Speaker addresses social issues of hip-hop

Whether you are a hip-hop head or hip-hop hater, the Student Center auditorium on Tuesday evening was the perfect place to be. The Latino Student Association teamed up with the Center for Multicultural Affairs and Center for Diversity and Community Involvement to present “More Than Beats and Rhymes: Hip Hop as Agency for Transforming Consciousness and Activism in Education.,” a program about hip-hop.

The president of the Latino Student Association, senior Jenn Builes, as very happy to try something different that would get people’s attention.

“Every year for Latino Heritage Month, we try to have a keynote address,” Builes said. “We wanted to do a program that would illustrate the Latino culture and hip-hop together because people tend to just associate the African-American community with hip-hop, and hip-hop definitely affects the Latino community. We wanted to move away from those stereotypes and have an open conversation everyone would understand.”

The keynote speaker was Michael Benitez Jr. a graduate of Penn State who is currently pursuing his PH.D. Benitez spoke on the history of hip-hop, its foundations, its roles in society and how it is often misinterpreted and misunderstood.

Benitez began the program by playing some of his favorite hip-hop music and by breaking the ice with a friendly “Wassup Y’all” and describing his love for and experience with hip-hop.

His answer: “The culture and the way we carry ourselves.”

Benitez has been publicly speaking about hip-hop since 2003. He doesn’t consider this to be his career but instead “vocational activism, because it’s a big part of my life, and a form of activism by sharing my journeys with different people.”

The main message he wants to get across in his discussions is for people “to localize and critically examine themselves, and to implicate themselves through oppression, and find their identity, in this case I do it through hip-hop.”

Dr. Beth Johnson, who teaches in the Education Department at EMU, was very enlightened by Benitez’s message.

“I came as a learner today,” she said. “There are huge generational differences between me and my students and I believe using hip-hop in the curriculum is a great way of reaching the youth.”

Dr. Johnson regularly uses hip-hop in her classroom and passionately believes “that we are in competition with the hearts and minds of our children.”

Ariel Goodwin, a sophomore from Oakland University, like others, really enjoyed the program. She admitted to not being a huge fan of hip-hop, but after hearing the speaker and his love for hip-hop she is considering “investing in a little KRS-ONE.”

Along with the music Goodwin also enjoyed the message of the program.

“[I learned] that hip-hop shouldn’t be confined and that people should explore how it was started, and what true hip-hop is.”

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