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Workshops celebrate hip-hop art and activism

Jasmine Abele

Hip-hop is a culture expressed through art, music, dance, language and style. On Feb. 9, the first annual Hip-Hop for Change workshop brought these elements together in an exciting interactive forum at Mills campus that explored hip-hop as a medium for social change.

Hip-Hop for Change was organized by Mills College Diversity Programs and the University of San Francisco Multicultural Student Services. The event included a lecture by keynote speaker Professor Andreana Clay and a dialogue about issues within the hip-hop community.

Workshops included spoken word, Theater of the Oppressed role-playing, and stenciling.
“This event is the application of education,” said USF Professor Paul Flores, who was the spoken word and dialogue director. “We’re taking solutions we talk about in our universities and taking it into the community.”

John Young, a student at Laney College, shared Flores’ perspective. “[Hip-hop for Change] really encouraged us to participate and get involved because the nature of these things we discuss are meant to be put into action.”

The event attracted people outside of the Mills community, and Ashlie McDonald, a Mills event organizer, said the turn-out was great. Attendance was half Mills women and their friends, and half USF students.

“We got to get other students on the Mills campus and we got some of our students to meet some of the USF students,” said McDonald. Overall, attendees said they were excited to meet students from another school and build connections beyond Mills.

Keynote speaker Andreana Clay’s lecture, titled “Pull up your pants,” explored stereotype-fueled discrimination against the hip-hop generation based on their clothing. She noted that stereotyping has run so deep that some states, like Louisiana, have outlawed saggy jeans and violators can serve up to six month in jail.

The dialogue lead by Professor Flores took the discussion of stereotypes to another level, looking at discrimination within the hip-hop community. Participants explored the causes and effects of sexism, racism, and homophobia within mainstream hip-hop.

Later, students came up with solutions for these issues using an interactive role-playing tool called Theater of the Oppressed.

“Oppression within hip-hop is mimicking the system that is oppressing the society as a whole,” explained Flores. “When we display the irony of this situation through theater, it lays out the issues for discussion and change.”

One by one, stereotypes were displayed in silent poses by groups of students, while the audience discussed effective means of change. The group would then shift their poses to reflect the solution.

The event ended with a stenciling workshop that got everyone excited. In hip-hop culture, stencil graffiti has been a way of relating political messages.

“Hell yeah I liked [the workshop] a lot,” exclaimed Freshwoman Simone Wilson.
According to Mills’ planning committee, this event is to be held annually, rotating each year from the Mills campus to the USF campus.

Future plans include having one day of workshops and one day of community outreach and volunteer work.