Adidas Track Suits and Hoop Earings

B-girls make focused breaking a connective experience. photo: Mariah Taylor • CU Denver Sentry


The theme of the seventh annual Queens of Hip-Hop event was that of a palpable pride in precision. Two-piece silk Adidas track suits were paired methodically with matching caps and hoop earrings, and carefully constructed dance moves were executed with the the perfect amount of immodesty from competitors.

Walking into the event was walking into a college gymnasium smelling of fresh floor lacquer with B-girls shoulderto- shoulder, packed around a circle in the middle of the floor. Three female DJs spun, with complete focus, the beats that dominated the room, and mesmeric break dancers took turns in the middle of the circle, artfully showcasing the skills they worked years to cultivate. It’s difficult to recall a setting with such energy as this.

Queens of Hip-Hop was started seven years ago by self-proclaimed Bgirl Cindy Cervantes. “It was created from a group of students at the Auraria Campus who were a part of a student organization called Hip-Hop Congress,” Cervantes said. “HHC was the quintessential example of hip-hop culture. It was an influential organization that consistently provided positive events such as break competitions on campus and free workshops in the community. It even helped register over 2,000 students in the 2012 presidential election.”

B-girls make focused breaking a connective experience. photo: Mariah Taylor • CU Denver Sentry
B-girls make focused breaking a connective experience.
photo: Mariah Taylor • CU Denver Sentry

In 2009, the ladies of HHC looked to expand their work to better represent the women of the hip-hop community. “A member, Justine Sandoval, suggested HHC to do something for Women’s History Month that March,” Cervantes said. “So I thought, why don’t we do an event that revolves around the women in our hiphop community in Denver? We can highlight women who are skilled in either of the four elements of hip-hop: DJ, graffiti, emcee, and breaking (aka breakdance).”

In the packed gymnasium at University of Denver that housed the event, the feeling of its connective roots was still clear seven years later. Breaking battles were done with diligence and focus, but never with competitive anger. Every battle was ended with smiles and friendly embraces of complete respect.

The event gives back to more than just the women’s hip-hop community, though. “Four years ago, we started collecting donations for Street’s Hope, a Denver nonprofit organization that helps women recover from human trafficking, as a suggested cover fee for the event,” Cervantes said. “We are partnering with more people and organizations in the community such as the Peace Jam, Warm Cookies of the Revolution, Sisters of Color United for Education, and many more. A recent addition to this year’s event is that Sisters of Color will be offering HIV testing to QHH participants and the public at no cost.”

Competitors from Miami, Mexico, Canada, and Japan made the long journey for the sense of cultural solidarity that are rare for B-girls to come by. Finding this solidarity, however, is what Cervantes finds so powerful in what she does.

“I feel that women, including myself, stay tough in a male-dominated industry by supporting other women in the culture, which in turn creates a good support system for when you and your skills are dismissed, solely because you’re a woman,” Cervantes said. “It’s those subtle acts of sexism that can discourage any woman. But with the support of other women experiencing the same thing, these women can be inspired to continue their personal journey in this type of culture.”

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