The U of A will be hosting a two-day Hip-Hop symposium this week to teach the community about the many faces of the culture in attempt to get rid of common stereotypes that are attributed to Hip-Hop.
Organizers argue that Hip-Hop goes beyond these stereotypes and should be discussed in an academic institution:
Thus, as researchers and educators, our view of hip-hop culture goes beyond the stereotypical gangster and drug cultures to incorporate this expressive medium's relationships and presences across different academic disciplines such as art, music, dance, language/poetry, religion, gender, culture, history, politics, marketing, fashion, sociology, management as well as film, radio, television and performance studies. Besides its commercial clout, hip-hop's role in challenging stereotypes, destabilizing and unsettling the meaning of blackness and bridging cultural divides in the USA and abroad, merits a place in serious academic discussions of how contemporary societies function.
Hats off to the event planners for reaching out to the community and trying to set the record straight about a culture that has been ignored or considered demeaning in the past.
Hip-Hop music, videos and movies that go mainstream are often those that display violence, drugs and sex, making it difficult to take the culture seriously. Its roots, which reflect a history of black oppression, have been buried and, at the surface, most only see negative connotations of what Hip-Hop is.
Not only have songs and movies tying Hip-Hop to violence, gangs and drugs allowed people to ignore the truth about the culture, they have also allowed these people to separate themselves from it. Such stereotypes allow people to see the struggles that Hip-Hop reflects as a struggle among blacks instead of one which we are all responsible for.
Hip-Hop is not just a negative, violent or demeaning culture. It is a cry for help. It is an expression of a way of life that surrounds us all. It is an artistic and talented culture that should not be ignored. All things in life balance good and bad aspects. In recent years main stream society hasn't seen this balance between the two when it comes to the Hip-Hop culture.
As far as the negative connotations, I think it's time we stop pointing fingers or ignoring the violence, drugs and gangs and instead ask ourselves why Hip-Hop has such a reputation. How can we change it? It's obviously a pattern, and it's obviously political. Society as a whole in the U.S. just needs to care enough to address the problems instead of isolating them. Of course, it's always easier to point fingers.
Embracing the positive, addressing the negative and bridging cultural gaps is what the Hip-Hop culture needs and it looks like the U of A is moving in the right direction.
"The Poetics & Politics of Hip-Hop Cultures" will take place Feb. 7 and 8 at the U of A Student Union Memorial Center and Poetry Center and is free and open to public.