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Jarius King ’09

For Jarius King, the Wisconsin Idea is twofold. Using his UW education and talents as a performing artist and leader, King travels the globe to foster youth appreciation for the arts.

Libby Blanchette
March 03, 2014

UW Major: Chinese, L&S
Age: 28 | Chicago, Illinois
Founder, King's Eye View Productions

For Jarius King, the Wisconsin Idea is twofold. Using his UW education and talents as a performing artist and leader, King travels the globe to foster youth appreciation for the arts. Through the creation of the International Festival of Urban Movement: Breakin' the Law, he also brings the global culture of the arts, specifically hip-hop culture, to Madison.

King was selected to attend UW-Madison as part of the Posse Scholars program, which provides college opportunities for public high school students who demonstrate exceptional academic and leadership potential.

Jarius King

"During my senior year of high school," he says, "I underwent 52 weeks of leadership and diversity training along with nine others as a cohesive unit — a posse."

King wasted no time putting his leadership and diversity skills to work on campus. Exploring various interest groups, he became involved in student activism and joined numerous student organizations.

"The unique structure and history of student power [at UW-Madison] made participating in student organizations much more involved compared to other universities," he says. "Many of the skills that I utilize on a professional level now come from my experiences within those groups."

As a freshman, King, along with fellow Posse scholar Henry Gomez, organized the first Breakin' the Law gathering. Originally created to oppose Madison's cabaret licensing laws, the event brought students of various backgrounds together through a common interest: hip-hop.

Today, Breakin' the Law has turned into a weeklong, annual festival in Madison that attracts artists from all over the world. Developed with the help of Katrina Flores '07, the event showcases urban art and movement, as well as the university's commitment to artistic diversity.

"It's the largest multicultural festival on the Madison campus, and the first of its kind not only within the city of Madison, but the entire state of Wisconsin," says King.

Currently, King and Flores are working with The Wonders of Physics program to form a joint venture titled The Physics of Breakin.' Their goal is to institutionalize Breakin' the Law and turn it into a nonprofit youth leadership organization. They aim to develop youth skills and interest in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math, along with cross-cultural understanding and appreciation.

After graduation, King moved back to Chicago with a goal to engage youth in his hometown with the performing arts. He has also partnered with youth groups, organizations and individuals around the world to offer numerous workshops and classes in dance and art.

When he's not traveling, he manages his own production company, King's Eye View Productions, and contributes to Strife TV, a media company that promotes break dancing and other urban art forms.

In his own words

What do you miss most about campus?

I miss my days as a student activist and organizer most. Having been part of the ASM (Associated Students of Madison) Diversity Committee and the MCSC (Multicultural Student Coalition), I was able to do a lot of good on campus to educate students regarding diversity. A good core of my friends who are part of my life now came from those days.

What is your proudest UW achievement?

It would definitely have to be my involvement with BTL, which stands for "Breakin' the Law." In four years, BTL went from being a daylong dance competition to an international festival of urban movement spanning several days. It began in 2004 as an initiative to fight against cabaret licensing laws in the city of Madison, which frequently discriminated against hip-hop culture. Nationwide, hip-hop is often pinpointed as negative. For me it was the exact opposite, because hip-hop culture helped me grow tremendously. BTL is about highlighting the community-building aspects of hip-hop and its power to transcend boundaries.

What advice would you offer graduating seniors?

Be open to the fact that life requires a ton of flexibility and that the notions of success (and its timeline) that applied to our parents' generation don't translate currently. [Also], never underestimate the power of the Badger network. Utilize your network and any resources you have to the fullest.

What are you reading now?

The Holy Bible and Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders. Outside of novels, I read the news on BBC.com.

Who is your hero?

I have heroes among my family, friends and the host of people at UW-Madison. Most notably I would have to say my [adviser] Dang Chonwerawong. As an administrator at UW-Madison, despite holding different positions, she really stayed on my case during my years of study at UW-Madison, no matter what. At times, it was difficult to stay focused, be motivated or not feel isolated as a student of color, to be honest. I would not have finished college if it weren't for her steadfast support and [would] not have been able to truly enjoy the UW experience. Dang was a big reason I was able to study abroad in China and can now proudly say I'm a UW alum.

What is your favorite quote?

"Whatever work your hands find to do, do it with all your might…" Ecclesiastes 9:10

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