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by kenn on 1/15/2004 10:38:00 AM

Hoops Hoopla

While NFL playoffs may be heating up several living rooms around town this Sunday, The Freedom Classic Festival is one rivalry basketball game that's raising temperatures downtown at the Richmond Coliseum.

That's right, basketball fans. It's time again for the 8th annual Freedom Classic Festival where long-time rivals, Virginia State University and Virginia Union University, face off in a fiery grudge match this Sunday at 7:30 p.m.

"Our students are extremely excited," says Claudia Wall Johnson, VUU's director of communication and media relations. "We have a very friendly and long-standing rivalry with Virginia State University. We enjoy seeing them, but even more, we enjoy meeting them on the basketball court."

Last year, VUU took home the trophy of the festival. But this Sunday, it's anybody's guess which team will emerge victorious.

But this fiesta isn't just about the action on the court. Every year, besides selling out the Coliseum for the basketball game, the Freedom Classic Festival extends into a giant weekend party with concerts, midnight movies and more.

And have you heard? Several hip-hop celebrities such as Damon Dash, Memphis Bleek and Kayne West will be making the trek to Richmond to snap up the keys to the city while helping host the Freedom Class party.

Fans of rapper Jay-Z know that Damon Dash co-founded Roc a-Fella Records, the label which launched Jay-Z into the hip-hop stratosphere.

And despite Tuesday's accusation of sexual misconduct by an ex-model in New York City a year ago, Dash will still be coming to town to help out with the festival. Dash will be hosting entertainment seminars where attendees will learn how to shop for a record deal, a fashion show for his Roc a-Wear fashion line and, of course, a big blowout Roc a-Fella Finale Celebrity Bash with DJ Funk Master Flex.

"Our plans have not changed at all" since news of the rape claim, says Najiyyah Brooks-Harris, an event organizer for Johnson, Inc., the local company throwing the event. Johnson, Inc. also organizes the popular Fridays at Sunset concert series.

"Kenneth Johnson [CEO of Johnson, Inc.] started the festival eight years ago [in order to] have something for the community to come together for ... the King holiday," Nicole Miller, director of event planning, says. "The Freedom Classic Festival is always held the Sunday before Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It's something fun for everybody to come together and do."

This year, voter registration is a top priority for event organizers. The NAACP will be on hand at many of the events where attendees can register to vote on site.

How's that for a freedom-filled weekend?

Freedom Classic Festival Schedule:
Please call (804) 644-8515 in advance, some locations or times may change. Most events held at the Richmond Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Center or the Richmond Coliseum.

Saturday, Jan. 17
"For the Love of the Game Seminars"
Crowne Richmond Plaza
Covers "How to Shop for a Record Deal," "How to Market Your Product" and "How to Set-up an Independent Label."
9 a.m. to 1 p.m. (804) 644-8515

Freedom Classic Celebrity Basketball Game
John Marshall High School
2 p.m.

The Freedom Classic Roc-A-Wear Fashion Show
Richmond Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Center
9 p.m. Held in the first floor ballroom.

The Freedom Classic "Jump-Off" Party
Richmond Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Center
Featuring performances by Roc-A-Fella artist Kanye West and D.J. Whoo-Kid from the G-Unit. 10 p.m.

Sunday, Jan. 18
The Freedom Classic Gospel Talent Showcase
Richmond Coliseum
4 p.m.

Freedom Classic Basketball Game
Richmond Coliseum
Old-school rivals Virginia State University take on Virginia Union University. Game begins at 7:30 p.m. $16 in advance, $18 day of game. Call Ticketmaster at (804) 262-8100.

The Roc-A-Fella Finale Celebrity Bash
Richmond Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Center
Hosted by Roc-A-Fella CEO Damon Dash and DJ Funk Master Flex. 10 p.m. until late.

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