LUMPENPROLETARIAT—The written word is not limited to academic journals nor books. Even the lumpenproletariat, like intellectuals, have things of import to say. The written word also comes in the forms of spoken word, prose, rhymes, raps, and songs. And the written word does not need to be decades old to be a valuable tool for teaching in the classroom. Recognising these facts, teacher and poetry club organiser, Brian Mooney (29) at High Tech High School in North Bergen, New Jersey was able to draw connections between the currently relevant and the historically relevant. Mooney used Kendrick Lamar‘s chart-topping, yet sociopolitically conscious, album, To Pimp a Butterfly, in his classroom with inspired, and inspiring, results. Your author similarly recalls another progressive English teacher who responded to the resistance of a stubborn young mind by giving him a copy of Best New Chicano Literature 1989. Sometimes very important seeds are planted in unexpected ways.
SONG LYRICS—(9 JUN 2015) While some institutions are hellbent on burying rap music and hip-hop culture there are some that embrace it wholeheartedly as a means of connecting with the youth.
Kendrick Lamar made headlines recently when he visited High Tech High School in North Bergen, New Jersey for what turned out to be a touching and heartfelt exchange between students, teachers, and a rap superstar.
Teacher and poetry club organizer Brian Mooney, 29, was struggling to convey some of the meanings in Toni Morrison‘s The Bluest Eye, so he decided to implement a different tactic using Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly to help initiate dialogue about Black culture in America — playing edited excerpts of the album for students via an old literary lens trick called “hip-hop ed” the Columbia University grad picked up in his own studies, reports The New York Times.
To Pimp A Butterfly, if you remember, dropped like a perfect bomb earlier this year disrupting the hip-hop landscape for the better, and is a definitely a pro move to pair its narrative of a young, sometimes angry, black man on the rise with the racial tensions of Toni Morrison’s classic The Bluest Eye, consistently on primary educational ban lists for its contentious racial and socio political themes.
The essays and poems that came out of it went viral and Kendrick Lamar’s manager sent out a message to Mooney to arrange a visit. Students responded warmly to the idea and instead of Lamar performing for them, they performed for him, including spoken word essays, raps and a spirited dance routine. There was also a Q&A where students asked Lamar about the making of the album.
Kendrick ended the assembly by performing “Alright,” but the highlight was the students and Kendrick’s response to them. He noted several times that their analysis of To Pimp a Butterfly was more than he expected especially from individuals as young as they are. His genuine shock and appreciation along with Mooney’s willingness to incorporate present modals into the curriculum is a good sign for the future, a message to teachers and rappers alike.
Learn more at SONG LYRICS.
“Alright” by Kendrick Lamar
[En sanctuarium, Wednesday, June 10, 2015.]