Founder, Director and Curator
Martha Diaz is an award winning community organizer, social entrepreneur, media producer, archivist, curator, mentor, and educator, who for twenty-five years has traversed between the hip-hop entertainment industry, public arts sector and academia. She has worked in Hollywood and independent movie productions, producing short films, TV shows, documentaries, music videos, and PSA’s. As an educator, she taught middle and high school students in Harlem and the Bronx, and for four years was a part-time professor at New York University’s Gallatin School. Diaz founded, produced and curated the Hip-Hop Odyssey International Film Festival and Hip-Hop Education Summit, and has been the director of the community building organization Hip-Hop Association since 2004. In 2010, Diaz formed the Hip-Hop Education Center to cultivate and formalize the field of hip-hop-based education. She has published research papers on hip-hop education and is co-editor of the Hip-Hop Education Guidebook, Vol. I ( 2007) and Rebel Music: Resistance Through Hip Hop and Punk (2015). Among her fellowships and residencies, Diaz served as Curator in NJ Performing Arts Center’s Alternate Routes Program, Fellow at NYU Reynolds Program for Social Entrepreneurship, Fellow at the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation – National Museum of American History, Curator/Scholar at The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and Community Scholar at Columbia University. She has been a guest curator at the Museum of the Moving Image and The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, and is an advisory board member of the Cornell Hip-Hop Collection and Hip-Hop Hall of Fame. Her archival projects include: Ralph McDaniels (Video Music Box), James Top (Graffiti TV,) and Parkwood Entertainment (Beyoncé Knowles-Carter). Diaz was the associate producer of the Nas: Time Is Illmatic documentary, and is currently working on the Untitled, Tupac Shakur documentary with Steve McQueen. Diaz recently completed an appointment as a Hiphop Archive Research Institute and Nasir Jones Fellow at Harvard University, and will be a Research Fellow at Harvard’s Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History in spring 2018.
Associate Director and Co-Curator
Sommer is a music industry veteran, information technology professional, and active organizer of projects that bring artists, DJs, techies, and scholars together to preserve hip-hop history and promote hip-hop education. She founded the The Mixtape Museum (MXM): an archive project dedicated to advancing public understanding and appreciation of the art, history, and technique of the mixtape. MXM explores how mixtapes changed the landscape of music, encourages protection of DJ-produced mixtapes in danger of deterioration, and seeks to achieve systematic preservation in the DJ community. She has over 15 years of experience in the music industry, most notably as a manager to Virginia hip-hop duo Clipse and continues to consult musicians, DJs, and brands. In 2007, she joined the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) where she is the Database Manager & Digital Media Associate. She is a Charter Member of the William & Mary Hip-Hop Collection and is a member of hip-hop theater company Rhymes Over Beats. She sits on the Board of Directors of Minds Behind the Music and on the Hip-Hop Hall of Fame’s Artifacts, Exhibits, and Preservation Committee. In April 2016, Sommer organized the first Hip-Hop Hacks, a hackathon for students to explore technology’s role in hip-hop and how the most popular genre in the world inspires technological innovation. She will begin her tenure as a Columbia University Community Scholar in September 2016.
Marketing and Brand Development Manager
Accompanying nearly a decade of design experience, Melina has worked with some of the most innovative entrepreneurs, startups and high-profile brands, such as Method, Sephora.com and Reading Rainbow. She has been given the autonomy to cultivate thoughtful and meaningful design solutions that span everything from brand identity to product design. The challenges that accompany user behavior and visual communication continue to inspire her, while the creative process forces honesty, which is at the heart of her sensibilities as a designer. Her secondary background in lyricism makes her a distinctive and unique player in the field, giving her the agility to attack design solutions from a multitude of different angles.
Allegra is a performer, community organizer and Hip Hop enthusiast with over five years of professional experience at both funded start-ups and non-profit organizations. With an undergraduate degree in Vocal performance from Bard College, Gilfenbaum combined her music studies with a focus in Human Rights to leverage music as a lens through which to explore culture, history and her community. In 2010, under the guidance of lead West African Music historian John Collins, she produced a thesis entitled “Fela Lives”; in which she explored how American Hip Hop music impacts urban West African youth. In 2013 she entered the eCommerce sector as a community experience manager; helping to develop Flint and Tinder– the most successful crowd-funded fashion company in the history of Kickstarter. She has consulted in the early stages of development for several other start-ups, including Appliq nail wraps, and KASA shoes. She continues her ambitions as a professional vocalist with a recent performance of the National Anthem for the Brooklyn Nets; Barclays Center, Brooklyn, and a forthcoming EP to be released in the Fall of 2016.