“They schools don’t educate/ All they teach the people is lies” – “They Schools”, Dead Prez
It was a typical day in Mrs. Lefkowitz’s world history class. And, as usual, no one was paying attention. Of course, she didn’t mind as long as she was collecting a paycheck. So while the gangstas were fightin’ in the back of the classroom, and the kids on the front row were snoring like barn animals, she just kept on repeating the same lesson about the wonders of Greek civilization that she had been teaching for 20 years. That was until Tyrone Johnson, who had been listening to some ol school BDP on his iPhone, yelled out “in a school that’s ebony/ African history should be pumped up steadily!“ Although his classmates gave him a standing ovation, the otherwise mild-mannered Mrs. Leftkowitz became enraged, called for security, and had Tyrone thrown in jail for inciting a riot…
Since the creation of this country’s public educational system, the achievements of Europeans have been emphasized while the contributions of African people to civilization have either been downplayed or not mentioned at all. But for a brief period, Hip-Hop shook up the academic world and flipped the script with something that KRS-One coined “edutainment.”
Although the music of the conscious era of Hip-Hop (1988-92) was portrayed in the media as something that was gonna make young Black kids wage an armed insurrection against the government, the real threat of the music was that it made Black youth read and question authority, thus having the potential to disrupt the status quo.
Many of us from that era can attest to the fact that it wasn’t third period history class that taught us about Black culture, but the music of Boogie Down Productions, Public Enemy, and Poor Righteous Teachers. The conscious movement was so powerful during that time, that it even spread into the universities and forced reluctant administrators to open the door for many African-centered scholars to drop some science on the students.
So the question today is, can edutainment still move the crowd?
While some may argue that the kids of today will not accept historical information in music, that is far from the truth.If rappers can name drop old school wrestlers like Ric Flair and ’70s sitcom characters like “Phil Drummond and ’em” from “Different Strokes”, then they should be able to drop historical facts in their lyrics as well.
Every school year, there are meetings being held in cities across the country about “the plight of African American students” and how to prevent Black students from dropping out of school. Most of the time, these meetings end with more questions than answers. Rarely, is the idea of a more African-centered curriculum given serious consideration nor is the idea of using Hip Hop to relay information.
Like most institutions in America, the educational system has been resistant to change. Teaching children that Christopher Columbus discovered America works for them.
But we must make it clear that it doesn’t work for us.
Also, while many instructors may criticize gangsta rap, they feel more comfortable with their students listening to Chief Keef instead of Immortal Technique. And reading street novels like Diary of a Broke Pimp instead of books that might put them on the hot seat such as Lies My Teacher Told Me by Dr. James Loewen or They Came Before Columbus by Dr. Ivan Van Sertima.
Maybe, there is a reason for this.
According to a recent CNN article, the U.S. Justice Department has accused the school system of Lauderdale County, Mississippi of operating a “school to prison pipeline,” for sending mostly African American and disabled children to jail for minor disciplinary infractions.
Apparently, Dead Prez was right when they claimed on “They Schools” that “the same people who control the school system, control the prison system.”
So, as we begin another school year, will it be business as usual or are we gonna put our heads together, and come up with workable solutions to solve the education dilemma facing the nation ?
Although some may blame the lack of Black men volunteering in the school system as the problem, historically, those who speak truth are not exactly welcomed with open arms. During the early ’90s, it was not unusual for Black leaders and scholars to be met by protesters when lecturing at colleges.
Today, Historically Black Colleges and Universities could play a major role in using Hip-Hop to teach African-centered courses, though, but instead of using their lyceum fees to bring in scholars and lectures, they’d rather blow the money on a Waka Flocka Flame Homecoming Show.
So, if we can’t depend on educational institutions , to whom do we turn for help?
We turn to ourselves.
According to Durham, North Carolina activist Tim Smith, we cannot depend on a school system where the main focus is to prepare children to pass a test at the end of the year to solve our problem. The solution must come from the community.
“You have to make children realize why education is important, “says Smith. “There’s nothing magic that needs to happen. It’s just hard work.” And some people are already doing it.
For example, Dr. Marc Imhotep Cray, a.k.a. The RBG Street Scholar, started the RBG Communiversity/RBG Street Scholars Think Tank in an effort to use the Internet as a way to bridge the gap between Hip-Hop and African culture.
With the technology at our fingertips, there is no reason why we cannot create our own methods of making sure our children know all there is to know, not only about Black history, but current events and how they are going to impact their lives.
One simple solution that I am going to implement is to send out daily #militantminded tweets with links to Afro-centric information. I suggest that others implement similar strategies.
As Public Enemy once had as its core mission to create 5000 Black leaders, our task today is to develop 5,000 street scholars.
Like J Ivy’s classic verse on Kanye West’s “Never Let Me Down”:
“We are all here for a reason, on a particular path/You don’t need a curriculum to know that you’re part of the math.”
TRUTH Minista Paul Scott’s weekly column is “This Ain’t Hip Hop,” a column for intelligent Hip Hop headz. For more information about the No Warning Shots Fired lecture series, contact [email protected] or visit www.NoWarningShotsFired.com. Follow on Twitter (@truthminista).