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Bruce Poinsette of The Skanner News
Published: 15 October 2012

Mic Capes and other participants
analyze "I Used to Love H.E.R."


The power of music was on full display at PCC Cascade Campus this past Friday as the Journey to Freedom (JTF) Project hosted its Teaching With a Purpose Conference. The theme of this year's conference was Infusing Hip Hop Into Education.

Featured speakers included Mic Capes, Dr. Doris McEwen, Walidah Imarisha, Dr. Monica Miller and JTF founder Karanja Crews.

Crews began the workshop by sharing his personal journey with hip-hop music and how it helped him cope with his family members' drug use and the prevalence of gang activity when he was growing up. His presentation looked at songs like "The Message" by Grandmaster Flash

Karanja Crews

and the Furious 5, "Colors" by Ice-T and "I Used to Love H.E.R." by Common to show how rap lyrics can be used as critical texts in a classroom environment. To emphasize this, he had participants break up into groups and analyze "I Used to Love H.E.R." line by line.

Following his presentation, Crews, who teaches 5th Grade at Vernon Elementary, brought up some of his students, as well as his two young children, to perform positive hip-hop and show how effective it can be in helping children retain information.

To show an example of local conscious hip-hop, Crews brought up Mic Capes, who recently released a mixtape titled "Rise and Grind". Capes took questions from the audience on the personal nature of the album, his evolution as an artist and his interest in going into social work to help young people, especially young Black males, deal with issues like depression.

Dr. Doris McEwen

The keynote address was delivered by Dr. McEwen, who shared some stories from her experience as an educator. She emphasized the need to understand where students are coming from and punctuated her speech with a reading of Rebera Foston's "You Don't Live on My Street", which left many in the room visibly moved.

Walidah Imarisha discusses the
history of gangs


McEwen's keynote was followed by a workshop with Walidah Imarisha on the history of hip-hop. In it, she discussed how the culture arose from the destruction of the South Bronx and a lack of outlets for youth in the area to express themselves. Imarisha also talked briefly about the history of gangs. Specifically, she noted that the Crips and Bloods were offshoots of the Black Panthers, resulting from COINTELPRO tactics.

Dr. Monica Miller presents on religion and hip-hop

Dr. Monica Miller led the last workshop of the day, which focused on religion and hip-hop. Her presentation discussed how we see religion in general, as well as how aspects of hip-hop culture can serve as religion for some. Miller used archival footage of an interview with Tupac Shakur to show a nuanced view of religion and how it plays out in peoples' everyday lives. In the interview, Shakur described rappers in terms of Biblical illusions, saying they "turn words to money".

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