Academic journal article The Western Journal of Black Studies

Mapping and Re-Membering Hip Hop History, Hiphopography and African Diasporic History

Academic journal article The Western Journal of Black Studies

Mapping and Re-Membering Hip Hop History, Hiphopography and African Diasporic History

Article excerpt

Painful Paradox and Boundless Possibilities

In the introduction to Mapping African America: History, Narrative Formation, and the Production of Knowledge (1999), editors Maria Diedrich, Carl Pedersen, and Justine Tally note: "For the colonized peoples throughout Africa and the New World, giving voice to their experience all too often carried with it a painful paradox. As the Haitian writer Edmond Laforest so dramatically demonstrated in tying a Larousse dictionary around his neck and leaping to his death, the limitations of expressing the colonial experience through the language of the colonizer produced the on-going frustrations of living and writing an inherent contradiction (xi)."

Maria Diedrich et al continue: "Radhouan Ben Amara's essay examines this dilemma in North African poetic texts which see the alien language as a manifestation of the alienated body. Mikko Tuhkanen suggests that Frantz Fanon's study uses the veil as both metaphor and tool for postcolonial subversion and likens its symbolic ambiguity to Bigger Thomas's appropriation of his own racialized body and skin color to thwart his oppressors. Paula Boi's 'The Map of My Tongue,' on the other hand, emphasizes the use black women writers have made of language to reclaim a subject position while displacing the 'negative feminine myths' propagated in Western discourse ... Francine Charras also looks at the decentering of Western Myth as she read Caryl Phillip's Cambridge against George Lamming's Natives of My Person in examining the colonial experience, the 'blood knot' that unites Prospero to Caliban, and the function of woman in the relationship that inscribes the imperial past into the present. This 'blood knot' that unites the colonizer with the colonized appears in Equiano's choice to adopt a 'self-fashioned literacy and Christian religion' even as he plans to return to his native Africa (xii)."

Nation Conscious Rap and the Groundation of Hip Hop Self-Conscious Beings

Mapping African America: History, Narrative Formation and the Production of Knowledge (1999) illuminates the challenges we faced nearly three decades earlier as we grappled with issues related to writing a documentary history of Hip Hop using Hip Hop communities' own varieties of Hip Hop Nation Language. The opening words of the "Muword" to the text are: "Nation Conscious Rap: The Hip Hop Vision is a very unique book. It not only has the creators of the Hip Hop Cultural Revolution telling their own stories in their own nation language, it also combines oral narratives and written documents to provide a distinctly modern Afro-American narrativity of power and vision. Here is Hip Hop History in the Nation Language of young blacks whose compelling metaphors and similes of reality and surreality are def (Spady, 1991, p. V)."

When I wrote these words in the early 1990s, I had spent a full decade doing hoooome/field observations and oral interviews with a variety of Hip Hop artists whose lexical varieties and muntu-kuntu kinetic speaking styles indicated a whole new development in Black language usage. By this time I was fully conversant with the pioneering scholarship of two Black women linguists and educators, Beryl Bailey and Geneva Smitherman, who had a respect for these young African American and Latino speakers and their speech acts. For us, it was imperative that we "recognize" (a period when the expression, "You better recognize!' was prevalent in black communities throughout the United States). Language is so linked to identity that to deny recognition of their language was to deny recognition of their self-expression and their very being in the world.

Noted African American linguist Dr. Geneva Smitherman (2000) summarizes the matter in these words (and in Ebonics): "American educational institutions is continuing they role as passive reflectors of a racist, inhumane society. In part, the contemporary madness bees manifest in the 'language deprivation' teaching strategies for the 'disadvantaged' Black American. …

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