After bad weather crashed the party last year, “Break for Justice” returns this weekend to Maria Hernandez Park for its seventh year.

An annual arts event put out by the nonprofit group El Puente, Break for Justice is all about promoting health, fitness and peace through break dancing and draws from early hip hop culture in ‘70s Bronx. It recalls an era when DJs would throw family-friendly parties in parks, complete with dancing, rap battles and breaking battles.

El Puente says they aim to bring that sense of safety, community and artistic expression to Bushwick.

“We put on this event every year as a way to showcase that the breaking culture is still alive and thriving in Bushwick,” said Luis Munive, director of El Puente’s Bushwick center. “It started off as a smaller-scaled event and grew as the years went on. We first had a group of about 12 competitors and now we’re getting twice that in the two different dance categories that we offer. The community loves it.”

Break for Justice is a free, public event open to anyone who walks by the park, though the group encourages people to sign up as dancers prior, and there will also be an option to register during the first hour.

There will be two categories and cash grand prizes awarded to the best in each: $300 for breaking and $250 for “all styles.” This year’s judges include Kid Glyde, Cheenoh, Eli.Elite, Lea, Banu and Nubian Néné.

Munive says that the history of breaking battles is rooted in finding alternatives to settling “beef,” or disputes, and says the event celebrates the spirit of exchange that is so prevalent in hip hop culture, and which is critical to the sustenance of peace.

“We also started letting folks know that we’re looking for collaborators in the neighborhood who want to give back to the community,” said Munive. “We’re always there to provide resources to distribute, and we know our changing landscape of Bushwick. On top of the break dancing competition, we want people to know that we’re still trying to support the families in our community however we can. It’s a way to bring us all together.”

Nacier Rodriguez, a Bushwick native and the main organizer of this year’s Break for Justice’ event, is a b-boy himself and has been involved with El Puente his entire life.

“This event is so important to me because it’s motivating to see little kids who have never seen breaking, interested in doing the art form because of the event,” says Rodriguez. “That’s always something that I look forward to doing because it is not only motivating the youth, but it’s promoting activities that are in their local area that they didn’t know about before, and potentially having them come to the program and learn it themselves.”

Rodriguez views organizing Break for Justice as a learning experience to get to know his neighbors as well as hear feedback from those who participate in the event year after year.

Break for Justice takes place this Saturday, August 5th from 2-7 p.m. at Maria Hernandez Park.

Top image credit: Jorge R.

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