November 2, 2007
As a public school educator that grew up on hip-hop and who still loves many aspects of its cultural elements, I often incorporate it into my day to day lessons. Sometimes my opening activities would involve having my students critically analyze some form of controversy related to their favorite rappers or an explanation of the meaning of a quote by an influential personality such as KRS-One, Chuck D or Afrika Bambaataa. Our meaningful discussions would then be tied in with the lessons of the day. Art and poetry would be included in much our comprehensive learning activities, which the students have admitted to me help them understand historical events and complex words better. I have found that since I have been teaching this way it has increased both student interest and involvement in a major way.
Of course, things were not always this way. I like many other teachers who grew up on Yo! MTV Raps and the highly critical social commentary that hip-hop provided in the late ’80s/early ’90s were taught once we got into college that we should “put that silly thing away.” And so, the indoctrination process began! I remember being ridiculed by various professors for “looking” and “dressing” hip-hop. Even though I expressed myself always, by many standards, in a very articulate and academic manner, I was made fun of in front of my peers in a second semester English class.
The professor, whose husband she clearly and proudly emphasized was related to the family of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., chided me publicly for using what she termed as “pedestrian” (street) language in my research papers. Being confused (and paranoid) by what she was saying about me, I turned to my elders and had them read my writings. They all agreed that something was wrong with this professor of mine and assured me that my writing style was fine. Two years later, at the university level, I found myself in a position where I was frequently informed that my hip-hop should be “put in the closet somewhere.” Even in Black Studies classes I was criticized by professors for arguing that hip-hop music was having a strong international influence on young people and was a very powerful instrumental to spread the message of Pan-Africanism and Black solidarity as taught by leaders such as Marcus Garvey, The Hon. Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X and The Hon. Minister Louis Farrakhan.