Ratchet, Finna, and YOLO: An Introduction to Linguistics through Hip Hop Slang

In this activity, students will be introduced to linguistics by examining the definitions and origins of various hip hop slang. They will discuss how and why these words originated to define concepts not previously conveyed in the English language. Students should analyze the aspects of hip hop culture that made these words necessary. This analysis will help them understand that language is a direct result of culture. They will then use this understanding to study a non-English word and culture of their choice. The word they choose should not be directly translatable in English. Through a brief in-class presentation, students will define their chosen word, discuss its origin (or etymology), and analyze the aspects of its cultural context that required it to exist.

The Blueprint to Cuban Travel

In this lesson, students will explore US-Cuba relations of the past and present through the use of Jay Z’s song “Open Letter.”

After making a trip to Cuba with his wife Beyonce, Jay Z received criticism from politicians and lawmakers. In response to this criticism, he recorded a song called “Open Letter.”

Using selected lyrics from the song, students will be asked to analyze Jay Z’s rhymes and discover how his words are related to ongoing issues between the United States and Cuba. Students will also write their own open letters about US-Cuban relations.

What if Past Presidents Had Social Media?

In this lesson, students analyze the effects of social media on presidential politics and the influence it could have had during past American presidencies.

On April 26, 2013, the White House joined millions of Americans and created a Tumblr page. President Barack Obama was the first President of the United States to have Twitter and Instagram accounts while in office. President Obama is known as the first social media president. In this lesson, students use the words, actions, and policies of past presidents to interpret how social media could have been used during those presidencies.

MLK and Malcolm X: The civil rights movement and the X-Men origins

The American Civil Rights movement inspired many people, including Marvel Comic’s mastermind writers Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. They have created some of the most powerful superheroes in the comic universe but did you know some of these characters were influenced by actual real life heroes in history? Lee and Kirby used the iconic civil rights leaders Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X as the inspiration behind the characters Charles Xavier aka Professor X and Erik Lehnsherr aka Magneto, the creators of the X-Men. Rather than fighting aliens and criminals, they fought against the oppression mutants faced on a daily basis in society, albeit by different methods. Much like MLK Jr. and Malcolm X, Professor X chose a non-violent approach and Magneto took more of a defensive stance against violent oppression and prejudice.

It’s presumed in comic book lore that Magneto is a villain but Stan Lee had a different perspective when he created the character. Stan Lee says about the metal warping mutant, “I did not think of Magneto as a bad guy. He was just trying to strike back at the people who were so bigoted and racist. He was trying to defend mutants, and because society was not treating them fairly, he decided to teach society a lesson. He was a danger of course, but I never thought of him as a villain.”

Even in the film adaptations of the X-Men series, Michael Fassbender who plays the role of Magento, admits the iconic figures were inspiration for their on-screen portrayals.
It came up early on in the rehearsal period and that was the path we took, says Michael Fassbender, These two brilliant minds coming together and their views arent that different on some key things. As you watch them you know that if their understanding, ability and intelligence could somehow come together it would be really special. But the split is what makes them even more interesting and tragic. The Hero Complex, LA Times

Can We Learn Literature, History and Social Studies through Graphic Novels?

In this lesson, students will think about how graphic novels convey traditional literature, history and social studies curricula in a new way, they will learn the mechanisms through which graphic novels interpret formal modes of learning, and they will research, identify and critically analyze a graphic novel, which they will then present to the rest of the class as a lesson in literature, history or social studies.

Pro-Palestinian protesters take part in a demonstration against the violence in the Gaza strip, in Lyon

The Science Of Protest: How Our Brains Are Wired To Fight For Our Rights

(Credit: Reuters/Robert Pratta/AP/Charlie Riedel)

The recent tragic events surrounding the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and the NYPD officers have struck a chord in a us all. However, today’s millennial generation of young people have taken to the streets more so than any other generation in recent history to express their feelings. Motivations, people’s beliefs, identity and emotions are key in generating a person’s willingness to protest. With or without social media, people who are deeply angry about an unjust situation, or who feel strongly connected with a particular issue, will always take to the streets.

Protest is defined as a form of collective action and as participation in a social movement. What is it that drives young people to protest? Why are young people prepared to sacrifice a comfortable and carefree lifestyle, or sometimes even their very lives for a common cause? The research team at NuSkool has found some scientific reasons why we fight for our rights that may have more to do with brain science than we realize. Science can’t always explain what’s in our hearts, but it can help us understand what motivates one of the greatest youth movements in history.
We are the risk takers and the rule breakers
Science has proven that teens and college students are really ‘bout that life. Scientists have used brain scanning methods to study the changes that occur in the teen brain. Recent discoveries have shown that teenagers have well-developed emotions and feelings and are more willing to do dangerous things an adult would avoid, this is due to the brain’s prefrontal cortex.

The prefrontal cortex is responsible for weighing risk and consequences in the teen brain. When experiencing an emotionally-charged situation like a tragedy in the community like Ferguson, the brain is handicapped in its ability to gauge risk and consider the consequences. In most situations, teens can evaluate risks just like adults. But in emotionally heightened real-life scenarios, this rational part of the brain gets overridden by the reward center. Racism, oppression and injustices in the community are definitely triggers for this kind of reaction. Our brains have a reward center, involving the nucleus accumbens, which lights up with dopamine whenever we find something exciting, interesting or meaningful. In a study comparing the brains of teens to adults, scientists found that teens need extreme situations in order to get excited.
We are natural born followers
News flash: peer pressure is actually a thing. Oxytocin receptors in a young brain makes teens highly responsive to the opinions of their peers. Studies find that the brain’s receptors for oxytocin has a strong influence on social bonding and affects our emotional and behavioral responses to social encouragement or peer pressure. When our peers become angry or emotional over a situation, this activates our own brain’s prefrontal areas in response to emotional and social stimuli. During this time, we also have heightened awareness toward the opinions of our friends, so much so that we imagine that our behavior is the focus of everyone else’s concern and attention.

According to a study, which examined brain scans of teens using fMRI data, the presence of friends activated certain regions of the brain that were not activated when they were alone that increased their willingness to take part in antisocial behavior. Being in the presence of friends also doubled risk-taking among young people in their 20’s, increased it by fifty percent among teens, but had no effect on adults, a pattern that was identical among both males and females. So the moral of the story is…choose your friends wisely.
We are a living, breathing social network
One of the strongest emotions in a teen’s life that pulls someone into joining a gang, a sports team or joining a social cause is the need to be a part of something bigger than oneself…joining a movement.

Chris McGrath—Getty Images

Research suggests that people who experience both personal and group oppression are the most strongly motivated to take to the streets. Being part of something bigger than yourself is very important to today’s generation. Any events that harm that group by definition harm the individual, and they find themselves experiencing emotions on behalf of the group. The more people feel that group’s interests or values are threatened, the angrier they are and the more they are prepared to take part in protests to express their anger. Collective anger moves people to challenge the authorities and subdue other emotions such as shame, despair and obedience. Participating in protests strengthens the collective power of that group, and feelings of unity and support empowers people to stand together against the authorities. However, taking action doesn’t always mean people expect that group-related problems can be solved by their united efforts. Protesters find a way to overcome their defeated hopes to eventually protest again and raise consciousness to create solidarity. Is it science?… eh, maybe not. Is it real?…you bet. Does it change the world?… absolutely.

Before you decide to join a protest and put yourself at risk to fight for a cause, ask yourself the following questions:

Who or what caused the event?
How does the event influence my goals?
Do I have control and power over the consequences of the event?
Who can I call for help if I’m in danger or if I get arrested?

fresh

The Art of Fresh: Fashion and Philanthropy

“Artists are the gatekeepers of truth. We are civilization’s radical voice.” ~ Paul Robeson

 

According to the late Paul Robeson, artists have the opportunity to use their platforms to make significant changes in society. However, some would argue that artists have no obligation to address certain issues. Although they may have a point, when I think of artists who have become icons in popular culture, I think of those who have used their voices to raise awareness, especially as it pertains to social and political issues. Artists, such as Bob Marley, Nina Simone, John Lennon, Fela Kuti, Michael Jackson, Tupac Shakur, have all taken a stand against the injustices of the world. In retrospect, they have become bigger than their artistry. They have been philanthropists, humanists, revolutionaries, and activists. They have been individuals who have lived their lives beyond just fortune and fame.

Issues, such as poverty, gun violence, police brutality, gangs, and racism continue to persist. But there is a new wave of artists who are carrying the torch. These artists are not only using their music, but also fashion to make social and political statements. For instance, in the 2004 presidential election, P. Diddy (founder of Bad Boy Records), Sean John, and Citizen Change launched a campaign to encourage more young people between the ages of 18 and 30 to vote. This helped change the face of the U.S. political landscape by encouraging the youth to “Vote or Die”, using celebrities as his support system.

The campaign was meant to show that the right to vote is a matter of life or death. This notion may not be too far-fetched, as people have literally fought and died for this freedom. I believe this resonated with young people, not only because of the celebrities involved, but also because of its simple, yet powerful position in politics. This campaign was not only successful in 2004, but also in 2008, when President Barack Obama was elected.

Jay-Z, Hip-Hop artist and co-founder of Rocawear, also attempted to use fashion as a statement. Although it was short-lived, he released a new line of t-shirts, which were meant to support the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011. This movement served as a protest against social and economic disparities between corporations and the American people. The shirt “tweaks the phrase ‘Occupy Wall Street’ by crossing out the ‘W’ and adding an ‘S’ to make it read ‘Occupy All Streets’.”

Unfortunately, this effort led to a little bit of controversy, primarily because he never intended on sharing his profits to the actual protestors. The Business Insider states, “A Rocawear spokesperson sent us a statement confirming there’s no plan to distribute any of the profits, which will surely pour in from shirt sales, to Occupy Wall Street.” According the spokesperson, “The ‘Occupy All Streets’ T shirt was created in support of the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement. Rocawear strongly encourages all forms of constructive expression, whether it be artistic, political or social. ‘Occupy All Streets’ is our way of reminding people that there is change to be made everywhere, not just on Wall Street. At this time we have not made an official commitment to monetarily support the movement.”

This leads to questionable motives of certain artists. There seems to be a thin line between legitimacy and sincerity from the public’s point of view, especially in this day and age where there are many cultural capitalists. In my opinion, there needs to be a clear alignment between the art and actions of the individuals, which leads me to Kendrick Lamar’s recently released, “Ventilators 2” by Reebok.

Throughout his career, Lamar has repeatedly shed light on his upbringing in Compton, California, where gang culture seems to dominate the living conditions of his immediate environment. Having been heavily influenced by this reality, he has always mentioned it in both his music and interviews. With songs, such as: “Little Johnny”, “M.A.A.D. City (featuring MC Eight), and “I”, he continues to provide a voice for his constituents by emphasizing social, political, and economic discrepancies that are woven into the American fabric. His response to these discrepancies and pervasiveness of gang culture are the Ventilators 2. Complex mentions, “These Ventilators, which were previewed by Sneakers.fr, are set against an off-white suede base with alternating blue and red accents on each shoe. The gang references are apparent, and each tongue tag is inscribed with ‘Neutral,’ echoing a sentiment Kendrick has been pushing strongly during his career.”

Other artists, such as Usher and John Legend (pictured below), aren’t necessarily known for making social and political commentary in their music, but they have also been recently seen using fashion to make a statement.

As we continue to face adversities in our lives, it is important to have the opportunity to express ourselves constructively. It may not necessarily be directly based on certain social, economic, or political issues; however, we are undeniably affected by these issues in one way or another. In that regard, we should continue to find creative ways to address these issues for the betterment of mankind.

 

fresh

The Art of Fresh: Fashion and Philanthropy

“Artists are the gatekeepers of truth. We are civilization’s radical voice.” ~ Paul Robeson

According to the late Paul Robeson, artists have the opportunity to use their platforms to make significant changes in society. However, some would argue that artists have no obligation to address certain issues. Although they may have a point, when I think of artists who have become icons in popular culture, I think of those who have used their voices to raise awareness, especially as it pertains to social and political issues. Artists, such as Bob Marley, Nina Simone, John Lennon, Fela Kuti, Michael Jackson, Tupac Shakur, have all taken a stand against the injustices of the world. In retrospect, they have become bigger than their artistry. They have been philanthropists, humanists, revolutionaries, and activists. They have been individuals who have lived their lives beyond just fortune and fame.

Issues, such as poverty, gun violence, police brutality, gangs, and racism continue to persist. But there is a new wave of artists who are carrying the torch. These artists are not only using their music, but also fashion to make social and political statements. For instance, in the 2004 presidential election, P. Diddy (founder of Bad Boy Records), Sean John, and Citizen Change launched a campaign to encourage more young people between the ages of 18 and 30 to vote. This helped change the face of the U.S. political landscape by encouraging the youth to “Vote or Die”, using celebrities as his support system.

The campaign was meant to show that the right to vote is a matter of life or death. This notion may not be too far-fetched, as people have literally fought and died for this freedom. I believe this resonated with young people, not only because of the celebrities involved, but also because of its simple, yet powerful position in politics. This campaign was not only successful in 2004, but also in 2008, when President Barack Obama was elected.

Jay-Z, Hip-Hop artist and co-founder of Rocawear, also attempted to use fashion as a statement. Although it was short-lived, he released a new line of t-shirts, which were meant to support the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011. This movement served as a protest against social and economic disparities between corporations and the American people. The shirt “tweaks the phrase ‘Occupy Wall Street’ by crossing out the ‘W’ and adding an ‘S’ to make it read ‘Occupy All Streets’.”

Unfortunately, this effort led to a little bit of controversy, primarily because he never intended on sharing his profits to the actual protestors. The Business Insider states, “A Rocawear spokesperson sent us a statement confirming there’s no plan to distribute any of the profits, which will surely pour in from shirt sales, to Occupy Wall Street.” According the spokesperson, “The ‘Occupy All Streets’ T shirt was created in support of the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement. Rocawear strongly encourages all forms of constructive expression, whether it be artistic, political or social. ‘Occupy All Streets’ is our way of reminding people that there is change to be made everywhere, not just on Wall Street. At this time we have not made an official commitment to monetarily support the movement.”

This leads to questionable motives of certain artists. There seems to be a thin line between legitimacy and sincerity from the public’s point of view, especially in this day and age where there are many cultural capitalists. In my opinion, there needs to be a clear alignment between the art and actions of the individuals, which leads me to Kendrick Lamar’s recently released, “Ventilators 2” by Reebok.

Throughout his career, Lamar has repeatedly shed light on his upbringing in Compton, California, where gang culture seems to dominate the living conditions of his immediate environment. Having been heavily influenced by this reality, he has always mentioned it in both his music and interviews. With songs, such as: “Little Johnny”, “M.A.A.D. City (featuring MC Eight), and “I”, he continues to provide a voice for his constituents by emphasizing social, political, and economic discrepancies that are woven into the American fabric. His response to these discrepancies and pervasiveness of gang culture are the Ventilators 2. Complex mentions, “These Ventilators, which were previewed by Sneakers.fr, are set against an off-white suede base with alternating blue and red accents on each shoe. The gang references are apparent, and each tongue tag is inscribed with ‘Neutral,’ echoing a sentiment Kendrick has been pushing strongly during his career.”

Other artists, such as Usher and John Legend (pictured below), aren’t necessarily known for making social and political commentary in their music, but they have also been recently seen using fashion to make a statement.

As we continue to face adversities in our lives, it is important to have the opportunity to express ourselves constructively. It may not necessarily be directly based on certain social, economic, or political issues; however, we are undeniably affected by these issues in one way or another. In that regard, we should continue to find creative ways to address these issues for the betterment of mankind.

beyonce-formation

Examining Beyonce Compared to the Most Powerful Women in History

To most of the modern world, Beyonce represents strength, independence and pride. With songs like Independent Woman, Single Ladies and Girls Run the World, she reassures females that they don’t need a man to be happy or successful. Not only is she a fearless performer and business woman, but she is also a dedicated wife and mother.

With the release of Formation and her performance at the Super Bowl halftime show, ‘Queen Bey’ has stepped straight into the midst of praise and controversy. Everything about Formation has been called a rallying cry; the timing of the release of the song to coincide with black history month and the day that would have been Treyvon Martin’s 21st birthday, the video clip makes reference to police brutality with the words “stop shooting us” and also highlights the delayed response to Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana by showing Beyonce atop a sinking New Orleans police cruiser. Most controversial was Beyonce’s half-time show where she and her dancers wore black berets and afros, reminiscent of the way the Black Panther Movement dressed in the 1960s. The performance received criticism from former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and prompted an anti-Beyonce Protest rally.

Beyonce’s new song has also sparked a lot of positive media attention, but does this mean she has officially crossed over from pop diva to ‘political activist’? Can she be really called a ‘powerful woman’ when you compare her to some of the greats in history?

Standing Alone
Many of the most powerful women in history have pushed past barriers and taken on roles that were traditionally only given to men. Beyonce’s personal story of having taking control of her career from her father and now her husband is very similar to that of the famous Cleopatra.

In Ancient Egypt, it was tradition for female rulers to be subordinate to male co-rulers. However, at the age of 18 when Cleopatra was made co-ruler with her brother (and husband – yep, that was normal in those days), she made it clear that she was not going to share power with him. After only 5 months of ruling, Cleopatra had dropped her brother’s name from official documents and only her face appeared on the coin.

In Formation Beyonce expands on her mantra of being an independent woman by showing that she has taken control of her own career and that instead of Jay-Z, she is the one to go to ‘get your song played on the radio station’.

Influence beyond race or gender, standing for a cause
The most influential people in the world didn’t necessarily have the looks of Beyonce and didn’t necessarily call as much attention to themselves with shows and costumes but many of them stood for equality.

Rosa Parks, generally considered as quiet and as having a dignified demeanor, seems like the polar opposite to Beyonce, but they have several things in common. The obvious similarity is the message of racial equality that Rosa Parks is known for and that Formation has now tied Beyonce to.

So how do these women, with such different personalities, get to a position to have such influence? In their separate worlds, both women showed excellence and were able to use their reputation as a platform. Despite the fact that many people had been arrested for resisting bus segregation, the NAACP decided that Rosa Parks was the person whose cause they should champion. Why? Martin Luther King stated that Rosa Parks was regarded as “one of the finest citizens of Montgomery—not one of the finest N***o citizens, but one of the finest citizens of Montgomery.” Similarly, Beyonce is regarded as one of the greatest pop icons of all time – not just one of the greatest African-American artists of all time. Saturday Night Live even recently released a sketch called “The Day Beyonce Turned Black” making fun of the media reaction that Formation is getting.

Authentic Beauty: Staying True to Your Roots
Beyonce has always been a supporter of natural beauty; in the early days with Destiny’s Child, this was was expressed through the song Bootylicious. This song reached such cultural prominence that the term Bootylicious was included in the Oxford English Dictionary!

With the song Formation Beyonce reclaims the natural look of afro hair and ‘Jackson 5 nostrils’.  The film clip shows different moments in the history of Black society and tells us this is all part of the person that Beyonce is. Formation also makes reference to the hard times that the black community has gone through by showing images of Martin Luther King and by making reference to the Black Lives Matter movement.

One of the greatest artists of all time, Frida Kahlo, is also known for staying true to her heritage and for depicting herself and the struggles of the female experience without any compromise. Even though Kahlo’s works combine elements of classical religious Mexican tradition with surrealists elements, she always rejected the “surreal” label saying that her work reflected more of her reality than her dreams.

The lyrics of Formation talk primarily about Beyonce and her experience of working hard, rocking Givenchy dresses and earning all her money, but like the work of Frida Kahlo, the visual elements of Formation give us a deeper understanding of the history that has shaped the person she is.

Standing together
Beyonce, like many of the great women in our history, is trying to create a movement to create a change. Amelia Earhart didn’t just fly solo across the Atlantic, but she was an early supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment and was also a member of the National Woman’s Party. In a more active and personal level Amelia Earhart was instrumental in the ‘formation’ (see what I did there?) of the Ninety-nines, an organization created to help female pilots with their careers.

The message of Beyonce’s songs have increasingly become about a sisterhood, and Formation is a reiteration of this message. However, Beyonce also puts her money where her mouth is! Beyonce has supported most of the causes mentioned in the Formation video clip both financially and through personal action.

After Hurricane Katrina, Beyonce along with Kelly Rowland and her mother Solange Knowles set up the Survivor Foundation to help families after Hurricane Katrina. Beyonce and her husband Jay-Z have been supporting the Black Lives Matter Movement financially helping get protesters out on bail. In the tradition of Beyonce’s Girl’s Run the World, Beyonce and Selma Hayak set up Chime for Change, an organization that raises funds and awareness for projects promoting Education, Health and Justice for girls and women.

Despite all the media that currently surrounds Beyonce and the release of Formation and the similarities between Beyonce and the great women described in this article, it is still hard to say if Beyonce will one day go down in the history books as one of the greats – what do you think?

“Bad Girls” in History

In this lesson, students draw inspiration from hip hop’s ever increasing glamorization of “bad” girls to research and analyze a so-called “bad girl” in history. This “bad girl” does not have to be someone who has committed crimes or behaved maliciously, but she should be a woman who has defied social norms and rebelled against stereotypical gender roles to change history.