March 2024 Hip Hop Arts Residency: Kenji Summers

The University of Wisconsin-Madison Office of Multicultural Arts Initiatives (OMAI) welcomes contemplative artist, certified mindfulness instructor and attention activist, Kenji Summers on Friday, February 23 through Saturday, March 2, 2024 for a series of engagements, panels, workshops and performances on and off campus in partnership with the Division of the Arts, UW Dance Department, Center for Healthy Minds, University Recreation and Wellbeing, and Walden.

Following OMAI’s 2022-23 partnership with the Division of the Arts’ Interdisciplinary Artist Residency Program (IARP), the Division of Diversity, Equity and Educational Achievement (DDEEA) has continued support for a new initiative in celebration of Hip Hop’s 50th anniversary: the Hip Hop Arts Residency Program (HHARP)

HHARP will take place five (5) times per academic year, over the course of 4-10 days. Each residency will feature a professional artist whose work represents hip-hop and/or urban art culture, with notable accomplishments in their field nationally and internationally. All residencies center Hip Hop and urban arts through academic, campus, and community engagement, providing spaces for interdisciplinary and intergenerational interactions. The residencies will coincide with OMAI’s existing initiatives, such as Just Bust! Open Mic Series, Passing the Mic Intergenerational Hip Hop Theater Festival, Line Breaks Hip Hop Theater Festival, and others. This strategic scheduling will deepen the impact of OMAI’s visiting artists beyond the First Wave Program, offering high-impact engagement with campus and local partners.

In reflecting on the goals and purpose of his Hip Hop Arts Residency at UW-Madison, Summers shares: “When my father passed in 2022, I coped by overworking, following his example after his own father’s death… Through multimedia exploration, my residency aims to provide insight into the complex relationship between work, family, and meditation in modern Black life using the wisdom tradition of Hip-Hop. Inspired by the sudden loss of my workaholic father, I will facilitate raw reflections on how overwork and grind culture distort our humanity, alongside collaborators representing Hip-Hop culture. Through live performances, workshops, and discussions, we will remix the slang workin into work-in – excavating forgotten wisdom in working harmoniously with self, family and community. Meditation and mindfulness tools will be shared as alternatives to restless ambition. By returning to our center, we can write new narratives about how to work, rest, and belong in this complex world.” 

OMAI is excited to welcome co-sponsor for Kenji’s residency,  Walden, a New York based company founded by Eddie Cohen and Calvin Lien that creates products for meditation, ritual, and the present moment. Walden is generously providing meditation cushions for free giveaway at Kenji’s engagements throughout this residency, providing  products that match the importance of the practice and the ritual in our lives. Cohen and Lien set out to create a company that would create exceptional products for meditation and spread the message.

“In the American imagination, Walden is the quintessential place of refuge – a spot for quiet self-reflection and clarity,” says Eddie Cohen, “We believe everyone needs a space of their own to reflect, be present, and find comfort. Walden was created to provide thoughtfully designed products to help make that space.”

Please join us February 23-March 2, 2024 as we host and welcome Kenji Summers’ work in.  Sign up here to stay updated on UW-Madison’s inaugural short-term HHARP residencies – including information on the series artists, events, and campus engagements.


About the Artist

Kenji Summers is a contemplative artist, certified mindfulness instructor and attention activist based in Brooklyn. He learned meditation from the same teacher who mentored Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. Discovering how the practice shaped the Mamba Mentality. 

Convinced that meditation could ease his own struggles with anxiety and depression, Kenji began a daily practice that has now reached 2,100 consecutive days. He experienced firsthand the transformative power of working in. As a seeker of peace Kenji strives to bring his own sauce to the teachings of mindfulness; having provided instruction, coaching and guided meditations for companies such as Nike, Converse, RTFKT, Lululemon, X (Twitter), Spotify, Snapchat and Meta. He works with creators, companies and communities to help them find a more peaceful existence.

Prior to mindfulness and meditation Kenji was a marketer at Nike, where ignited a renaissance in NYC across youth basketball culture. He stewarded campaign and footwear launches for Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Paul George and Kyrie Irving. Through his tenure at Nike, he was introduced to rising baller-turned-rapper Sheck Wes (“Mo Bamba”) and led the musician’s brand development. The two locked down a deal for the artist with Interscope Records, Travis Scott’s Cactus Jack, as well as collaborations between Sheck and Nike Basketball. The pair released “Mo Bamba”, that skyrocketed to #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 songs chart, certified 3x Platinum, and helped solidify NYC basketball and Hip Hop back at the forefront of youth culture.

A 2008 graduate and 2016 Distinguished Young Alumni Award recipient from University of Massachusetts Amherst, as well as a Life Member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Kenji found higher education provided a path towards achievement. As an Emmy award winner, Arthur Vining Davis fellow for the Aspen Institute, ADCOLOR award winner, Clio winner, One Show pencil winner and Webby award winner, he leveraged every opportunity to bridge to the next. These accomplishments continuously inspire Kenji to focus on creative work that would motivate and uplift his younger self.

Kenji recently released a guided meditation EP called ‘Initiation’ with his contemplative art and design company Free Peace, now streaming on major platforms. He is also growing the Free Peace Meditation Club to cultivate a community focused on 360 degree peace.

If you would like to partner with OMAI’s HHARP series, please reach out to Hip Hop Artist in Residency Program Coordinator or .

Residency Guest Artists

Ceze Perez

César Pérez, a Dominican-born creative designer, entrepreneur, and artist hailing from Queens, New York, is making waves in the world of fashion and design. As the founder and creative director of 625 Industries, an innovative company dedicated to improving communities and the world, César is driven by a mission to inspire and empower the next generation. His work showcases his unique vision and ability to blend elements of his Dominican heritage with contemporary fashion, as demonstrated through his collaboration with Nike on the “DE LO MIO” edition Air Force 1 sneaker.

Dom McLennon

Dom McLennon is a musician and multi-disciplinary artist born and raised in Hartford, Connecticut. As a core member of Hip-Hop Boy Band BROCKHAMPTON, Dom served primarily as a performing + recording artist in the group but also worked behind the scenes with many of the producers in the group throughout their run.

Gerrie Summers

Gerrie Summers is a writer specializing in the areas of travel, beauty, health and lifestyle. She is currently a correspondent for Everett Potter’s Travel Report and a frequent contributor to Real Healthmagazine and the Sisters From AARP newsletter. You can also find several of her beauty articles on 

She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Composition from Beloit College, Beloit, Wisconsin. 

Gerrie was the founding editor of Word Up! Magazine, beauty editor and travel columnist for Today’s Black Woman,’s Multicultural Beauty expert, and Style & Beauty Editor for New York Lifestyles Magazine, where she also wrote about travel destinations. Her articles have appeared in numerous publications and outlets including, Essence, NY Daily News, Billboard, Bergen County Magazine, Luxury Living, Trip Savvy and For The Bride.

She is also a contributor to the books Tenderheaded: A Comb-Bending Collection of Hair Stories (Pocket Books), Caribbean Escapes, Volume III, and The Stop the Violence Movement: Overcoming Self Destruction.

Public Events

The following events are open to the public and all ages.


Friday, February 23, 2024

H’Doubler Performance Space, Lathrop Hall
3:30 pm

The University of Wisconsin-Madison Dance Department and Professor Chris Walker are delighted to present “Moonshine” February 23, 2024 at 3:30 p.m. in the Margaret H’Doubler Performance Space, Lathrop Hall. This free event is a celebration of Black History Month, with live music, contemporary theater and dance performances that include West African, Afro-Caribbean Dancehall, and Hip Hop dance forms. 


Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Put in Work: A Mosh-pit Meditation
Serenity Room in the Bakke Recreation & Wellbeing Center (Bakke)

A session where we work-out through the kinetic energy of a mosh-pit and work-in through the grounding power of stillness. This five-stage journey will take you from a turnt up breathwork with release of expressive movement to the peaceful depths of a meditative sit. We’ll start with a full-bodied workout to hip-hop sonics, then transition into a serene work-in as we embrace the stillness that follows. Come dressed to sweat, move, and be still. Registration encouraged but walk-ins welcome if space allows.  Click here to register.


Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Free Peace Meditation: Making Music Memorable
Willow Room in the Bakke Recreation & Wellbeing Center (Bakke)

At the University of Wisconsin, we’re bringing a special edition of the Free Peace Meditation Club, where Kenji’s unique meditation style takes center stage. Starting with the profound narratives of Kendrick Lamar’s “Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers,” we’ve crafted a guided meditation experience that’s resonated deeply, birthing the Free Peace Community playlist on Spotify and Apple. Each week, we select a powerful contemplation and a song that embodies our theme, culminating in a focused listening session free from distractions. This primes us for a collective guided breathwork, followed by a meditation that deepens our connection to the week’s focus. We round it off with personal reflections, sharing our insights in a space of mutual growth and understanding. Registration encouraged but walk-ins welcome if space allows. Click here to register.


Friday, March 1, 2024

ACTS Wellness Event
11:30 am-1:30 pm

ACTS Wellness Month is a series of events promoting wellness workshops for DDEEA scholars. This event has a number of health and wellness workshop topics with tools and strategies that expose the scholars to a healthy living style. Our topics range from health, to spiritual, physical, and emotional wellness for a healthier you. Kenji Summers will host a meditation session and workshop to connect with students. Open to all students on campus with active UW-Madison Campus ID. Lunch provided. Contact for location and more information.


Friday,March 1, 2024

Just Bust! Feature Performance
Wisconsin Historical Society
8-10 p.m.

Join us for Madison’s longest-running all-ages open mic, Just Bust! every First Friday, 8 PM-10 PM at the Wisconsin Historical Society. The event will be an interdisciplinary feature led by Kenji Summers and other invited guests, exploring 

Interested in performing during the open mic portion of the event? Guarantee a spot with a “Tap-In” Ticket through our Eventbrite, or sign up (in person) starting at 8:00 pm and throughout the night until all slots are filled. Make sure to arrive early to ensure a spot in the lineup!


Saturday, March 2, 2024

Just Bust! Workshop
Location TBD
1-3 p.m.

Join us for our free admission workshop facilitated by Kenji Summers. This workshop will feature guest artists. Join us for our free admission workshop facilitated by Kenji Summers and guest artist, Ceze Perez.  They will be leading participants in a creative meditation. Each person will leave with a creative apparel piece created at the workshop.

Private Events

As a part of his residency, Kenji Summers will also connect with different groups of students and staff on campus in closed events. These sessions will be by invitation only. 


Connection with Equity, Inclusion, & Employee Well-Being 

UW-Madison employees of the Equity, Inclusion, and Well-Being Organization will receive a private lunch and mindfulness training session focused on healing and well-being with the focus of “overwork/working in”.


Interview for WORT 89.9FM

Kenji will have the opportunity to talk about his residency with WORT. This session will be available and aired on February 29th and available online at after airing.

BLK PWR Coalition Event 

University of Wisconsin School of Education Commons

This year, the BPC will be hosting a Black History Month event centered on radical imagination. An intergenerational panel will be held with current student leaders, UW-Madison alumni, and current professors. After hearing from these profound speakers, the BPC in collaboration with UW faculty will host a workshop where students, faculty, and community members can radically reimagine UW-Madison as a space for all people. Kenji Summers will be featured as the event’s Mindfulness Lead.


Guest Appearance in ‘From A Door at the Center of a Table’

Interdisciplinary Artist in Residency through the Division of the Arts, Marlon Hall, hosts a course that explores the power of stories and shared meals, focusing on creating a communal table from a local door and aims to unify diverse histories and cultures into a single narrative, addressing topics such as social healing and the importance of becoming better listeners to the stories within our community. Kenji will make a guest appearance in this class to connect with enrolled students.


Connection with Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity

As a Life Member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Kenji’s focus on Black Men and mental health will be highlighted in this private connection with current UW-Madison Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity members. 


Office Hours at the Black Cultural Center

Kenji’s focus on mental health, well-being, and accessibility will play into his time spent with in-person office hours at the Black Cultural Center. Students of UW-Madison will be able to connect one-on-one with Kenji and talk about his residency and his work. While not a closed event, times will be posted only within the BCC. Please see BCC at the First Floor of the Red Gym for more information.

More HHARP Events

No events returned.