In 1995, the genre of Hip Hop music was still relatively young and centered almost entirely around its birthplace of New York City with a growing presence in Los Angeles. Just under 200 miles to the north of New York, Boston, Massachusetts was heavily influenced by the music scene in the nation’s largest city. Although Boston had no commercial radio station with a rap format, the sounds on the streets of inner-city enclaves like Roxbury and Mattapan vibrated with the same beats that drowned out the clubs and airwaves in Brooklyn and The Bronx. Not surprisingly, young, aspiring rappers in Boston sought out their own careers but generally lacked the cohesiveness of their counterparts in New York and Los Angeles. More often than not, local emcees found themselves challenging each other with far too often violent culminations. It was during this time that the U.M.M.F. (an acronym for Us Making Moves Forever) organization was born in the mind and heart of its founder Cindy Diggs.
Cindy, a peace-driven visionary who grew up in Roxbury, created the family-like alliance to educate its broad membership on the business of music. She pioneered innovative music conferences dubbed “Can We Talk 2U?” which afforded first-hand advice via panels that featured iconic hip hop veterans such as the late Jam Master Jay of the legendary group Run DMC and Wendy Day, Founder of the Rap Coalition. Cindy’s vision for U.M.M.F. served other purposes both by design and need. The organization acted as an umbrella for many who sought guidance as well as those who were prone to violent confrontation in the city’s gang-infested ghettos.
By 2000, Cindy’s focus was directed towards creating the Hip Hop 4 Health Campaign, which encouraged inner-city youth to utilize Boston’s school health centers. That groundbreaking project won the American Public Health Association Award, a high honor in the Health Industry. Cindy Diggs even took her political voice to Washington, D.C. when she organized the Hip Hop bus to the historic Million Family March in October 2005.
Following the trip to the nation’s capital, in December, 2005, Cindy initiated the Start Peace tee shirt to promote the work of the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute which offers a beacon of hope for those who suffer from the loss of loved ones to homicide. The tee shirt’s concept became the foundation for Peace Boston. This collective of youth, youth workers, and the Hip Hop community worked tirelessly to organize events such as fashion shows, and dances. Peace Boston events were financed by fundraisers that Cindy, herself, planned and produced and offered an alternative to violence for countless young people in the city’s most blighted communities.
The Peace Collaborative, a citywide expansion of Peace Boston founded by Cindy Diggs and the Zulu Nation’s Queen Vivian, was created in September 2013. Twenty-two peace, youth, and faith-based organizations aligned with the Peace Collaborative to furnish a calendar of events across Boston, which serves as an alternative to the city’s violent streets. The Peace Collaborative hosted the highly acclaimed Got Peace? Basketball Tournament, which featured the city’s youth playing against adults. The event, which took place annually for four years, was comprised of teams with inspirational themed names such as Recording Artists for Peace, DJ’s for Peace, and Radio DJ’s for Peace. Collective unity, mentorship, and goal attainment were among the messages that participants received from the tournaments.
In 2017, “Hip Hop 9.1.1. Black Spots On My Soul”, returned to the stage. The interactive theatrical performance based on Cindy Diggs’ journey from U.M.M.F. to the present made its third run at Boston’s prestigious John Hancock Hall. “Hip Hop 9.1.1. Black Spots On My Soul” featured Cindy as the play’s lead actor and Executive Producer. Cindy Diggs has received praise from top politicians in her home city and state and accolades from a community that loves her. She personifies the terms peace, love and unity and embodies the dreams of civil rights leaders who came before her. Cindy is also the Director of Hip Hop Community Engagement for “Show ‘Em Whatcha Got,” an initiative of the Massachusetts Hip Hop Archive.