On this day in 1979, American actress and producer Rosario Dawson was born. Making her feature-film debut in the 1995 cult classic Kids, her work scales from comic-book adaptations to blockbusters like Men in Black II. Some people just have “it,” and Dawson was discovered by Larry Clark and Harmony Korine on her front porch step in the East Village for Kids. Now known for her activism and social justice work, Dawson was carved from pre-gentrified 13th Street, exposed to a raw mixture of art and radicalism from an early age. After Kids, she was sought after again – Larry Clark told her to fly back to New York for a Harper Bazaar’s photoshoot and the rest is history.
In All the Streets Are Silent, a documentary about the intersection of skateboarding and Hip Hop in NYC in the 80s and 90s, Dawson explains how Hip Hop formed from New York City’s impoverished neighborhoods:
There was always hip-hop around because that was blasting from boomboxes everywhere…These were your people; this was your community. It was always home … People were coming from all around the world for the culture of it. There was always this idea that this was such a depressed area and that nothing really good could come out of it.
Pre-gentrification, different blocks in neighborhoods had entirely different cultures and environments, and this kind of lament Dawson also holds in memory of her upbringing. Dawson has been featured in A Tribe Called Quest’s video for their song, The Space Program, from the album We got it from Here…Thank you for your service alongside Questlove, Common, Anderson.Paak, Erykah Badu, and Alicia Keys.
Dawson can also be recognized for her spoken-word vocals in “She Lives In My Lap” by Outkast from Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, the double LP that would join The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill to win an Album of the Year Grammy award.