After only one week of my first NEH experience-I am completely blown away! The title of my summer institute: From Harlem to Hi-Hop: African American History Through Literature and Song, is horrifically terrifying due to the fact that my experiences with Hip-Hop are limited to: 1980s ghetto blasters, music videos, radio play, an unfortunate but memorable experience with Wyclef Jean, Eminem (I love MANY of his narratives), The Beastie Boys, and what I call Hard-Rap/Rock-Rap like Rage Against the Machine, or the much later Prophets of Rage. The institute is a collaboration of Dr. Laura Nash and Andrew Virdin, who openly retell stories about how their first proposal for the fellowship was rejected by the NEH. Luckily, this agenda passed through all of the readers because in one week I’ve been connected to inspiring, intellectual voices in the vast field of African American studies.
Dr. Yohuru Williams
I think you can tell from the smile in the picture, Dr. Williams is an engaging speaker who is not only knowledgeable, he introduces and models critical strategies that can immediately be used in the classroom to engage and challenge students. At the same time, he is a prolific writer and I’ve included some links that you should NOT IGNORE! In a later post I will share some lessons I am working on inspired by Dr. Williams.
Dr. Arnold Rampersad
We’ve enjoyed three Skype sessions with Dr. Rampersad who has been a Stanford faculty member since 1974 and also written books about W. E. B Dubois, Langston Hughes, Ralph Ellison and others. The generosity of Dr. Rampersad cannot go unmentioned as he volunteered to Skype with any of the teachers present individually or in a smaller group to aid in research.
Dr. Tricia Rose
While Dr. Tricia Rose is most notably known for her books The Hip-Hop Wars and Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America, her expertise and scholarship on 20th Century African American studies on politics, gender, social thought and popular culture allow her to reveal hidden layers in society that even well-read people have missed, or simply grown accustomed to over time. Her lecture mainly dealt with the practice of Redlining and how that still impacts African Americans, as well as other underserved minority communities to this day. While Dr. Rose is currently working on a new book, it will probably take me that long to unpack everything she shared at our institute. An interesting website to look at is Mapping Inequality.
Sylviane A. Diouf
Our visit to the Schomburg exploded into a unique talk given by the curator and director of the Lapidus Center for the Historical Analysis of Transatlantic Slavery at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library! Though soft-spoken, I could feel through her words a woman of achievement and a certain amount of power who still has to fight to bring education to the public. The two exhibits Sylviana A. Diouf worked tirelessly to present are Power in Print and Black Power! She let us know the irony of her speaking to us, for she had herself proposed an NEH institute for the summer, but she was denied because the readers felt it was propaganda. While there have been various exhibits about The Black Panthers, Diouf explains this is the FIRST exhibit strictly about Black Power.
Digital images of the two exhibits: Black Power! & Ready for the Revolution
Research at the Schomburg
Before arriving at the institute, I booked an appointment with the Schomburg research library in the Archives and Special Collections department and I was able to spend hours underground, reading letters written by Langston Hughes, W. E. B. Dubois, Countee Cullen, Georgia Douglas Johnson, and many, many others! While entrenched in a tapestry of letter-language, the Harlem rain poured outside. At some point, I will write extensively about my specific research.