Hip-Hop Summit Empowers Community

 A panel discussion of seven community leaders.  Media Credit: Alejandro Paulino

A panel discussion of seven community leaders. Media Credit: Alejandro Paulino

By Alejandro Paulino.

Early last month, student club Class Action hosted the first Hip-Hop Educational Summit inside Lehman featuring hip-hop scholars and entertainers discussing the contributions of this cultural phenomenon.

Graffiti Artist Zulu King Slone.  Media Credit: Alejandro Paulino

Graffiti Artist Zulu King Slone. Media Credit: Alejandro Paulino

The event held in the Music Building on November 8 counted with the participation of the Department of African and African-American Studies and The Lehman College Alumni Association.

“The purpose of this summit and other summits that UZN has been involved with, and will continue to put together, is really [about] breaking down barriers,” said M.C. K-Swift, director of Youth Services at UZN, who gave the opening speech. K-Swift also said that summit was about bridging gaps for young people face barriers to education and prosperity.

The summit itself was a meeting of minds, but it was also about creating a forum where people could come together to educate and be educated, share ideas, and critique.

After K-Swift’s opening speech, the group moved to the Lovinger Theatre where Toni Blackman, Hip-Hop Ambassador to the U.N., gave the keynote address. She opened with one of her published poems,  “Tagging Your Heart, Not Walls,” which expresses how hip-hop is  a state of mind, as well as a feeling.

Blackman elaborated on what is both wrong and right in the culture of contemporary hip-hop. “I know that underneath whatever it is that they’re showing is so much more. The mainstream media only shows about two percent of what hip-hop really is,” she explains. “I’ve been all over the world and I’ve seen so many programs, and so many initiatives, and so many artists doing good work, and I think about 98 percent of it goes unrecognized.”

Toni Blackman, Hip-Hop Ambassador to the U.N, reading her poem titled, "Tagging Your Heart, Not Walls."

Toni Blackman, Hip-Hop Ambassador to the U.N, reading her poem titled, “Tagging Your Heart, Not Walls.”

UZN, along with other organizations like it, work to educate people on what it means to be a part of this culture. Blackman explained  that today’s hip-hop artists perpetuate a consumerist culture that stresses the importance of material gain over more virtuous pursuits such as enlightenment, the pursuit of knowledge, and philanthropy.

For Blackman, what matters most are the people who are making a real difference in the disenfranchised neighborhoods they grew up in. Blackman stands behind those who share their hearts and souls with this culture because she believes a large aspect of what hip-hop should exemplify is giving back to struggling communities. She also feels that those with a great amount of clout should use their influence to empower the disenfranchised.

To close the keynote, Blackman performed an uplifting freestyle rap with Wajid Jemmott, a beat boxer turned businessman, who has performed with popular rap artists including Doug E. Fresh and Biz Markie.

Later, a panel discussion addressed the past, present, and future of hip-hop, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Black Panthers.

The panelists consisted of seven prominent community leaders and representatives: Mark Christian, Ph.D., chair of  Lehman’s Department of African & African American Studies (AAAS), Mary Phillips and Dr. LeRonn Brooks, both professors in the  AAAS Department, Christopher Emdin, professor of Science Education at Columbia University, Dwight Stephenson, outreach coordinator of the Urban Male Leadership Program, Jocelyn A. Wilson, assistant professor in the Department of Learning Sciences and Technologies at Virginia Tech, and Margaret Ntim, who acted as a representative of G-Unit records.

The panelists spoke at length about the origins of Hip-Hop and the movements that were born from it.

The summit then moved back to the Dining Room for a performance by Malcolm Small (a.k.a Brother Malcolm) and Shaedaje Small (a.k.a Sister Day), an adolescent rap duo from Manhattan that writes  songs with positive messages about anti-bullying, non-violence, and following your passion.

The group was then broken up into groups for the workshops conducted by UZN teaching artists Intikana, Circa 95, Zulu King Slone, M.C. K-Swift, Spirit Child, and Chief 69.

The graffiti workshop was conducted by Zulu King Slone, a native of Brooklyn who has been a graffiti artist for over 35 years. He talked about his life of

Member of the Universal Zulu Nation hosted the panel discussion.

Member of the Universal Zulu Nation hosted the panel discussion.

humble beginnings from abject poverty to being inducted into the Graffiti Hall of Fame and having a magazine article about him preserved in the U.S. Library of Congress.

Slone presented several canvas pieces of his completed artwork to the small audience, and spoke about different graffiti-art styles.

The summit gave the audience exposure to people from many walks of life who have helped make hip-hop a worldwide phenomenon.

Corection:

In a earlier version of the article we said, “The group was then broken up into groups for the workshops conducted by UZN teaching artists Intikana, Circa 95, Zulu King Slone, M.C. K-Swift, Spirit Child, Chief 69, and Zulu King Monk One.” This has been corrected to, “The group was then broken up into groups for the workshops conducted by UZN teaching artists Intikana, Circa 95, Zulu King Slone, M.C. K-Swift, Spirit Child, and Chief 69.

In an earlier version of the article The Meridian suggested that Lehman College and its administration hosted the Hip-hop Educational Summit. This is inaccurate. Class Action was the organization that hosted the event inside the Lehman College campus.

On behalf of The Meridian staff, the editor-in-chief would like apologize for the lapse of judgement that has led to this inaccuracy. We apologize to the officers and members of Class Action, and other parties affected. 

In an earlier version of the article, Zulu King Monk One was mentioned as one of the participants of the panel. Zulu King Monk One did not attended the conference, though his name appeared in the program. 

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