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On October 19th, on the fringes of New York’s fashionable Meat-Packing District, the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation celebrated 15 years of providing underprivileged children with access to the arts and supporting emerging artists of color with the convening of its Gold Rush Awards Ceremony.

Russell Simmons and his brother Danny have served thousands of urban youth via their foundation’s efforts and create exhibition opportunities for dozens of underrepresented and community-based artists each year.

The constant rains of that weather-beaten Wednesday were of no consequence to those who flocked to the Bombay Sapphire East House of Imagination to commemorate with cuisine and cocktails courtesy of House of Bombay’s new Sapphire East gin.

A select group of tastemakers, philanthropists, art aficionados and a generous sprinkling of “beautiful people” mingled with exotic concoctions in hand, reviewing the work of several artists in a ground-level gallery before moving into the multi-level “House of Imagination” to continue the festivities.

Hip Hop Wired was able to catch up with Russell Simmons as he proudly posed for the paparazzi, juggled journalists and greeted guests at a unique indoor red-carpet photo session.

Hip-Hop Wired: What’s the significance of tonight’s festivities?

Russell Simmons: It’s the continued celebration of 15 years for the arts foundation. It’s actually the kick off for 15 years. We’ve providing art education and practice opportunities for inner-city kids for 15 years. It’s quite an accomplishment. The foundation, sometimes it struggled during the recessions and during more difficult times, but we were lucky enough to survive and it’s a testament to the team, but it’s also a testament to how much it is needed.

We find that when kids practice and appreciate art they do better scholastically. We find that they are able to dream themselves out of more difficult situations. It’s just something we like doing and we’re lucky we’re still doing it.

Hip-Hop Wired: How important is philanthropy to your overall success strategy?

Russell Simmons: I run a number of a foundations and I’m on the boards of quite a few more. I think like it’s my main job. My main job is to empower other people. So social, political and philanthropic endeavors take up most of my time.

Hip-Hop Wired: Moving into current events, what’s your perspective on the “Occupy Wall Street” protest movement?

Russell Simmons: It’s strong. It’s a resistance to the idea that politicians should be bribed by corporations and special interests. That’s an old idea that the Supreme Court made a big mistake on and they have to reverse it. It’s a long struggle but we want the people who are elected to work for the people who elect them and not for the corporations who buy them.

Hip-Hop Wired: What are your thoughts on how the Presidential campaigns are shaping up?

Russell Simmons: It seems that they can’t find anybody to compete with Obama. I don’t know, the Ron Paul thing could be a hurtle forward. Let’s see how that develops.

Hip-Hop Wired: On a lighter note, what is your take on the inroads your nephew, Diggy Simmons, has made as far as the rap game is concerned?

Russell Simmons: I think it’s got to be a fun experience for Rev [Run] watching him. For me, it’s a lot of fun watching him doing it. He’s a good kid, talented. He makes me proud. I would like to see him grow up to be a big contributor, not only to Hip-Hop, but to the world. But right now I’m just happy to see him achieving, doing what he said he wanted to do.

Interview By dx21dasun

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