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Exploring Hiphop to discuss diversity

ATHENS, Ohio (May 10, 2011) –On Saturday April 16, Upward Bound students were given the opportunity to discuss diversity and learn about the history and world of Hiphop while expressing themselves through different variations of Hiphop performances.

The day-long workshop included both lecture elements and hands-on activities for the students to immerse themselves in the idea of diversity in the world. Dr. Jennifer Chung, a visiting professor in the Patton College of Education and Human Services’ Educational Studies Department, facilitated an interactive session to UB students about diversity.


“A lot of times, we think that diversity just refers to racial or ethnic diversity,” said Dr. Chung. “I wanted students to take away a broader understanding of diversity and to understand that all of us come from diverse cultural contexts.”

Dr. Chung and the students also discussed stereotypes in media, and how with education and discussion, stereotypes can be challenged. This first session on diversity gave Upward Bound students the opportunity to discuss issues that they will be focusing on as the theme of their summer 2011 program.

To begin the second session of the day’s workshop Dr. Akil Houston, an assistant professor in the African American Studies department at OHIO, taught students about the history of Hiphop, from its roots as the byproduct of multicultural communities in the Bronx of New York City in the early 1970s. This allowed students to become more informed diversity advocates. The students learned how the founders of Hiphop were representatives of the African diaspora, emigrating and residing in The Caribbean and the Americas. Dr. Houston then explained the four elements of Hiphop culture: spoken word (also known as emceeing), music and DJ-ing, graffiti art, and b-boy/b-girl dancing.

“Understanding its multi-ethnic origins as well as its uses beyond commercial rap music provides an excellent bridge for understanding diversity,” said Dr. Houston.

After the introduction on the history of Hiphop, students were able to choose a breakout session to attend relating to one of the four elements of Hiphop. Each element provided students with an opportunity to explore diversity through Hiphop in a hands-on way.


One session option was learning the art of graffiti work where UB students were given the fundamentals about the art form and even competed in a graffiti design competition. In the DJ session, Dr. Houston supplied turntables that allowed students to mix their own music first hand. Two current Ohio University students, Benjamin Taylor and Seth Baker, ran the b-boy/b-girl dance breakout session where students learned how to choreograph their own b-boy/b-girl dance. The fourth option was spoken word led by Ohio University students Micah Spencer and DC Moore who guided students on crafting their own poetry and lyrics.

Spencer said she emphasized creativity and individuality in her emceeing session, having students focus on bringing their own experiences to life through words.

“I wanted students to walk away from the program with heightened confidence in their own writing,” said Spencer.

Benjamin Taylor, one of the two students who helped lead the b-boy dance session, explained how in southeast Ohio it is sometimes hard to experience Hiphop and diversity in its truest form.

“I believe the b-boy and Hiphop themes showed them [the students] a type of diversity that many students growing up in this area never encounter,” Taylor said. “…this workshop opened their eyes to this type of self-expression and provided a new way to express themselves.”

UB student Stephen Sprague, who attends River Valley High School in Vinton County, also expressed how the workshop opened him up to thinking about diversity in new ways, such as through the world of Hiphop.

“My favorite part of Saturday’s workshop were the lectures,” said Sprague. “When I went in on Saturday, I knew nothing about Hiphop and I came out inspired. The whole workshop was amazing and very eye-opening.”

Story by Allison Wichie, photos by Ayanna Jordan.