Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Mumia Speaks:The Power Of Culture

[rev. writ. 5/5/09] (c) '09 Mumia Abu-Jamal

[Review of: Beats, Rhymes + Classroom Life: Hip-Hop Pedagogy + The Politics of Identity, by Marc Lamont Hill (New York: Teachers College, 2009.)

For years now, scholars have tried to grasp and utilize the various tools of hip-hop to stimulate and educate American school students (perhaps especially urban youth) with various measures of success or failure, depending, of course, on who does the measuring.

Some have done so from a position of presumed superiority, looking down on this late 20th century art form much as a biologist peers through lens at a microscopic germ. Some have unjustly painted hip-hop as a symptom of a rebellion that has rarely flashed elsewhere.

Marc Lamont Hill, a professor of education and anthropology at Teachers College, Columbia University, has produced something between these two poles, for, as a relatively young scholar, one raised in the temporal and spatial era of hip-hop culture, he sees it neither with the derision born of age, nor the projection born of hope.

It is as real, and as present as the weather, and as such, it influences and informs those under its syncopated spell, with fascinating effect and impact.

Dr. Hill spent several months in a sweltering South Philadelphia classroom, and instead of blasting CDs, he and a colleague presented their classes with printed lyrics of prominent hip-hop artists, and using discussion and journaling, sought to plumb young minds not merely about the devices and parts of speech utilized in the works, but also about the meanings and messages embedded in the music, and how (or if) the themes presented in the music had relevance to their lives.

What followed were discussions of rare and revealing frankness from students who are not usually asked nor allowed to speak of issues of race, class and culture.

Although open to all students, the majority of sign-ups in Hip-Hop were Black, but whites, Latinos and Asians attended.

In one telling chapter, Hill noted the comments of four white students regarding their views on hip-hop. Despite being fans of the genre, they expressed a discrete racial identity that separated them from many of their classmates and the music:

Lisa: I mean, I love hip-hop and everything. I always did. But I'm still a white girl, you know? Like, the same way that a Black person would love opera but it's still white, a white person could love hip-hop but it's still Black. In here, I'm still white.

Maggie: Right. I mean, I love hip-hop but I can't be hip-hop so I just play my position in here.

Joe: I disagree. I am hip-hop, just like Black people. But I still play my position. It's still certain ways that I'm not in.

Kristen: Exactly. [Hill, Beats....59]

Hill found their insights both complex and contradictory, yet it gave insightful glimpses at the formation of current youth identity (often at variance with one's parents) and racial identity. Clear from their comments is a sense of racial identity, which made them see themselves as outsiders from a culture that they all confessed to loving -- if only from a certain distance.

Hill has his pulse on a vital node of American, African-American, urban, musical and youth culture at the dawn of this new century.

--(c) '09 maj


The Power of Truth is Final -- Free Mumia!

Audio of most of Mumia's essays are at: http://www.prisonradio.org

Mumia Abu-Jamal's new book -- JAILHOUSE LAWYERS: PRISONERS DEFENDING PRISONERS V. THE USA, featuring an introduction by Angela Y. Davis -- will be released soon!
It will be available from City Lights Books at a 30% discount weeks before you can get it at any other bookstore, or from Amazon.

Sign up for an email alert and when the book becomes available for sale you'll receive an email letting you know: http://www.citylights.com/book/?GCOI=87286100448090

In support of Mumia and the publication of JAILHOUSE LAWYERS, organizations around the country will be holding "More Than a Book Party" events on or around Mumia's birthday, April 24, 2009.

If you are planning to organize an event or would like to order in bulk, you can also receive a 45% discount on any bulk orders of 20 copies or more. The book retails for $16.95, for orders of 20 copies or more the discounted price would be $9.32 per book, plus shipping and handling. Prepayment would be required and books are nonreturnable. If you or your organization would like to place a bulk order, please contact Stacey Lewis at 415.362.1901 or stacey@citylights.com

Let's use the opportunity of the publication of this brilliant, moving, vintage Mumia book to build the momentum for his case, to raise the money we desperately need in these challenging economic times, to get the word out – to produce literature, flyers, posters, videos, DVD's; to send organizers out to help build new chapters and strengthen old ones, TO GET THE PEOPLE OUT IN THE STREETS … all the work that we must do in order to FREE MUMIA as he faces LIFE IN PRISON WITHOUT PAROLE OR EXECUTION!

Please make a contribution to help free Mumia. Donations to the grassroots work will go to both INTERNATIONAL CONCERNED FAMILY AND FRIENDS OF MUMIA ABU-JAMAL and the FREE MUMIA ABU-JAMAL COALITION (NYC).


Please mail donations/ checks to:
NY 10030

215 476-8812

Send our brotha some LOVE and LIGHT at:
Mumia Abu-Jamal
AM 8335
175 Progress Drive
Waynesburg, PA 15370


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