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Critical Consciousness and Empowerment in Political Hip-Hop Practices

Mon, April 20, 12:25 to 1:55pm, Virtual Room


Hip-Hop arts and culture have been utilized in education, after-school, therapeutic and extracurricular contexts towards various ends including: democratic grassroots change in Alberta, Canada (MacDonald, 2012), critically analyzing Black masculinity in urban schools (Prier & Beachum, 2008; Prier, 2012), utilizing dance and social media towards civic engagement ends in Harlem, New York, analyzing gender in the context of Filipino Hip-Hop dance (Perillo, 2012), and serving as a form of critical pedagogy. Hip-Hop arts have appeared in extracurricular and curricular educational

environments because that is where they have often been allowed due to perceived need for a motivational function and culturally-competent form of educational engagement. This practice then suggests the need for more detailed research on the nature and outcomes of such uses of critical consciousness and empowerment in political Hip hop practice interventions.
Freire (1970; 1973) developed a pedagogical method of reflection and analysis of the sociopolitical environment and literacy to combat oppression and illiteracy; he called this capacity for critical reflection and critical action: “critical consciousness” (Diemer, Kauffman, Koenig, Trahan, & Hsieh, 2006). Critical Consciousness as defined by Smith (1976) is Paulo Freire's pedagogy designed to liberate both oppressor and oppressed from the victimization of the oppressive system through "conscientizacao" or consciousness raising. Smith (1976) defines critical consciousness as the developmental processes in which an individual moves from magical to naive to critical social consciousness, with the outcome of the process resulting in society's collaboration towards creation of new norms, rules, procedures, and policies.
Critical consciousness, in the context of Hip hop can look like any of the following examples taken from practice: 1) as a mechanism by which educators may engage youth to think critically to develop media literacy with Hip Hop as text examples; 2) Hip-Hop as a cultural expression takes up many crucial issues of the day (i.e. from espousing political beliefs about Trump to calling to end police brutality to expressing feminism) and 3) creates a context wherein youth may not only agree or disagree with Hip hop artists, but also recognize that they too have a voice with which to speak their minds. This study sought to address such practices and investigate how social- emotional development and critical consciousness integrated in the context of Hip-Hop dance.
Results of this study indicate that Hip-Hop culture values critical consciousness, critical thinking and social action. Hip Hop culture is aware of oppression and makes clear a collective value for consciousness, critical thinking and social action. It is through performing Hip-Hop dance that dancers in the study express critical consciousness, aesthetics and social-awareness; the same social-awareness which the innovators value and grasp hold of in a political way. Dancers of today are definitely paying homage to the old school as they seek to preserve Hip hop dance culture, through practice and appreciation of some key values, including social-awareness.