I Hate Me: 2 Ways to Shift from Selfish to Selfless Love

I hate me.

I hate a part of me.

I hate the me that selfishly loves. The hidden figure who does seemingly selfless actions in order to get something in return. I hate the shadow in my soul that will cut a person off because they’re not reciprocating the love I give them. I hate the me who cannot be vulnerable without a guarantee of reciprocated ego-stroking…”good job Quilan, you’re SO generous, thank you for being amazing.” I hate the me who serves others in order to be recognized, rather than because it is the right thing to do.

I was reading my Dad’s book, “The Second Shift” and it touches upon this part of ourselves as the “shadow-self” of your passion (shout out to the pops, waddup baby BABY! *B.I.G voice*). The part of you that does things for selfish gain, rather than selfless love. We all have it.

I have been faced with my shadow-self more than I’d like to admit since I entered the professional world in August of 2016. I came out of school feeling passionate about spreading the side of Hip-hop culture that opposed the mysogonistic, materialistic, violent, drug-centric Hip-hop that too many people think they know. I believe that this loving, positive side of Hip-hop can change lives if only more Hip-hop practitioners would gain and maintain the platform to represent its message. I have been hype to fulfill this mission through onC.U.E dance classes; foregrounding the message of create, unite, and empower through movement. I faced the inevitable reality of one-two people coming to class, and then sometimes nobody, week after week. I felt the frustration building inside of me. My mind couldn’t help but to question the validity of my purpose, and therefore the value of myself as a person.

There are many factors that went into my negative way of thinking, but the one I want to focus on is the fact that I was emphasizing what I didn’t have instead of the opportunities that presented themselves every time I had a class. Most weeks, there was at least one person who entered that space with me…and this would be me…

Shadow Self: Dang, nobody else cared to come. Why am I even doing this? I was blessed enough to get this platform, but clearly I don’t deserve it, so why did I get it in the first place?

However, there’s another side to that thought…

Ideal Self: Yo, this human being decided to MY class! With all of the things that they are going through in life, they took the time out to come and better themselves. I have an opportunity to pour light and love into their mind, body, and soul so that they can leave this place feeling refreshed, anew and ready to tackle the world with a positive lens. Let’s go!!

What side of yourself are you deciding to focus on? Here are some tips that people have instilled in me to help me combat my shadow-self daily.

    1. Be Patient

           We live in a world where we consume massive amounts of information quickly. We can order from Amazon, and our package arrives the next day. If you want to feel good about how much you hate Donald Trump, just get on your laptop and go to Facebook or Google…instant gratification within a minute (I truly wonder how many of y’all do that though lol). Anyways, my point is, we have the capability to get so much of what we want insanely fast.

           Obtaining the truly valuable things in life, however— relationships, happiness, love— tend to be a slow process. Yet, we treat them with the same consumeristic attitude…if it doesn’t spark and flare up by tomorrow, it must be a dud. Spreading your beliefs, no matter how beautiful they may be, takes time. Just because the world doesn’t flock to your beckoning light doesn’t mean that what you have to say isn’t valuable. More importantly, it doesn’t mean you as a person aren’t valuable. Stay the course, don’t quit, and you’ll see the momentum roll.

  1. Focus on the people, not yourself

         My professor and mentor at Ohio State, Mitchell, said, “If you’re feeling nervous about performing, think about your audience and how you are there to instill love into their life from the stage.” Mitchell’s words run through my mind whenever I’m taking a step into a vulnerable role: performing, teaching, dancing in the cypher, etc. It calms me down as I shift from thinking about myself to thinking about others. When we realize that our passions’ purpose is to make others better, we create an escape for the pressures we place on ourselves. If we think about the people we serve, there’s no room to think about you, and thus the nerves don’t have room to effect you as much.

         My old roommate Sarah once said, “Love is about constantly showing up.” Her words struck me because it convicted me on the responsibility that comes with loving someone/people. We toss the word “love” around in our society to the point where it loses its impact. However, when you substantiate the word with constantly showing up, I believe it re-solidifies the importance the word has in our lives. That’s all to say that selflessness, kindness, compassion— all the things that love encompasses— are not easy. It’s a heavy duty job to love hard, and love daily. These past few months in the real world have shown me it’s worth the work though. Because at the end of the day I want to like me. Constantly showing up for others, and myself, is the main way I know how to do that right now.

Meeting Me: Moving Past What You Do To See Who You Are

A couple weeks ago I traveled to Atlantic City to see an old friend, Tracey, perform in one of those celebrity impersonation concerts. I arrived late (fashionably, of course) to the performance venue, and received my ticket. As I entered into the auditorium packed with people, I was surrounded by the booming voice of my friend. Tracey was sitting at the piano, her fingers prancing and pouncing along the keys as she filled our ears with a beautiful rendition of Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi.” She held the audience’s undivided attention. She was confident, sassy, and seemingly larger than life as people usually are when they exist within their passions. I swelled with pride as she finished her number and said, “Thank you! Don’t ever stop reaching for your dreams, I love you!” before strutting off the stage. It was dope to see hundreds of people introduced to the same shining spirit that has captivated me for years. My fascination with Tracey went beyond her talent though. Sure, I traveled to Atlantic City to support her in what she does, but I more-so traveled there to better understand who she is.

After the show Tracey and I had dinner. We talked for a while, but most of the conversation consisted of what we’re doing, the things we’re accomplishing, etc. It was cool conversation, but one of the first things most people ask when you first meet them is, “what is it that you do?” And there I was, after a decade long friendship, having a drawn out conversation regarding that same question. It made me wonder, why are so many conversations like this? Why do we talk about what we do as though that is what defines us?

My guess would be that we don’t want to talk about what defines us. Talking about that would mean foregrounding the fluctuating thoughts that bombard us every day— and who has time to hear about that? I think we reject being real with ourselves, about what defines us, because what defines us consistently changes every day. We’re up, then we’re down; we go to sleep one way, wake up another; we look at ourselves in the mirror, and notice there’s a grey hair that we swore was not there yesterday. It’s too much energy to keep up with! So, we make it easier on ourselves and stick to what we already know and understand…our jobs, our hobbies, and our 10-year relationships where we enjoy different versions of the same conversation.

The reason I love dance is because it gives me the chance to consistently meet me, and all the changes that come with that. One day my right hip is crazy tight. Then the next, ouch, the bottom of my spine really hurts. And the next, yo…I’m feeling pretty freakin’ good! No matter where I’m at, dancing forces me to be aware of myself in that moment. It encourages a kinesthetic curiosity within me. I ask myself how I’m doing: what can I do today, what can’t I do, and how am I negotiating the two so that I can be better than I was yesterday? When I take that time to meet myself, I find that I’m better able to meet and connect with others as well. As Gabë and I mentioned in our previous posts, I think that’s ultimately what it’s all about.

So I encourage you, as tiring as it might be, to use your resources to check in with who you are every day. There will be aspects about yourself that disappoint you, but with that comes the characteristics that get you excited and joyful. Yes, events will happen that get you down— be down. Sit in it. Come to terms with it, and understand who you are within that moment. Then, find it in yourself to get out of it. Just do it. You’ll find you’re greater than your situation. When you’re not, trust in others to help you push through. Talk to them. Be vulnerable. They say it takes a community to raise a child. Well, we don’t stop needing help to grow as we age into adulthood. Embrace community, depend on others to make you strong, and move on.

“Negus” Dance Film

Negus- noun: Kingship, royalty.

Inspired by the works of artists such as Kendrick Lamar and Kehinde Wiley, I wanted to explore different levels of identity and representation of the black male in the United States. “Negus” is a Hip-hop work that asks African-American males, where do we come from, who are we now, what values do we uphold, what obstacles do we face in this society, and how do we overcome them?

In asking these questions, “Negus” seeks to use Hip-hop as a way to portray the humanity of the black male figure. In doing so, it directly opposes the commercial rap world– a primary source for the portrayal of the stereotypical black man–and delves deeply into some complications about certain aspects of the African-American experience.

“Negus” premiered at Urban Art Space in Columbus, OH in January of 2016. This film both captures the essence of the original work and completely wrecks it simultaneously. Within the film aspects of controversy between who we are and who we could/should be are portrayed as well as lighter themes such as rhythm, fun, etc. I hope this helps give you a way into viewing the film and I hope you enjoy!

Put Your Hands Up: Hip-hop, Incarceration, and the Fate of the Black Male pt 4

As much as the prison complex and the rap industry affect the livelihood of black males in society, they also affect the way in which black males are seen in this society. Again, the understanding of how a criminal label can affect how you are seen is fairly simple, but the role of the commercial rap industry is more complicated and subdued. If the prison complex is used to label African American males as criminals, then the commercial rap industry substantiates that labeling by portraying an enjoyment of the lifestyle that leads to prison. Take the industry’s use of Travis Scott, for example. Scott is a contemporary rapper worth 2.5 million dollars whose most recent song, Antidote, has been on Billboard’s Top 15 rap songs for weeks. Here is an excerpt from Antidote, “I might do it all again / I just hit a three peat / fucked three hoes I met this week / I don’t do no old hoes / my nigga that’s a no-no / she just want the coco / I just want dinero / who that at the front door? /if it’s the feds oh-no-no” (Travis). Travis Scott grew up in the suburbs of Houston, Texas in a two-parent home with his father running a business and his mother working for Apple. He went to college, but dropped out. Travis Scott lived in a socio-economic status that is less likely to be influenced by gang culture and criminal behavior yet, his counter-cultural lyrics still portray a blatant and monotonous display of criminality while rejecting the idea of instilling value through socially conscious poetry.

The commercial rap industry has used African American males like Travis Scott to rid the diversification of Hip-hop’s counter-cultural mentality in order to display African American males as a demographic that embraces the lifestyle of a criminal. Therefore, the commercial rap industry is aiding in the dehumanization of African American males by portraying the notion that we as a community enjoy lifestyles that lead to second-class citizenship.

Using lyrics from the 7-grammy award winner Kendrick Lamar, the commercial rap industry is saying, “Fuck niggas’/No better than Samuel or Django/No better than a white man with slave boats” (Kendrick). Yet, Kendrick’s words can also be used to show the battle that Hip-hop culture is currently fighting against the criminalization of African American males:

“Retraced my steps on what they never taught me/Did my homework fast before government caught me…[this is] straight from Ethiopia/N-E-G-U-S definition: royalty; King royalty- wait listen/N-E-G-U-S description: Black emperor, King, ruler, now let me finish/The history books overlook the word and hide it/America tried to make it to a house divided/The homies don’t recognize we been using it wrong/So I’ma break it down and put my game in a song.” (Kendrick)

In showing the royal lineage of African Americans, Kendrick Lamar exemplifies Hip-hop culture’s resistance against the “second-class citizen” stigma of said demographic. However, the emcee element of Hip-hop is not the only one fighting this battle. Hip-hop dance, with its growing influence in American mainstream culture, can have a massive impact on the identity and perception of African American males in this country. As a Hip-hop choreographer and teacher in graduate school, I have studied the ways in which the values of Hip-hop culture—Peace, Love, Unity, and Having Fun—can be cultivated within a studio classroom and a concert stage environment (Chang 105). As a result I’ve created artistic works that use street dance styles to raise awareness on issues such as police brutality, and explore ideas of identity and representation in regards to African American males living in this society. I’ve also created weekly Hip-hop dance classes in the city of Columbus called “onCUE” where “CUE” is an acrostic for create, unite, and empower. These dance classes are for the entire community where students learn foundational street dance techniques in order to grasp a new way to connect with themselves and to converse with others; thus, encouraging the dissolution of social, economic, political, and criminal barriers.

By introducing a pro-cultural agenda through Hip-hop dance, I am combatting both the “second-class citizen” label brought on by mass incarceration and the criminalization of commercialized rap music. My efforts might not be enough to change the system, but I’ve witnessed the affects enough to know that it changes lives including my own. I’ve gone from seeing myself as solely a thief to proclaiming that I am a dancer. I am a teacher. I am an artist. I am a scholar. But most importantly, I am an embodiment of the positive influence that a criminal can have on this society through Hip-hop.

 

Works Cited

Alexander, Michelle. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. New York: The New Press, 2012. Print.

“Billboard Hot Rap Songs.” n.p. n.d. Web. 23 February 2016.

Chang, Jeff. Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-hop Generation. New York: St. Martin’s, 2005. Print.

Cummings, Pond. Andre Douglas. “Thug Life: Hip Hop’s Curious Relationship with Criminal Justice.” Social Science Research Network (2009): 19. Web. 23 February 2016.

Kendrick Lamar. “i.” Genius. 23 February 2016.

Something From Nothing: The Art Of Rap. dir. Ice T. Indomina Releasing, 2012. DVD.

Travis Scott. “Antidote.” Genius. 23 February 2016.

Put Your Hands Up: Hip-hop, Incarceration, and The Fate of the Black Male pt 3

Part 3:

Ice Cube—previous member of the rap group, NWA—in The Art of Rap says, “What [street knowledge] means to me is letting the streets know what the politicians is trying to do to them and then letting the politicians know what the streets think of them, if they’re listening.” In the same interview, Ice T then responds with, “I wanted somebody to take my album, when they done, be more intelligent about the game than they were. Versus me saying that I’m tough…” (Something From Nothing). This insinuates that even the “gangsta’ rappers” of the 1980’s who dropped the F-bomb like it was a preposition had an intent to instill values into their hood and into the minds of anyone who would listen.

The rappers of today previously mentioned in the list of chart toppers don’t seem to have any similar kind of intent behind their music. Social conscious messaging is either completely void from these artists’ work or it exists and is swept under the rug by the rap industry. When you look at a rapper like Yo Gotti, his latest album The Art Of Hustle—which features a Billboard top 15 song, Down In The DM—begins with the track My City, which is an authentic reflection of life in Yo Gotti’s hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. Yet, Down In The DM holds almost 11 million views on Youtube compared to My City’s 43,000 views, thus showing the disparity in the kinds of counter-cultural Hip-hop music that is played on a commercial level today.

Michelle Alexander in the New Jim Crow established what the label of “second-class citizen” implies in this country: discrimination equal to the treatment of blacks during slavery and the Jim Crow era. However, how is commercialized Hip-hop related to this label of second-class citizenship? The number of incarcerated African American males is at an all time high in the United States. Simultaneously, the most influential medium for black men to be heard by a mainstream audience has shifted towards a counter-cultural movement that represents excessive sex, illegal drug use, and violence. I suggest that the combination of the two is a powerful force that negatively influences the ways in which African-American males identify themselves in this country and the ways in which others identify them.

When I was ten years old I moved to the edges of inner city Philadelphia. It was the first time I had been in an environment where the majority of people around me resembled my ethnicity and racial make-up on a daily basis. As a boy trying to fit in, I found myself listening to rap music and watching Hip-hop music videos through 106 and Park on BET (Black Entertainment Television) despite my parents’ strict opposition against such things. I was a part of a Christian home with both parents invested into my life, yet I remember how my mind solely desired the fruits of my Hip-hop influenced environment. I wanted to wear the baggie clothes of Puff Daddy, talk like 50 Cent, and get the girls like Nelly. Naturally, I started cursing whenever my parents were absent, I sagged my pants as soon as I left the embrace of my mother to go off to school, and I talked to females like they were meant for only one thing. The black males I looked up to in the media influenced the way in which I viewed the world, even in contest with my own parents’ teachings. If my ten-year-old mind was so influenced by the counter-culture of commercialized Hip-hop that my parents felt a need to move me from Philadelphia after 3 years, I can only imagine the magnitude of influence it has on young black boys whose fathers are in jail.

Put Your Hands Up: Hip-hop, Incarceration, and The Fate of the Black Male pt 2

Part 2:

Interestingly, there has been another movement, the Hip-hop movement, transpiring in urban environments, especially amongst African American males. Hip-hop’s music has always been used to represent a counter-cultural movement. However, the ways in which Hip-hop has accomplished this has shifted since it has become more commodified. In the 1980’s and 90’s Hip-hop was an amalgamation of messages and sounds as artists from all over the United States gained the access to rep their hood on a mainstream platform. Therefore, Hip-hop as a whole began to reject the norms of American culture by both positively empowering the black community and glorifying criminal behavior. Andre Douglas and Pond Cummings in Thug Life: Hip Hop’s Curious Relationship with Criminal Justice emphasize the latter part of this complex discourse in saying:

Hip-hop exposes the current punishment regime as profoundly unfair. It demonstrates this view by, if not glorifying lawbreakers, at least not viewing all criminals with disgust, which the law seeks to attach to them. Hip-hop points out the incoherence of the law’s construct of crime, and it attacks the legitimacy of the system. (19)

Songs such as Me So Horny by 2 Live Crew, Fuck The Police by Niggaz Wit Attidudes (NWA), and 6 In the Mornin’ by Ice T, which perpetuated violence and a gangsta lifestyle, stood in harmony with the socially conscious messages of My Philosophy by Boogie Down Productions, The Message by Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five, and Fight The Power by Public Enemy. Ultimately, they all told their own story in their own way without apology, and it created a plethora of counter-cultural themes within the same genre.

This brought up the question for me, “Is the diversity of rap music still prevalent today on the commercial level?” I did an analysis of Billboard’s “Hot Rap Songs” of 2016 to explore this query. The top rap artists played through a commercial medium are Drake, Yo Gotti, Travis Scott, Future, Young Thug, Fetty Wap, and 2 Chainz. These rappers account for over 90% of the Billboard’s top 15 rap songs in 2016 (Billboard). I’ve listened to every song created by these artists that are posted on Billboard this month, and every single one falls into one or more of the counter-cultural themes of drugs, violence, or excessive sex while not one represents education or the exposing of issues within our government, our cities, or our country.

 

The b(AA)ttle

This project explores the impact of many commercial rap songs on our society in regards to the representation of blackness in America.

It also combats the use of glorifying criminalization within rap songs as a way to silence the productive voices of blackness and black people in this country.

Enjoy!

Put Your Hands Up: Hip-hop, Incarceration, and the Fate of the Black Male pt1

Hey y’all,

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything. Honestly, I’ve tried, but for my last semester of grad school…let’s just say senior-itis has not had any room to hit me. In grinding through this busy semester I did accomplish one of my goals– write a research paper and present it at Ohio State’s most distinguished graduate school research competition (applause applause “thank you very much” applause applause)! It got a lot of great reception and I thought it would be something people are interested in. Since it’s a 7-page paper I decided to split it into 4 parts to share with you all throughout this month. I hope you all enjoy!

Part I:

 

I am a graduate. I am Hip-hop. I am a criminal. In a few short weeks I will proudly graduate with a Master’s degree in Dance from Ohio State University with a focus in Hip-hop dance and culture. Graduation should be a time to celebrate, as I have accomplished an educational milestone that allows me to become a productive and influential citizen to society. However, sometimes I truly dread graduation because, for me, life transitions mean uncertainty—the uncertainty caused by poor decisions as a young adult. I wonder if my criminal record will deter me from opportunities that I could otherwise have. Two misdemeanors of theft have stigmatized me in the eyes of many—just another negative Black statistic.

Consider the correlation between the incidences of incarcerated African American males and the heightened glorification of criminality within contemporary commercial rap music. Today, the African American male is the prominent figurehead of both the industrial prison complex and the commercial rap industry in the United Sates. I will discuss how both discourses aid each other in the marginalization of the black male in American society through a textual analysis of scholarly literature and rap lyrics. I will also explore how Hip-hop dance can combat the stigmatization of African American males perpetuated by both the criminal system and the rap industry through a critical analysis of my work as a graduate student in Hip-hop dance.

Since the 1970’s the number of people incarcerated into the prison system has quintupled from 350,000 to over 2 million (Alexander 8). In some cities, more than fifty percent of the prison population consists of African American males. Today, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, almost one of every three African American males will go to prison in their lifetime. One out of every three. Look around. 1-2-Prison. That means over 7 million African American males will be labeled “criminal.” Michelle Alexander in The New Jim Crow provides insight as to what that label entails in saying:

Even when released from the system’s formal control, the stigma of criminality lingers. Police supervision, monitoring, and harassment are facts of life… a criminal record today authorizes precisely the forms of discrimination we supposedly left behind—discrimination in employment, housing, education, public benefits, and jury service. Those labeled criminals can even be denied the right to vote. (141)

The charges that most of these criminals face are for non-violent crimes such as the illegal use of drugs or the illegal selling of those drugs. Yet, these non-violent offenses, though largely self-induced, have laid the foundation for a pernicious, socially violent, movement that labels African American males as second-class citizens—a permanent stigma that is difficult to overcome.

 

Hip-Hop and Christianity: Mutually Exclusive or Nah?

HIP-HOP: Healing, Intelligence, Purpose- Hate, Obnoxious, Pain. Like anything and everything in this world, Hip-hop contains both good and bad. However, what side you stand on as you claim, “I am Hip-hop” is what decides the fate, memory, and trajectory of the culture.

KRS-One claims that one of the first rules to being a Hip-hoppa’ is that you have to claim to be Hip-hop (40 Years of Hip-Hop). So, I sit here today and profess that I am Hip-hop. I also profess, even more strongly, that I am Christian. For me, I’ve never seen an issue with claiming both of those things. Actually, I’ve constantly been aware of how the philosophies of both Hip-hop and Christianity intertwine with each other: I’m a king and you’re a king, we’re all kings (J. Cole) and love your neighbor as you love yourself (J.Esus) just as an example. I know a huge part of being a Christian is showing God’s love through your actions towards yourself and towards others on a daily basis. I also know a foundational mentality in Hip-hop is the importance of creating a community where each individual can express their true selves freely as a result of the love from the community. Since I’ve searched for a deeper understanding of who I am, what Hip-hop is, and who God is, I’ve only seen the parallels and connections between all three. Not that I am oblivious to the negatives of Hip-hop culture—quite the opposite actually—but I decide to focus on Hip-hop as another way of cultivating the spirit of God through ourselves and to each other.

But…I’ve come across a different mindset recently. I had an intriguing and informative talk with a good friend who didn’t see how Hip-hop glorifies God. To him, the culture and the mindset is too focused on materialism, misogyny, drugs, and gangs to be something of God. How can Christians be a part of something so foul—so anti-God? He showed me this article that perpetuated his query of Hip-hop culture in the eyes of a Christian. In this article (published through a site called “exministries”) it claimed that Christians should not be a part of Hip-hop because it is a religious sub-culture that glorifies the self rather than Christ. Since the culture was created by ex-gang members, embraced by gang members, and cultivated through parties, the fabric of the culture is one that Christ rejects; and therefore, we as Christians should not be a part of it.

Well yes, Hip-hop certainly does seek to encourage self-worth: Hip-hop says I am a king/queen, Hip-hop says I can achieve anything that I want to do, and Hip-hop says learn about yourself and your own history. But why does that have to mean that God cannot be within Hip-hop? To me, I am a king because God called me to be one. God says I am perfectly and wonderfully made…so if the King of all kings made me perfectly and wonderfully, who am I not to say that through Christ, I am a king? Yes, I can achieve whatever I want to because I have the Holy Spirit guiding my thoughts and actions, and whatever God claims is mine is mine, so I’m going to seek to take what I want whether it be status, power, influence, success, purpose, or whatever through the name of Jesus. Yes, I need to learn about myself because how else will I move forward towards God with clarity if I do not work to remove my chains that are holding me down? And finally, yes, I need to know my own history because God placed people here before me so that I may stand on their shoulders with a sense of gratitude and praise as God shows me where I come from and where I can go.

To me, Hip-hop is a tool. Like any sub-culture it is a manifestation of the people who live within it. Without people, Hip-hop does not exist. Therefore it is simply something to be used. Now, how you use it… that’s up to you. If you as a person represent gang culture, drugs, misogyny, violence, etc. and you love Hip-hop, well Hip-hop is going to show itself in that way. If you bring God into Hip-hop, then Hip-hop is going to show Godliness. And, honestly, even though Hip-hop was created and embraced by people who were a part of gangs, the movement was created as a way to get a way from that life style. The foundations are peace, love, unity, and having fun… three out of the four Hip-hop elements, arguably four, are elements of Godliness and are shared by the philosophy of Christianity. And although Hip-hop has veered towards a lot of negative things—especially through the commercialization of the culture and the commodification of Hip-hop music—that is still not a reason to not embrace it as a Christian. There’s this thing that we believe as Christians and its called redemption. If we as humans can be born into sin and yet be forgiven and raised anew through Jesus, then why can’t we bring the same concept to Hip-hop? As I go into the professional Hip-hop dance world, there are going to be a lot of struggles as I will be in an environment where many people don’t use Hip-hop in the way I do. Yet, I feel very strongly about going into the world anyways so that I can show another way, a truly positive and loving way, for Hip-hop to be used.

When Will the Ghetto’s Creation “Infest” the “Pristine” Fabric of the Institution?

I want to tell y’all a story ‘cuz Hip-hop showed me something…

I remember witnessing 20-plus students in my classroom allow fear and insecurity to inhibit them from comforting and helping a couple of vulnerable students. See, I had given the class a task:

 

  1. Create a circle
  2. One person at a time: go into the circle, dance, and continue dancing until everyone is in the middle of the circle
  3. Once everyone is in the middle, one person at a time, exit back to the edge of the circle in the order in which you entered

 

I ask if everyone understands. They say they do. I ask if anyone has questions. They say they don’t. I play the music. And the aura of the room stiffens. I’ve never felt so much tension in a room before as people looked to their-left-and-their-right in an awkward attempt to say, “anyone but me is going to enter that circle first!” Finally, after about a minute or so, this brave female enters the space. Kicking her knees and legs in a frivolously rhythmic pattern, she overcomes the tension in order to share herself with her classmates. After her, one, two, three more students sequentially come to the middle in order to connect physically and spiritually with this first energetic soul. We’re on a roll! But not really. Because almost two minutes later those same 4 students are dancing and exerting themselves in the middle of the circle as their fellow students simply watch like an audience at a golf tournament.

My patience quickly turned into a gamut of dramatic emotion. I snap the music off and frustratingly spill out, “It’s interesting to me how we can have these four people overcome their insecurities in order to do what most of us could not do (go into the middle of the circle) and tire themselves out in the process; yet, instead of joining them, thus putting an end to their exhaustion and vulnerability, we’d rather stand here and watch them continuously suffer…”

I believe all dance forms allow the opportunity for practitioners to apply their experience with dance to the challenges and achievements of life. However, I have rarely felt any Eurocentric dance form make me look at my culture, my worldview, and my society quite like Hip-hop dance has. I think it’s because Hip-hop is not just a dance, but also a convoluted and complex culture that spawns the arts such as dance, visual art, music, fashion, and poetry. As I reflect on that mentioned teaching experience, I fascinate at Hip-hop’s ability to reveal ourselves to ourselves. The way in which we think and behave in society was transferred into a fairly simple, yet clearly complicated exercise.

Despite this, rarely is Hip-hop embedded into the foundational Eurocentric structure of dance departments throughout America. The stigmatization of Hip-hop as a recreational and commercial fad has blinded institutions to see Hip-hop as a useful, powerful, and educational tool that can be beneficial for dance majors as well as elective students. As a result, students are graduating into the professional world without valuable Hip-hop lessons that would not only inform the way in which they move, but also the way in which they tap into their potential as thinkers and social beings.

I’ve been so blessed to be here at Ohio State as it has allowed me to see how important Hip-hop dance is to critiquing our flaws and displaying our potential as citizens in America. As I prepare to graduate I am nothing but excited to see how else this Hip-hop dance form can change lives, communities, and societies for the better.

A Journey of Focus, Excellence, and Mastery.