It is not unusual to see a room full of Penn students dancing their Friday nights away. What is unusual is to see some of them doing this in protest of the death penalty. On Friday night, 150 students gathered at the Foundation in the Rotunda for a hip-hop concert which was intended to support the abolition of the death penalty. The show featured the performances of New York City-based groups The Reprazentativz, Rah Goddess and C. Raiz Wallz. The concert, sponsored by the Foundation, Amnesty International, UMOJA -- the umbrella group for African-American campus organizations -- the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, the Progressive Activist Network and Teaching Ourselves the Unique Culture of Hip-Hop, was designed not only for student entertainment but also to provide information about the death penalty and various issue surrounding the criminal justice system. Amnesty International handed out information about the death penalty and NCADP program coordinator Brian Henninger spoke about the how students can get involved in the fight to abolish the death penalty. In line with the goals of the Foundation, the concert attracted Penn students and community members alike. And while some audience members came out to support the cause, most of those present were simply drawn by the music rather than the political motivations of the event. "I wanted to see these groups anyways and they're not really known for their political stance," College junior Erick Espin said. "I just wanted to see what they are all about." The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, which held its national conference in Philadelphia this weekend, approached leaders from the Foundation earlier last month about bringing these artists to Penn. "The event really came to us pre-packaged by the NCADP," said College senior Andrew Zitcer, one of the Foundation's organizers. An initiative new to campus last spring, the Foundation offers artistic and cultural events, mostly musical, as a basis for discussion about social issues. According to Zitcer, a founding member of the group, the Foundation does not carry its own political beliefs. "Our purpose is based on the theory of arts as social change," Zitcer said. "The point is to bring together all of the city under the guise of arts and culture." Amnesty International thought the concert provided a good venue for distributing information about the death penalty. "Part of it is trying to celebrate and have a good time," said Amnesty International member Anne Roberts, a College freshman. "In that, we're trying to put forward some information about the death penalty." Although a donation of $3 was suggested for attendees, the Student Activities Council provided $1,500 in funding for the concert, mostly to help cover the expenses of bringing the artists in from New York. The musicians requested no payment, according to Roberts, "because of how much they believed in the cause." Though the musicians arrived over an hour past the 8 p.m. starting time, they were generally well-received by the audience. "The crowd really responded well to the music," Roberts said.
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They didn't quite show up in Jedi Knight attire, but students in Kings Court/English House felt the "force" of building community this weekend. Approximately 30 residents of the college house kicked off a weekend of programming Friday with a viewing of the original Star Wars movie in the Class of 1938 Lounge of KC/EH. While students did not show up in Star Wars costumes for the movie viewing, as the college house had planned, the turnout for several other activities this weekend was more successful. Students spent Saturday in West Philadelphia beautifying the neighborhood as a continuation of the efforts of KC/EH staff to create a cohesive group of residents. A barbeque Saturday night in the house's courtyard capped off a weekend of community building. Those who attended the events regarded them as generally successful in helping to create a unified residence in KC/EH. "These events are good because you get to meet the people you are living with," said Engineering sophomore Jin Kim, who attended Friday's movie viewing. "It keeps you occupied." According to KC/EH House Manager Kendrick Li, a College senior, the weekend programming was part of a campus-wide effort to create a community atmosphere in each college house. "The new aim is to make the college houses full-service places to live," he said. "They're not just a place to sleep but a place to bring academics and activities in." KC/EH House Dean Krimo Bokreta said the events were designed under the influence of Penn PM, a college house program designed to offer students alternative, non-alcoholic activities on weekend nights. "The idea is not to send people off campus all the time," Bokreta said. "This creates alternative opportunities so people know they have different places to go on the weekend." Bokreta considered this weekend's turnout a success, even though students who were planning to attend the movie night in Star Wars costumes failed to appear for the event. Community building in KC/EH is a year-long project and goal, according to Li, who noted that organizers are scheduling bimonthly movie nights and study breaks as part of the year's plans. Li, who has lived in KC/EH for the past three years, said the college house has always had a relatively community-oriented group of residents. "Our architecture is very conducive to building a community," he said. "Different floors really get to know each other, but these events help bring together the entire house." Over 400 students call KC/EH home, with several professors also residing in the dorm.