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Empowering the Next Generation: Notes on the 6th Annual Hip Hop Youth Summit

On the morning of Friday, February 9th, nearly 80 high school students and their teachers crowded into a large classroom at Teacher’s College, Columbia University. Some of the students had travelled down from the Bronx on the subway; others had arrived from Connecticut in a bus. Some had been in the room before, a year ago, and others were new. They bounced their heads along to the beats playing from a large speaker, connected to a turntable manned by five students.

They chatted and laughed and yelled across the room, ate muffins from plastic platters and asked their teachers questions. A screen at the front of the room read, “Welcome to the 6th Annual Hip Hop Youth Summit.” These teenagers were excited and rowdy, curious, buzzing with the confidence that this day was devoted to validating them, their cultures, backgrounds, words, and ideas.

For six years Dr. Lauren Kelly, a Hip Hop pedagogy scholar, has been running the Hip Hop Youth Summit at Teachers College. The Summit “brings together youth from across NYC and surrounding areas for a day of interactive skill-building workshops, youth presentations, and powerful dialogue around Hip Hop in connection with key social and educational justice issues.”

On the docket this year were keynote speaker Nicole Mirra, of Rutgers University, who spoke about students’ potential to affect change in their communities through their schools. Students also heard from Lonnie Lewis about Black Lives Matter. Dr. Kelly herself gave a presentation that outlined the insidious ways racism and prejudice make their way into school curricula, through the literary canon and the school to prison pipeline.

Part of the purpose of the Summit is to give students the information they need to see the world as it is, so they can walk through it confidently, so they can fix what’s broken, so they know they are cared for, if not by society at large, then by their teachers who brought them to the Summit.

In the morning, students broke into five different workshops built on the elements of Hip Hop: Poetry, Freestyle Rap, Graffiti, B-Boying/B-Girling, and DJing. Each workshop was led by a specialist in the field. Students were encouraged to let go of self-consciousness. After the workshops, some performed what they had worked on for the rest of the Summit. Two students read beautiful and vulnerable poems to a supportive room of nods, snaps, and cheers. The dancers, freestylers, DJs, and graffiti artists wowed their teachers and peers.

Towards the end of the day, students broke into large group discussions. The topic: what is the Hip Hop Generation in 2018? Violent, they said. They do not approve of mumble rap. Rappers are too concerned with getting rich and famous. There aren’t any more famous jazz-rap groups like A Tribe Called Quest, said one student with disappointment. Then a debate that went unresolved: are female rappers like Nicki Minaj and Cardi B empowering or disempowering to women? They want more Lauryn Hill.

These students touched on the most-critiqued aspects of Hip Hop—misogyny, capitalism, violence—and on some more nuanced questions—how important are the lyrics versus the beats? And why do lyrics seem less important than they were 20 years ago? They constructed arguments and asked questions of one another with thoughtfulness, humor, and serious historical knowledge. For any adult bemoaning that this generation is the future, it is most unfortunate that you could not see this debate unfold. It is certainly time to give up the mic to these passionate, justice-minded individuals.

by Cailley LaPara

 

CALL FOR PAPERS: God, Religion, and Spirituality

Edited by Cassandra Chaney, Daniel White Hodge, and Travis Harris

While promoting his latest album, Yeezus, Hip-Hop artist Kanye West proudly proclaimed during a 2013 BBC Zane Lowe interview: “I just told you who I thought I was. A god. I just told you. That’s who I think I am.” Although this comment was met with a great deal of criticism, it is important to acknowledge that since its inception, Hip-Hop has frequently discussed the significance of God, religion, and spirituality. Given the increasing amount of racial, social and political commentary on marginalized communities, it is vital that scholars offer substantive examinations of how racial, economic and social inequities have been experienced and challenged via the Hip Hop genre.

For this special issue, the editors seek submissions that examine how God, religion, and spirituality have been discussed by Hip Hop artists and to think expansively about how Hip Hop has historically and contemporaneously emphasized the experiences, opportunities and realities of marginalized communities within these complimentary, contradictory, and at times, mutually-supportive contexts.

We invite papers that examine how shifting conceptions of God, religion, and spirituality have been shaped by The Black Church, political activism, poverty, prophetic identities, race, race relations, social justice, sociology, the economic and social standing of marginalized communities, as well as gender/race/sexual identities. We would especially be interested in essays that examined and critically engaged the uprisings in both Ferguson ,MO and Baltimore, MD and the way in which Hip Hop played a role.We also solicit contributions that offer conceptual and methodological examinations of God, Religion, and Spirituality.

Possible Topics & Themes: afterlife, black urban spaces, death, family, ghetto life, god, heaven, hell; meditation, mysticism, prayer, redemption, resurrection, religion, spirituality, and theology.

We welcome you to submit a manuscript for consideration. The 11,000 word manuscript, with citations in the Chicago Manual of Style (CMS) 16th format (with numerical footnotes), would be due on August 18, 2016. Authors must include an abstract of no more than 150 words that briefly describes the manuscript’s contents. Upon acceptance for review, the Journal of Hip Hop Studies editors will send manuscripts, under a double-peer reviewed process, to no less than two, and generally three reviewers. Reviewers provide their recommendations to the editor, who makes the final decision to accept the manuscript. We will be in touch shortly after with notification as to if the manuscript will be accepted for publication.

Send manuscripts to

Cassandra Chaney at Louisiana State University (cchaney@lsu.edu)

Daniel White Hodge at North Park University (dwhodge@northpark.edu)

Travis Harris (travis.t.harris@gmail.com)

Journal Submissions

CALL FOR PAPERS: Special Issue Dedicated to International Hip Hop

The Journal of Hip Hop Studies (JHHS) recognizes that Hip Hop is a trans-global phenomenon reaching parts of the world where many forms of media are banned. Hip Hop’s ability to morph and be utilized by communities around the globe point to the very question, what is Hip Hop? Hip Hop scholars unanimously agree that Hip Hop is more than rap music and therefore more than the emcee. While there are varying theories defining Hip Hop, focusing on Hip Hop outside of its birth country contributes to an understanding of Hip Hop. In addition to existing literature about international Hip Hop, JHHS regularly receives essays from international authors who offer fresh perspectives on Hip Hop. Therefore, JHHS is having a special issue dedicated to international Hip Hop.

JHHS aims to keep Hip Hop studies moving. Hip Hop scholars outside of the United States have the potential to examine Hip Hop with a different lens from U.S. scholars. These perspectives can elucidate new theories and methods to the study of Hip Hop. JHHS hopes that this special issue on international Hip Hop can be placed in dialogue with U.S. scholars and this exchange could produce cutting edge scholarship. While Hip Hop studies have blossomed in academia, there are still those who question the legitimacy of Hip Hop scholars. Additionally, Hip Hop continues to be wrongly blamed for Black’s deviant behavior. A global viewpoint on Hip Hop combats these myopic notions.

The special issue on international Hip Hop seeks poems, short stories and essays from international scholars and work done by U.S. scholars outside of the country. JHHS welcomes book reviews on books about international Hip Hop. We will privilege essays that offer a “non-Western perspective” and innovative theories and methods to the study of Hip Hop.

Please send 300 words or less abstracts to travis.t.harris@gmail.com with the subject “International Hip Hop” by August 31, 2016.

Journal Submissions