The Office of Intercultural Student Affairs is hosting a series of events this month centering on hip-hop’s cultural significance.
The events are part of a series called Emerson Hip-Hop Month, intended to show the Emerson community that hip-hop is “more than a music genre, hip-hop is a way of life that continues to be a powerful tool to bring light to social issues,” according to the series’ event description.
Intercultural Student Affairs Director Tamia Jordan put together the month’s events to help create more spaces for students of color at Emerson.
“Where I went to undergrad, even though it’s a predominantly white institution, there’s still an energy and vibrancy around a variety of different cultures,” Jordan said. “And we have that here, but it’s more pockets here and there.”
Emerson’s student body is 67 percent white, 11 percent Latinx, 5 percent Asian/Pacific Islander, and 4 percent African American, according to demographics published on the College website. Student protests held on campus last semester demanded efforts to enroll more students of color and cultural competency training for students, among other things.
Jordan said she was kicking around the idea of focusing the College’s annual Social Justice Academy on hip-hop and “artivism,” the concept of combining art and activism. When Emerson student Elmer Martinez ’19 approached her with the idea of hosting a dance battle, she viewed it as “confirmation from the universe that this needs to be our topic and we need to loop it all together.”
A dance competition called Rebirth Vol. 1 was the first event, taking place on April 1 at the Cabaret. It was the first open styles dance battle event, also known as a jam, held at Emerson, and was organized by Martinez.
“The energy there was amazing, just folks supporting each other and just being in that space together,” Jordan said of the jam. “It was just one extended family…extended family reunion, if you will.”
Emerson Acting major Malachi McDonald ’19, who was recruited to create a promo video for the events, was amazed by Rebirth, saying it was the first time he’d been in a setting like that.
“You could see the confidence from the dancers, the fact that they had this space to share with other people that had the same interests as them,” McDonald said.
McDonald is hoping the event will give the Emerson community a first-person experience of hip-hop’s significance.
“Just to understand the importance of hip-hop culturally for blacks and African Americans and people of color, you know, that it’s not just a popular genre of music…it’s something that means a lot more to a lot of people,” McDonald said. “I think for Emerson, not only will it give them an introduction into that, but it’ll give them a good introduction to black culture.”
Jordan hopes Emerson Hip-Hop Month will see a successful turnout from the community.
“I hope that folks come out and dip their toe and find a way to get connected to some of the different things that are going on,” she said. “And I also hope that they have fun.”
Emerson Hip-Hop Month’s upcoming three events are listed below:
2018 Social Justice Academy: Hip-Hop Artivism Thursday, April 19, 12:00–8:00 pm, Bill Bordy Theater
I Gotta Have It Film Screening Saturday, April 21, 7:30 pm, Bright Family Screening Room
Digging for Weldon Irvine (multimedia installation), Monday, April 23, 6:00 pm reception and artifacts gallery, 7:00 pm screening and discussion, Bright Family Screening Room