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Lavie Raven's Final Project: UHipHop Global Unit Plan and Associated Music

Peace all,

I am submitting this description for activating the UHipHop Global research project in my class last year, and student work from the unit this year. I have done this project with students for the last five years, and it blossomed from general overviews of hip-hop to studies of social movements to studying hip-hop and other community arts work as community development. The project involves students studying community arts, hip-hop, and how the two connect worldwide in community work and social development especially for youth and their surrounding neighborhoods, favelas, borroughs. This year the students have connected the project to the youth summit that they are organizing (mentioned on the Ning at the beginning of the class). Several tech tools have been used to facilitate the project this year. Two blogs give information on the University of Hip-Hop, and the youth summit coming this May 21: they are and In addition we brought in a music producer to use the Reason program and Garage Band to record student poetry and back-drop it with music. I posted a few of the recordings that students have done as part of the poetry that will be showcased as one of their contributions to the youth summit. Some of them are posted here as well.

The purpose of this project is to connect youth interests to social movements, and for students to se that there is an ongoing social undercurrent within creative movements that is informed by empowerment and voice. There are really multiple layers happening, in that they are doing their own individual project development, studying various internationally distributed movements, and then organizing a youth summit for ~300 youth from Chicago. This paper is a resource for other activists, youth advocates, artists, and youth to continue adding new curricular work that intertwines the arts, academic research and youth cultural and creative interests. Please share any ideas, criticisms, suggestions, love, for growing this further.

Rock on,
Lavie Raven

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Comment by Raven on May 16, 2009 at 2:35pm
As part of the UHipHop Global project, we use watching historical films and competitive break-dance events in order to train as sociologists of hip-hop, rather than requiring students to become practitioners of these arts. Students are meant to become expert analysts of the art-forms they are being exposed to, in order to explain them to others who are new students of hip-hop. For their own thorough enjoyment of the hip-hop arts, it is important for them to get a taste of doing an art, understanding dominant paradigms prevalent in an art form, judging the aesthetic quality of an art, and then educating others with the background knowledge they have learned.
I would like to share how we have used excerpts from historical films, with the teacher as a `common viewer’, presenting a framework for inquiry, and then co-evaluating historical viewpoints alongside students. Calling on Teasley and Wilder’s examples of viewing films with students, and interweaving commentary and insights with those of students, this is similar to how we have viewed films this year. We begin each film with an essential question relevant to that film’s intended topic. Students are informed that they will be taking a survey look at various documentaries on hip-hop to compare and contrast `viewpoints’, ‘personalities’, and `skills and styles’ of potent historical figures, and then use these to come up with conclusions responding to an essential question prompt.
Two films that are used for historical background in hip-hop are “Remixed in Japan”, and “Scratch”. The first is about Japanese hip-hop and similarities and differences with US hip-hop. Created by hip-hop educator Melody Weinstein, the film is a great tool for exploring cultural dynamics stateside, and in countries receiving and developing their own hip-hop methods. The second film is a historical overview of dee-jaying/turntablism, and is a magnificent two-disc set that includes the history and sets of on-hands lessons for practitioners.
Though students are aware that I am an `expert’ in hip-hop education, I stress that I am just as much of a student of each art form and that we are going to learn from these films together. I can help provide some clues where they may not understand what a figure is talking about in regards to certain technology of art-specific terminology. Otherwise we are going to view it together with each of us filling in the same viewing form, and pausing at points to discuss what we have learned so far. We do some of the same practices as Teasely indicated, but with specific modifications for each film.

We stop the tape, give the students time to make notes on their viewing guides, and then start discussion. We typically begin by asking our students to talk about what they have seen—what struck them visually about that segment of the film. (p. 59, Teasley an d Wilder)

At the beginning of each film, they have their guide in hand, really a simple doc with a category for `figure’s name’, `viewpoint on topic’, and a third category for the essential question. But I do not ask them to use this sheet until ten minutes into the film. This way they can enjoy the film itself, before having to analyze what interviewees and presenters are saying. Remixed in Japan states from the beginning that it is comparing three perspectives: traditional Japanese culture, Japanese hip-hop, and US hip-hop. The film starts with a barrage of images that depict everyday life in urban Tokyo, from food service, public transportation, and downtown cityscapes. We pause after the first ten minutes to talk about what stood out to them, and what this tells them about Japanese culture.
I am sitting there with the same sheet, and then explain that we will begin meeting our important figures, and that I will pause the film after each figure’s introduction and main statements for them to take notes on the sheet. Students do the first figure on their own, and then we share out. Then they have to do the next four figures on their own and then share them out in small groups and then take those observations to the larger group. We go into the second day of viewing, continuing where we left off, and then take time after watching fifteen minutes of the film to fill in the reflection grid on the bottom of the sheet, about what these figures perspectives mean for comparing and contrasting US and Japanese hip-hop. As Teasely and Wilder indicate, taking a side-seat role with students makes space for all as experts…certainly I know only as much they do about Japanese hip-hop as I have only watched the film. This makes everybody’s insights equal in importance, and generally means that I will hear something that my students’ fast eyes and minds saw that I missed.

In the discussion, the teacher becomes one viewer and not the only authority in the room. The role of the viewer is not always a comfortable one for us…We have to bite our tongue to keep ourselves in our viewer role and out of your teacher role. We have solved this dilemma by filling in our own viewer guides. If no one else mentions “our” image, we bring it up by saying, “One thing I noticed…” (p. 60, Teasely and Wilder)

I generally use very simple sheets as a viewing guide, because we are not watching a film in its entirety, and they will ultimately translate what they have watched into an essay within a week of beginning a film. Our purpose is one facet of the content of the film, and not on the aesthetic presentation or choice of filing techniques. Our discussions always include collective comments on the striking nature of images, why one clip may have been chosen for a reason. There is a clip in Remixed in Japan where the screen fits slice after slice of every person interviewed to create a caucaphony of voices, sounds, and visuals of faces, and the students address this as a way of saying that every perspective on hip-hop I Japan is valid and part of a collective iteration of the multiple manifestations of the culture.
The second film I include here is “Scratch”. I love watching this film with students because it serves as an educational tool in a variety of ways. We used to watch this in class and pause to discuss historical developments indicated by figures, and how the culture of turntablism has evolved from the original scratching to competitive forums and a musical art form with its own unique cultural depth. We still watch the film for those things, but I realized that we could use both discs, braiding them in and out, so that students can get history, and actual lessons in turntablism. We have the advantage at our school of offering dee-jaying classes after-school, so those students who are really driven by the viewing can go join that program.
Students are filling out another form with a straightforward `figure’, `viewpoint’, and this time a `style’ category. But for them to really understand what `style’ means they need to get some intervening lessons in scratches, blending, and other forms of scratching that deejays have created. To achieve this understanding, I now play the film about 7-10 minutes at a time, and then a segment of the instructional video. Style in the film goes from simpler to more complex as it goes from old school to new school artists. This is the first year that I have done this inter-braiding of films, and the kids are totally into it. They use one sheet to identify figures and their place on the family tree of dee-jaying, while that take notes on particular techniques used by dee-jays.
For both films, students have to produce other forms of writing in relfection on what they have learned. Using Teasley’s and Wilder’s categories (pp. 66-71), here are some ways students have used films to inform their writing assignments:

Personal Essays: Students write a journal every week over the course of the unit, but have to write one personal essay on a film and art form that the film concentrated on. This year the essay reflected on how they would use hip-hop as part of a community-based art project that they will develop. Because turntablism is the least accessible art form because of the cost of the associated technology, I asked them how they could make it more accessible as part of their community projects. Students came up with great suggestions such as using other more affordable tools for the art, like tape players (which their parents still have), cheaper turntables, or writing a grant for purchasing multiple sets of turntables.

Analytical Essays: The question that stands throughout the unit, is ‘how has hip-hop been commodified and what impacts has that had it’s art forms.’ Every film from “Scratch”, “Remixed in Japan”, “Beat Kings”, “The Freshest Kids
to the classic “Style Wars” illustrated through character statements how the arts changed when they become popular and exploited by corporate opportunism. Fortunately I don’t have to explain this to students because they see these developments in the film, and if I ask about it, they come up with many examples.

Imaginative Writings: This is where the fun has been this year with the uHipHop global unit. Based in the things they learn from multiple textual resources, the students write poems on three topics: “The Voice of the Community”, “Hip-Hop is…”, and “Global Hip-Hop.” Every unit I do with youth requires an essay, a visual arts component, and a 16-21 line poem. Students write at least fifteen poems over the course of the school year. With the analysis of the films we watch, they have content to fulfill their creative interpretation of what they have learned.

All of the above are examples of some of the ways students have analyzed film this semester. It is important to note that none of these films is a fictional portrayal of hip-hop. I would use completely different standard and essential questions because such viewings would really cover other topics, such as cultural legitimacy, the intervention of corporate film-making in the hip-hop arts, and the spread of the movement through our `post-industrial diaspora.’ The work mentioned above is only for shorter viewings of documentaries excerpts, and helping students gain a historical overview of the development of an art-form.

Links to information on these two films are:
Remixed in Japan:
Comment by Raven on May 16, 2009 at 11:36am
That conference sounds totally amazing...can you share when that will be happening--Detroit has been coming up a lot the last three months; a student group converting abandoned homes into community garden and art space, farmer's markets, hip-hop dj's starting positive block parties out of nowhere. I'll look up that conference on-line....
I would love to create a relationship between our students...we brought students out to NY in November to meet other youth, swing by community centers (such as the Point and Brotherhood Sistersol) with the central essential question being 'how does a particular community facility use the arts toward social justice initiatives?' Of course we focus some on hip-hop, but since all of our kids aren't hip-hoppers, they can find a cultural focus that calls on their interests. Students from Brooklyn Community Arts and Media came to us the Spring before, and our students gave them a tour of centers, schools, and community-based arts facilities. I think creating a blogging connection is a great first step, and then maybe that can grow into some collaborative intersections across distances, or in person. Maybe we can come meet with your youth next school year, or maybe you have students who can join this exchange project.
I will be posting the results of the youth summit that we are doing this year, which is the primary culmination and `assessment' per se of what the students did as a part of this unit. It's going really well, with some pretty crazy presenters sharing out--like these electronic musical chairs that use multimedia technology, how to create pirate radio stations, and live broadcast by cell-phone through on Thursday.
Peace and Smiles!
Comment by Lauren Fardig on May 16, 2009 at 10:16am
This is such great work! I would love to connect with you on projects like this in future years -- getting my students from the South Bronx to dialogue with yours about their discoveries and research, perhaps? Maybe a blog exchange of some sort. I'm currently working on bringing a handful of my students to the Allied Media Conference in Detroit this summer with a similar goal in mind -- connecting their creativity and love for music and media to a network of other youth who are using this media toward social change movements worldwide. My blog is at -- let's connect!
Comment by Raven on May 11, 2009 at 10:12pm
Additional Songs from this year's unit...ROSIE TRACK.m4amartinez track.m4a


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