Hip-hop lecture kicks off Black History Month

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Musical artist and teacher Toni Blackman spoke to students and faculty on “The Intersection of Hip Hop, Education and Activism” on Monday night in the Coor building. Ms. Blackman made sure everyone participated in a free-flowing hip-hop inspired rhyme about love, global warming and shoes during this interactive evening.(Claire Warden/The State Press)
Published On:
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
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Hip-hop is more than just music — it is “tagging your heart, not walls,” musical performer and American culture specialist Toni Blackman said in her keynote speech celebrating Black History Month at the Tempe campus Monday.

Blackman said she has served internationally as a performer and activist, speaking on hip-hop music and its culture.

“For me, hip-hop is the vehicle for my creative expression,” Blackman said.

Though Blackman got involved in rapping when she was a teenager, she said it was when she started teaching hip-hop 101 classes to Washington, D.C., public-school teachers that she realized just how powerful hip-hop is.

“I was able to realize that hip-hop would help these teachers become better educators,” Blackman said, by looking at hip-hop as a society of its own, rather than just a type of music.

Another important lesson Blackman said she has learned is that there is no specific hip-hop generation.

“Many people call us the hip-hop generation, but it is a generation that has grown,” Blackman said, and that generation is still growing.

“[We need to] shift over to thinking about what [hip-hop] is,” Blackman said, and “don’t allow TV and radio to shape it for us.”

An attendee, Ellen Ruffin, who graduated from ASU in 2008, said the lecture made her think of hip-hop in a different light.

“It showed a different perspective on hip-hop that you don’t get from the media,” Ruffin said.

Hip-hop as a form of education is a new outlook for her, she said.

Davina Nyemba, an African American studies junior, agreed.

“I learned about how hip-hop incorporates confidence and power,” she said. “[The lecture] made me think out of the box.”

The lecture is part of a series of events planned to commemorate Black History Month at ASU, said event planner Lasana Hotep, a multicultural student-services professional.

Events are being held on all campuses to ensure all interested students are able to attend.

Blackman will host an improvisation workshop on Tuesday at the Polytechnic campus where she will guide participants through self-expression in freestyle rap, as well as help them develop leadership skills.

In addition, a Soul Food Festival will be held Wednesday on Hayden Lawn at the Tempe campus to celebrate Black History Month.

Reach the reporter at abigail.gilmore@asu.edu.