,” from their debut album Radical Dilemma. The song inspires the listener to think about the people they call aliens and the lives they live, or to “take a walk for a mile in the shoes of the man that picks your fruit,” as coined by G1.

In 2008, with help of the South Bronx community, the group opened the Rebel Diaz Arts Collective, or RDACBX, a community arts center and multimedia space that provided resources and tools for teachers, activists, artists and musicians to expand and grow together.

“Hip-hop started in the Bronx, but the Bronx had no hip-hop community center,” said RodStarz. “We wanted to give young people a space to learn and perform.”

In 2013, Rebel Diaz lost the space in a dispute with the landlord. The landlord cited unpaid rent, graffiti and complaints from neighbors as the reason for a $1,000 rent increase. When RDACBX challenged the increase, they received an eviction order. Law enforcement was sent in to force Rebel Diaz and RDACBX members from their home. Rebel Diaz and RDACBX members felt that they were being discriminated against because of their political activism and fought the eviction.

Despite the eviction, the RDACBX continues to stay strong and hold their programs in different community spaces with the help of Bronx-based community organizations.