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Hip-Hop Group ‘4 Wheel City’ Stages Free Concert to Promote Disability Awareness, Diversity

PITTSBURGH, September 25, 2012 – 4 Wheel City, a motivational hip-hop group, will give a free concert at 7 p.m. on Thursday, September 27 at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture as a part of their “Welcome 2 Reality” tour. The event is sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh, the FISA Foundation, UPMC Health Plan and the Community Care Behavioral Health.
 
The performers were invited to Pittsburgh by Kate Seelman, PhD associate dean of Disability Programs and a professor of Rehabilitation Science and Technology in the Pitt School of Health and Rehabilitation Services (SHRS), and Paula Davis, MA, assistant vice chancellor for Health Sciences Diversity.  In addition, presenters for the program include Jonathan Duvall, BS, a Pitt graduate student in Rehabilitation Science and Technology who also serves as the founder and president of the University’s Students for Disability Advocacy group and Lester Bennett, advocate for Three Rivers Center for Independent Living.
 
The group is called 4 Wheel City because they are two men who are wheelchair users as a result of gun violence. They use hip-hop to promote messages such as staying in school and away from street violence. The group members, who recently performed at the 2012 London Paralympics, hope that their individual stories will inspire others with disabilities to strive for independence and success.
 
Group members Namel “Tap Waterz” Norris and Ricardo “Rick Fire” Velasquez separately acquired spinal cord injuries from shooting incidents. Norris was shot in the neck by a cousin and is paralyzed from the chest down. Velasquez was 18 when he was caught in a crossfire returning from school in his Bronx neighborhood; to this day, he still does not know who shot him.
 
Velasquez and Norris were neighbors in New York, but only met after Velasquez spoke with Norris’ mother.
The two men immediately became close friends as they bonded over misfortune and a common passion for music. Immediately, they agreed that they wanted their music to differ from mainstream hip-hop; Velasquez and Norris wanted their music to have a message.
 
Now, the group performs weekly at surrounding New York hospitals such as Mt. Sinai. With a unique story and an undeniable drive, the group achieves recognition and for both its message and music. A remix of their single track ‘Welcome 2 Reality,’ featuring the nationally acclaimed Snoop Dogg, has garnered considerable public interest.
 
To honor the mission of 4 Wheel City, the performance will showcase the variety of artistic expression. Josie Badger, who was chosen as Ms. Wheelchair USA in 2011, and Ashli Molinero, DSc, assistant professor at SHRS, will read selections from the acclaimed anthology, Beauty Is A Verb, the New Poetry of Disability.   Moreover, the performance will showcase a range of accommodations that fully include people with disabilities -- in the audience and on the stage. It will feature assistive listening devices, ASL interpretation for those with hearing impairments, open captioning as well as audio description for people with visual impairments. All proceeds from sales of 4 Wheel City clothing and records at the show will benefit spinal cord research.
 
For tickets or to request accommodations, contact the Office of Health Sciences Diversity at 412-648-2066. The August Wilson Center is located at 980 Liberty Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15222.
 
For more information on other sponsors, see FISA, UPMC Health Plan, and Community Care Behavioral Health.

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