Home Arts & Culture At the Margins: Educating with Hip Hop and Art | GW Today

At the Margins: Educating with Hip Hop and Art | GW Today

by cashonbank.com
0 comment

There’s hip hop and then there’s hip-hop culture, widely accepted to have been born 50 years ago during a back-to-school party in the Bronx borough of New York City, thrown by a group of young people to raise money for school clothes and supplies. But according to Tony Keith Jr., a spoken word poet educator in residence at George Washington University this spring, hip-hop culture really began centuries ago.

“Hip-hop culture began the moment enslaved Africans were dragged around the world as chattel property,” Keith said. “They already had rhythm and bass and drum and language and movement in their ways of being.”

Hip-hop culture extends beyond the rap music it is most often associated with and has been adopted by schools and colleges in the United States and other countries as an educational tool to make learning more engaging, create new fields of study and address a range of social issues.

“From Rec Rooms to Classrooms: Hip Hop’s 50-year Impact on the Field of Education” is an educational exhibition highlighting the elements involved in hip-hop education. Located in the Multicultural Student Services Center (MSSC) on the fifth floor of the University Student Center, it runs through May 15 and is on loan from the University of South Carolina Museum of Education.

The elements of that back-to-school party in the Bronx became the cultural elements of hip hop: a disc jockey, who makes the music by mixing and scratching records, and an MC, who speaks in rhymes to those beats and sounds, shouting messages to the crowd—some of which initially might have seemed silly, such as “Your momma’s calling you.” But it didn’t take long for those rhymed messages to grow more serious and complex.

Keith shared more context for hip hop’s origins in last week’s “At the Margins” discussion, which centered on hip hop being at the margins of education advocacy and social justice. At the time, Keith noted, the South Bronx was literally on fire, buildings gutted and burning as an expressway under construction cut off the borough from the city and its resources. The environment evoked one of the more famous rap pieces by Rock Master Scott and the Three Dynamics and later Pitbull: “The Roof Is on Fire.”

Tony Keith Jr.: “Hip-hop culture began the moment enslaved Africans were dragged around the world as chattel property.” (William Atkins/GW Today)

“Imagine this. You’re poor. The city is crumbling. You feel like you’re oppressed,” said Keith. “You want the world to know you exist, and you have a visual way of thinking, of knowing.”

The word was spread by graffiti tags. The philosophy of hip hop, Keith said, is authenticity, without which hip hop would not be possible.

“[The most powerful element of hip hop] is knowledge of self…which means simply the more I know about who I am, where I come from, how I got here, my origin story, my community story, my language, my whatever, the more powerful I can be in the world as a DJ, MC, as a graffiti artist, as a break dancer, educator,” Keith said.

A distinction should be made between hip-hop culture and rap music, which “is run by people who don’t necessarily look like me, or the people who started, understand or know the culture. It is a small part of the culture and yet, the most exploited,” Keith said.

The exhibition focuses on how hip hop shows up in pre-K through 12, in higher education and in community education, and has been recognized by the American Educational Research Association. Keith, who runs Ed Emcee Academy, which installs exhibitions like this in cultural centers, has conducted award-winning research on educational leaders who are poets, spoken word artists, rappers and MCs. 

“It is such a wonderful opportunity to have a residency by Ed Emcee Academy led by Dr. Keith at the MSSC,” said Mitchell Foster, interim director of the MSSC. “The safe spaces created by spoken word poetry open mic events has provided and continues to provide the ability for students to self-reflect and self-express within a loving community. Having both art and informative exhibits installed at the MSSC also provides alternative methods for learning and honors the different ways that students can engage in the space. We are looking forward to many more of these exhibitions in the future so that the MSSC can also be a space where local D.C. talent can be exemplified and for moments of inspiration to be available for all who come here.”

The guest for the “At the Margins” program was Brandy “Blu” Murphy, whose  “Redline” series currently shares space in the MSSC with the “50-years-of-Hip Hop” display and features images of elementary and middle school students from the school where she works.

For years, Murphy kept art stored in a closet when the principal of her school, also an artist, encouraged her to share the artwork at an auction to raise money for housing in Southeast Washington. She did and her career took off. Her work sold and galleries came calling. After she put one student in her work, others clamored to be included.

“That moment when a student came with their parents to see themselves as a work of art on the wall, that was it for me. That was a drug,” Murphy said. “You can’t tell my kids that they’re not valued when they see themselves on the wall in a gallery.”

Brandy “Blu” Murphy’s “Redline” art series features images of elementary and middle school students from the school where she works. (William Atkins/GW Today)

To artwork about her students, she began adding a red line across their faces, creating “Redline,” a reference to the discriminatory practice of withholding financial services to certain ethnic and minority neighborhoods, as a way of communicating the children’s disadvantages. “Redline” will also be displayed through May 15.

“My students got these red lines on their eyes because they are in a school [where] it took a global pandemic to get refurbished computers,” she said. “Imagine what my students could do if their zip code was not connected to their educational funding. My kids don’t believe that certain schools have pools, juice bars, air conditioning—a library! So, “Redline” is telling that story, because a lot of people believe that redlining is something that happened way back when.”

An image juxtaposes the back of a student’s head in beaded braids, against a montage of multiple Ruby Bridges cutouts as she marches off to school against the backdrop of a crowd.

“[Bridges] was dressed to the nines in her Sunday best, and she knew she was going to get stuff thrown at her, that it could turn violent,” Murphy said. “So, this is my tag. Don’t touch me. Don’t shoot me. I am art.”

Source link

You may also like

Leave a Comment

Cash on Bank (3)

Your go-to source for the latest in Hip Hop culture. Stay tuned for breaking news, exclusive interviews, and trend updates, all curated for the true Hip Hop enthusiast.

Please enter CoinGecko Free Api Key to get this plugin works.