Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

"Start the Revolution": Hip Hop Music and Social Justice Education

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

"Start the Revolution": Hip Hop Music and Social Justice Education

Article excerpt


The collective effect of school closures, population displacement via gentrification, and mass incarceration have resulted in dislocations and disruptions of African American life in major cities in the U.S. This suggests that the urban milieu that W.E.B. Du Bois identified as contested space in his early Sociological field studies, remains such today. This confluence of crises challenges institutions to respond forthrightly to the evisceration of urban African American communities, or to position themselves as facilitators of Negro removal. This paper argues that Hip Hop, a music genre formed in the U.S. during the early 1970s by African-American, Caribbean, and Latino youths in the South Bronx section of New York City that became popular outside of the African-American community in the late 1980s that consists of a stylized rhythmic music that commonly accompanies a rhythmic and rhyming speech that is chanted (rapping) defined the stylistic elements of: MCing/rapping, DJing/scratching (turntablism), b-boying (a style of street dance that originated primarily among African American and Puerto Rican youth during the mid-1970s), break dancing, and graffiti art/writing, sampling (synthesis), and beatboxing (a form of vocal percussion primarily involving the art of mimicking drum machines via a person's mouth: lips, tongue, and voice) represents a potent resource in the conceptualization of social justice pedagogy in urban communities.

It seeks to conceptualize a Hip Hop pedagogy that also answers the challenge of African-Centered education, wherein Hip Hop becomes expressive of the intergenerational legacy of social critique and activism in African communities. Herein Hip Hop's utility as a vehicle of critical literacy is explored, seeking to answer the question: How Hip Hop pedagogy can inform resistance to the political-economies of racism/white supremacy and neoliberalism.

They ain't fighting poverty, they fighting the poor/And every couple of years they just declare a new war/Cold war, drugs, gangs, terrorism, et cetera/Man I been seen it coming got my vision ahead of ya/They be BSing me because I didn't enlist/That be their hatred boy that I refuse to resist/That be they hate a brother because of this black fist/But nah, they probably just chasing young Muslims for kicks/Ya know same story brothers face and constantly chanting/Meanwhile in my brain I'm thinking about Fred Hampton/Geronimo, Mumia, and Assata Shakur/Imam AlAmin plus a whole lotta more/But waiting for the opportunity to settle the score. ...

--Capital D, "Start the Revolution" (2004, track 2).

A Confluence of Crises

Chicago is illustrative of the contested nature of space within the global political-economy of neoliberalism and white supremacy. The technocratic forms of governance that led to the closure of 50 schools in 2013 (Ahmed-Ullah, Chase, and Secter 2013) is both a hallmark of neoliberal forms of governance (Lipman 2011) and illustrative of the paucity of African American political power. In both contexts political participation is deemed intrusive or disruptive to the process of policy formulation, and African Americans' voices and their vociferous demands are ignored, meeting the ambivalence of an unresponsive school board (Lutton 2013). This suggests that the demographic representation of African Americans within America's major population centers does not necessarily equate to proportional representation in terms of their ability to make policy.

The preceding point is underscored by the mass displacement of African Americans over the last decade, as former public housing residents are moved about within (Moser 2014) and outside of the city. (Lipman 2011). As a matter of policy, these dislocations have served to stimulate the city's housing market, create new upscale neighborhoods, and bolster the city's image on the world stage as an urban destination for tourists. …

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