Friday, November 27, 2009
By the time Amy Goodman spoke to a standing room only crowd at Vancouver's Public Library on Wednesday, November 25, there was one thing on everyone's mind: the 2010 Olympics.
Goodman's talk started over an hour late, because the US radio host was detained by Canadian Border Services Agency, who asked her if she would be talking about the Olympics during her speech.
"I'm embarrassed, cause as some people who know me know, I'm not a real sports fan," said Goodman, who said her knowledge of the 2010 Olympics was "exactly zero."
"To say the least I'm very taken aback by what I just went through, very shocked to be asked what I was going to talk about, and to see my colleagues computers being gone through" at the border, she said, before proceeding with her talk.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Monday, November 16, 2009
A curious property evident in the discussion of insurrection in the United States is that it gets more respect the further it occurs from home. Anarchists who would never dream of complaining that the Thessaloniki Food not Bombs is being neglected while its members amuse themselves burning banks, who could never conceive of suggesting that the Somali pirates stop seizing ships for ransom in order to start a bike repair collective, have no problem criticizing their own friends and comrades for shortchanging local projects to attend semi-annual mass mobilizations. This is a shame, because a look at the broader picture reveals that summit demos are taking an ongoing toll on the ruling class, even when they are tactically unsuccessful.
Just for starters, any city hosting a summit has to impose de facto martial law for the duration of the meetings. Miles-long steel security fences, bag searches on the subway, black helicopters in the sky, armor-clad riot cops on every corner, among other measures, make a mockery of the myth of “civil rights.” By employing such repressive tactics just to keep a few summit delegates from being confronted by those they claim to be helping, authority reveals its true nature, undisguised by the usual lies and propaganda. People who claim that we should abandon summit protests because we can never replicate the WTO (World Trade Organization) riots in Seattle are missing this point. While it’s true that the cops will never again allow themselves to be defeated on the street the way they were in Seattle, the things they have to do to win in the short term erode the perceived legitimacy of the entire ruling system in the medium term. If all they had to do was stop the protests they could just shoot the protesters. But since they must also maintain the illusion of freedom of assembly and freedom of speech, their problem is complicated immensely. They have no good options, so it’s not a matter of whether we will win, only of how.
Their situation becomes all the worse when, after turning the host city into a militarized encampment for a week, the cops can’t even stop a few kids in black from breaking windows. The resulting frustration often leads them to attack and arrest defenseless groups and individuals who have minimal connection to the protests, further compounding their problems when the videos hit Youtube. Then to justify their own brutality, the cops make an example of a handful of protest organizers by hitting them with ridiculously inflated charges, usually for actions that most people would consider perfectly innocuous. As an added bonus, the lawsuits generated by blatantly unconstitutional arrests and searches strain city budgets, consume prosecutors’ time, and extend their PR nightmare. For authoritarians, the only thing worse than appearing brutal and repressive is appearing brutal and repressive and ineffectual. Cops, by their nature, will fall into this trap every time, as long as we show up and set it for them.
While not every big demo conforms to the above pattern exactly, the dynamic was illustrated to perfection at the G-20 protests in Pittsburgh September 24 and 25. The city imported 3,000 outside cops and 2,500 National Guard troops to augment its meager force of 877. In addition, the Pittsburgh municipal government launched a fear mongering campaign aimed at demonizing protesters, only to see it blow up in their faces when many businesses and schools drank a little too much Kool-Aid and shut down and boarded up for the week rather than face the black-clad hordes. The army of cops kept an unpermitted march of at most 2,000 from getting anywhere near the convention on the 24th, but couldn’t stop protesters from escaping back eastward and damaging stores in the Shadyside shopping district. Later that night, a Bash Back! march broke more windows in Oakland, even attacking some in a police substation. Despite being substantially outnumbered, both actions sustained minimal arrests. Unlike their counterparts at the Republican National Convention (RNC) in St. Paul, Minnesota in September 2008, Pittsburgh cops didn’t retaliate by attacking permitted events. They did, however, beat, teargas and arrest protesters at an impromptu rally against police brutality, of all things, including a number of University of Pittsburgh students who were only hanging out watching. While this sort of behavior is routinely ignored in low-income communities of color, it generated an enormous amount of bad publicity for the police when applied to majority-white college students with video cameras.
And sure enough, as if following a script, the Pennsylvania cops found innocent people to scapegoat for their own incompetence. They arrested two members of the Tin Can Comms Collective, Elliot Madison and Michael Wallschlaeger, for broadcasting updates about police activity over Twitter. The two are charged, as of this writing, with hindering apprehension or prosecution, criminal use of a communications facility, and possession of instruments of crime. A week later, Madison’s home in New York was raided by the FBI, who seized stuffed animals, Buffy the Vampire Slayer DVDs, and a picture of Curious George, among other incriminating items. The feds then tied Obama even more tightly to the case by launching a grand jury investigation of Madison and his wife. Madison and Wallschlaeger’s case is reminiscent of that of the RNC 8, eight anarchists who are being prosecuted under the Minnesota Patriot Act for helping organize protests against the RNC. But unlike the RNC 8, whose case has only been covered heavily in Minnesota, Madison and Wallschlaeger’s arrests were featured prominently nationwide. Jokes about “Twerrorism” began circulating almost immediately after their arrests, and many commentators pointed out the hypocrisy of the Obama administration supporting the use of Twitter by protesters in Iran while repressing the same thing in Pittsburgh. The incident tarnished Obama’s reputation as a supporter of civil rights, and future developments in the case will only exacerbate that problem.
But wait, there’s more. The Daily Show covered the anarchist protesters at the G-20—twice, no less. John Oliver’s “Tea Partiers Advise G20 Protesters” segment was a particularly biting attack on the disparity in police response between right-wing and left-wing protests. And, lest anybody be tempted to dismiss The Daily Show as mere comedy, a 2007 University of Louisiana study found it to contain as much, if not more, actual news than the average television news program, and at least one poll has shown Jon Stewart to be the United States’ most trusted newscaster. Not to mention he’s a lot funnier than Walter Cronkite ever was.
For the cherry on the sundae, we have Obama’s answer to a question about the protests at a press conference. Instead of just delivering some generic line about how he didn’t agree with the protesters but supported their right to free speech, Obama went out of his way to note that many protesters were anti-capitalist. This was a fascinating response on a couple of levels. For one thing, Obama clearly felt a need to simultaneously demonize and belittle the protests. This seems like an overreaction considering their relatively low tactical impact and small size (something else Obama brought up). That “anti-capitalist” was the worst epithet he could come up with is also instructive. In 2001, then-President Bush was asked a similar question at the Free Trade Area of the Americas conference in Quebec City, a summit whose protests dwarfed anything that happened at the G-20. His reply repeatedly painted the protesters as being against “free trade.” That wouldn’t have worked for Obama in 2009; free trade is practically a dirty word these days. Likewise, calling protesters “communists” or “reds” would have been seen as hopelessly archaic, and Obama wasn’t quite stupid enough to publicly admit that there are such things as anarchists in the world. Nonetheless, he gave millions of television viewers their first clue that organized anti-capitalist resistance even exists. As capitalism fails more and more people, that statement will be increasingly revealed as a mistake.
Much of the above analysis re-poses the question everybody asked when the G-20 location was first announced: why Pittsburgh? A mid-sized, decaying Rust Belt city with an undersized police force and no experience hosting summits would hardly seem to be a natural choice for a major gathering of heads of state. During the event, many of Pittsburgh’s failures were obvious rookie mistakes. For example, it’s hard to imagine shopkeepers in New York City boarding up their stores just because a few more anarchists were coming to town. The official explanation was that Obama wanted to highlight Pittsburgh’s “recovery” from the industrial collapse of the 80s, but this is obvious bullshit. Denver and St. Paul, hosts to the 2008 Democratic and Republican National Conventions respectively, were also summit virgins, at least in the post-Seattle era. Miami, New York and Chicago on the other hand, cosmopolitan cities with impeccable track records of suppressing protest, have collectively gone over five years without a summit (the 2004 RNC in New York was the most recent). Keep in mind that cities can’t be forced to host these events by the federal government; local politicians accept them voluntarily, believing that they will generate political capital and tax revenue. This was a safe assumption before Seattle, but it now seems likely that officials in larger cities have decided that defending self-described world leaders from the black bloc just isn’t worth the hassle, bad publicity, and lawsuits. The example of Pittsburgh can only reinforce this lesson.
This trend of holding summits in cities with small police departments works to our advantage by opening up tactical breathing room, in addition to the PR benefits. The 6,000 cops in Pittsburgh were still about 20,000 fewer than protesters would have faced in New York, where the G-20 was rumored to be held before the White House’s announcement in May. Most of the 6,000 had no experience in crowd control, and the fact that they came from multiple jurisdictions caused them communication, coordination and logistical difficulties. They couldn’t encrypt their radio communications because of incompatibilities between equipment from different police departments, allowing people with scanners to post their commands and movements on Twitter. This was how it was learned that several of their armored personnel carriers almost ran out of gas and had to be refueled by a tanker truck. At the RNC in St. Paul, where the cops had a similar personnel shortage, their untested state-of-the-art comms center broke down and left them using a white board to keep track of their own forces.
The flip side of this coin is that untrained cops in a strange city are more likely to overreact and attack whomever is handy if they fail to completely control a protest. While this generates damaging press and opens them up to lawsuits, that isn’t necessarily much consolation to people who have been tear-gassed on their own porches or arrested while coming home from work. Thus it is all the more important to contact potentially vulnerable groups ahead of time and be prepared to support them on short notice throughout the action. This problem was addressed in Pittsburgh and St. Paul, but there is always room for improvement.
That shouldn’t stop us from realizing that we’re winning the war, even though we lose the street battles. Without militant protests, every summit meeting would be a self-congratulatory public relations spectacle for the ruling class, a carefully scripted celebration of the wonderful job the neoliberals are doing running the world. Instead, because of us, they are increasingly exercises in naked repression that have to be defended rather than celebrated. After the riots in Seattle, the WTO held their next meeting oin the Doha peninsula in Qatar along the Persian Gulf. (As David Graeber put it, they preferred “to run the risk of being blown up by Osama Bin Laden rather than having to face another DAN blockade.”). They didn’t stay there, of course. The image of a group of unaccountable elites handing down unappealable edicts from a remote stronghold was too damaging to the neoliberal narrative of “democratic capitalism.” Today, as the economic collapse radicalizes ever more of its victims, we have an opportunity to force all summits to be held in such protest-proof locations, to trap summit organizers in the PR equivalent of a secret undersea lair defended by sharks with lasers on their fins (only not as cool). But we can’t do it by staying home and starting more reading groups. We need to be out in the streets, confronting our oppressors wherever they show their faces.
This article originally appeared in the BAAM Newsletter.
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
By Gord Hill; October 20, 2009 - Vancouver Media Co-op
[Note: See also Statement by Gord Hill Regarding Visits by Olympic Police Agents.]
Occupied Coast Salish Territory
I, Gord Hill, am proud to announce yet another encounter with the Olympic police as a result of my 'controversial' statement to CBC News and my views on sabotage. This evening (Tuesday, October 20, 2009), at around 9:30 PM, I was approached by plainclothes officers of the Incredibly Stupid Unit (Vancouver 2010 Integrated Security Unit). I can now confirm that they are, in fact, incredibly stupid.
I was walking westbound on Pender to Columbia Street in the Downtown Eastside, when I saw two males loitering around the corner. One look at their sad faces told me they were pigs. As I waited for the light at the crosswalk (jaywalking being illegal...) they approached me, with one flashing his badge and announcing he was an RCMP officer with 'JIG' (Joint Intelligence Group). He said he wanted a couple of minutes to talk to me and I said no. I crossed the street & began walking north on Columbia to Hastings, with the RCMP agent walking alongside me, the other cop, who said not a word, to our right rear (about 4 feet behind).
The RCMP agent walking with me, a white male in his 50s, maintained a rambling monologue about how my statements to CBC on Oct 13 (the power lines scenario) had hurt a lot of people, about how some of his friends were aboriginals, that he sympathized with my cause about helping the homeless, etc. He told me that from this day until the Olympics, every time I looked over my right shoulder he would be there.
What was most interesting were his comments regarding my attempted entry into the United Snakes of Amerikkka on Oct 17; the RCMP agent told me that because of my statement to CBC I would never again be allowed entry into the US, that their national security would arrest me and put me in a far, far away place, so far away it would be beyond my mind (or something along those lines).
I take this as implying the practice of rendition, where prisoners in US custody (including Canadian citizens) have been transferred to other countries and tortured (i.e., Mahar Arar). It seems odd for an RCMP agent to be delivering such a threat on behalf of another country's security apparatus (but that's how the pigs roll these days, I guess).
As we turned onto Hastings the cop continued his rambling. When we approached a group of Natives I announced that the men walking with me were Olympic cops who were harassing me because I defend the land and the people. The cops immediately stopped and two more plainclothes officers approached from behind (total: four cops). One of the Native women started yelling at the cops, telling them I had the right to an opinion. The cops withdrew & began walking eastbound on Hastings.
As usual, I played it cool, because I believe in the old saying “Love your enemy, for they are the instruments of your destiny.” And like I give a fuck about going to Babylon...
Resist the Olympic Police State!
No Olympics on Stolen Native Land!
Gord Hill, Kwakwak'wakw
FFF - FIGHT FOR FREEDOM!
Check out: www.No2010.com * www.warriorpublications.com
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Say what you like about Lily Allen. Agree with her. Disagree with her if you like. Whatever the position, it’s difficult to take it away from her – she has done more in the last week to raise the online debate over illicit file-sharing than any other artist in recent months.
Lily has managed to capture the imaginations of both sides – people are talking about this issue and that is always a good thing.
Debate, discussion and hopefully understanding will bring this file-sharing ‘war’ to an end one day but in the meantime let’s not forget what this is ultimately all about – the music. We all love it and that’s why you’ll love this too;
“After Lily’s hectic week I’ve made a pro-filesharing song and video calling her up on a few of the claims she’s made,” UK musician Dan Bull explains to TorrentFreak.
“I’ve also tried to outline some of the main moral arguments for filesharing in the lyrics. Hope you enjoy, and hope the readers do too.”
The song is brilliant in my opinion, and, ironically I suppose, i’d like to give Dan some money for his work, he deserves it. Let’s hope this song gets to Internet #1 this weekend and he reaps the benefit. Now if I can just get the chorus out of my head…..
I never thought of Peace as a word that was moveable. All our words have been shifted by Consumerism and Militarism. Democracy is gone, America and Freedom are gone. Peace always stayed there in one place.
Peace patiently waited for us to notice the best things about ourselves. Peace always stayed with us. Peace was ignored by the governments and the powerful but it was still there - the monument that is made of the sky and the wind, our memories of a face and our loving touch. But now we have to change our words around. They have taken the word Peace and we'll have to make up a new word, a secret signal.
Predator drones will be released tonight destroying the word we always depended on. The flying bomb will go out over the villages, sailing over the sleeping children and prayers and friends stopping for a laugh. The bombs will float and hesitate and change direction from computers in Florida and Missouri and the soldiers at the computers will know that Obama has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. And so they will be consumers of a war that is now being marketed as a product named Peace.
So – it has come to this. War has finally captured Peace.
Reverend Billy Talen for Mayor of NYC
Saturday, July 11, 2009
The Coming Insurrection
From whatever angle you approach it, the present offers no way out. This is not the least of its virtues. From those who seek hope above all, it tears away every firm ground. Those who claim to have solutions are contradicted almost immediately. Everyone agrees that things can only get worse. “The future has no future” is the wisdom of an age that, for all its appearance of perfect normalcy, has reached the level of consciousness of the first punks.
The sphere of political representation has come to a close. From left to right, it’s the same nothingness striking the pose of an emperor or a savior, the same sales assistants adjusting their discourse according to the findings of the latest surveys. Those who still vote seem to have no other intention than to desecrate the ballot box by voting as a pure act of protest. We’re beginning to suspect that it’s only against voting itself that people continue to vote. Nothing we’re being shown is adequate to the situation, not by far. In its very silence, the populace seems infinitely more mature than all these puppets bickering amongst themselves about how to govern it. The ramblings of any Belleville chibani contain more wisdom than all the declarations of our so-called leaders. The lid on the social kettle is shut triple-tight, and the pressure inside continues to build. From out of Argentina, the specter of Que Se Vayan Todos is beginning to seriously haunt the ruling class.
The flames of November 2005 still flicker in everyone’s minds. Those first joyous fires were the baptism of a decade full of promise. The media fable of “banlieue vs. the Republic” may work, but what it gains in effectiveness it loses in truth. Fires were lit in the city centers, but this news was methodically suppressed. Whole streets in Barcelona burned in solidarity, but no one knew about it apart from the people living there. And it’s not even true that the country has stopped burning. Many different profiles can be found among the arrested, with little that unites them besides a hatred for existing society – not class, race, or even neighborhood. What was new wasn’t the “banlieue revolt,” since that was already going on in the 80s, but the break with its established forms. These assailants no longer listen to anybody, neither to their Big Brothers and Big Sisters, nor to the community organizations charged with overseeing the return to normal. No “SOS Racism” could sink its cancerous roots into this event, whose apparent conclusion can be credited only to fatigue, falsification and the media omertà. This whole series of nocturnal vandalisms and anonymous attacks, this wordless destruction, has widened the breach between politics and the political. No one can honestly deny the obvious: this was an assault that made no demands, a threat without a message, and it had nothing to do with “politics.” One would have to be oblivious to the autonomous youth movements of the last 30 years not to see the purely political character of this resolute negation of politics. Like lost children we trashed the prized trinkets of a society that deserves no more respect than the monuments of Paris at the end of the Bloody Week- and knows it.
There will be no social solution to the present situation. First, because the vague aggregate of social milieus, institutions, and individualized bubbles that is called, with a touch of antiphrasis, “society,” has no consistency. Second, because there’s no longer any language for common experience. And we cannot share wealth if we do not share a language. It took half a century of struggle around the Enlightenment to make the French Revolution possible, and a century of struggle around work to give birth to the fearsome “welfare state.” Struggles create the language in which a new order expresses itself. But there is nothing like that today. Europe is now a continent gone broke that shops secretly at discount stores and has to fly budget airlines if it wants to travel at all. No “problems” framed in social terms admit of a solution. The questions of “pensions,” of “job security,” of “young people” and their “violence” can only be held in suspense while the situation these words serve to cover up is continually policed for signs of further unrest. Nothing can make it an attractive prospect to wipe the asses of pensioners for minimum wage. Those who have found less humiliation and more advantage in a life of crime than in sweeping floors will not turn in their weapons, and prison won’t teach them to love society. Cuts to their monthly pensions will undermine the desperate pleasure-seeking of hordes of retirees, making them stew and splutter about the refusal to work among an ever larger section of youth. And finally, no guaranteed income granted the day after a quasi-uprising will be able to lay the foundation of a new New Deal, a new pact, a new peace. The social feeling has already evaporated too much for that.
As an attempted solution, the pressure to ensure that nothing happens, together with police surveillance of the territory, will only intensify. The unmanned drone that flew over Seine-Saint-Denis last July 14th – as the police later confirmed – presents a much more vivid image of the future than all the fuzzy humanistic projections. That they were careful to assure us that the drone was unarmed gives us a clear indication of the road we’re headed down. The territory will be partitioned into ever more restricted zones. Highways built around the borders of “problem neighborhoods” already form invisible walls closing off those areas off from the middle-class subdivisions. Whatever defenders of the Republic may think, the control of neighborhoods “by the community” is manifestly the most effective means available. The purely metropolitan sections of the country, the main city centers, will go about their opulent lives in an ever more crafty, ever more sophisticated, ever more shimmering deconstruction. They will illuminate the whole planet with their glaring neon lights, as the patrols of the BAC and private security companies (i.e. paramilitary units) proliferate under the umbrella of an increasingly shameless judicial protection.
The impasse of the present, everywhere in evidence, is everywhere denied. There will be no end of psychologists, sociologists, and literary hacks applying themselves to the case, each with a specialized jargon from which the conclusions are especially absent. It’s enough to listen to the songs of the times – the asinine “alt-folk” where the petty bourgeoisie dissects the state of its soul, next to declarations of war from Mafia K’1 Fry – to know that a certain coexistence will end soon, that a decision is near.
This book is signed in the name of an imaginary collective. Its editors are not its authors. They were content merely to introduce a little order into the common-places of our time, collecting some of the murmurings around barroom tables and behind closed bedroom doors. They’ve done nothing more than lay down a few necessary truths, whose universal repression fills psychiatric hospitals with patients, and eyes with pain. They’ve made themselves scribes of the situation. It’s the privileged feature of radical circumstances that a rigorous application of logic leads to revolution. It’s enough just to say what is before our eyes and not to shrink from the conclusions.
Friday, April 17, 2009
Are you participating?
For a history of the Day of Silence, click here.
Henry Giroux labels today’s youth as a generation under siege, bombarded by a culture of violence which masks the real issues of race and class (Morrell & Duncan-Andrade, 2002, p. 89). This is partly due to the construction by popular media of youth of colour as being more “naturally” prone to violence. Giroux sees this negative construction of youth as the root of their mistrust, alienation, misogyny, violence, apathy and development of fugitive cultures (Morrell & Duncan-Andrade, 2002, p. 89). Gang violence is constructed as being a cultural thing resulting from bad parenting and bad cultural environments. Unfortunately schools, administrators, and teachers have all been active participants in the further criminalization of youth of colour. Ladson-Billings draws a parallel between poor educational rates with adult incarceration rates, and arguing that schools are “prisoners in training” camps for youth of colour (2001, p. 80).
In attempting to be neutral and colour-blind, the education system fails to address the interlocking forms of oppression which are in place within the school system, as well as in the society as a whole. The function of schooling is not to teach these youth the skills they need to survive, because schools are an active part of a society which engages in environmental racism, police brutality, racial profiling. Schools are unable to help youth of colour to learn to move past victimization and confront unjust social and economic conditions.
Paulo Freire argues that instead of challenging, schools maintain and reproduce the existing social order, by using the “banking method of education” (Friere, 1970). This approach leads students to be passive receptacles waiting for knowledge to be deposited by the teacher (Friere, 1970). Students feel as though their thoughts and ideas are not valuable enough to warrant a dialogue with the teacher (Friere, 1970). Students become dependent on their teachers to learn (Friere, 1970). Rather than having institutional education as places to practice freedom and to have students develop critical consciousness, schools become a place which reproduces inequalities (Friere, 1970).
What is needed to confront the challenges facing urban youth of colour is a pedagogical approach that promotes the development of critical consciousness and confronts the unjust social order. This pedagogy should be rooted in the theoretical foundations of Critical Pedagogy, the problem-posing method used by Friere, and Critical Race Theory.
In Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Freire advocates for an education model in which a social praxis is developed that helps students to become aware of the social, political, and economic contradictions that they face, and to take action against the oppressive elements of their reality. One of the ways in which this educational model is different from the “banking method” is the importance of dialogue between teacher and student as a site for the development of critical consciousness. Dimitrardis and McCarthy stress the importance of dialogue to this type of pedagogy:
“Dialogue... challenges us to make and remake our own emancipatory educational practices. It challenges us to rethink the discourses in which we operate and the languages we use to fashion the ethics of our professional lives. It asks us to look beyond our inherited way of thinking and acting, to new, unexplored, and perhaps even dangerous pedagogical practices. The role of educator cannot be easily contained today” (2001, p. 10).
Whereas the banking model of education the relationship between student and teacher is rooted in “receiving, filling, and storing the deposits” (Friere, 1970, p. 58). Freirian pedagogy aims to create “critical praxis” through the problem-posing method of education in which students identify a problem, analyze it, develop a plan, implement the plan, and then evaluate the plan (Friere, 1970).
Pedagogy for the urban youth of colour must also be based in Critical Race Theory. Critical Race Theory challenges traditional paradigms, texts, and theories used to explain the experiences of students of colour (Solórzano & Bernal, 2001). It holds that racism is deeply embedded in the fabric of American culture and that liberal ideology fails to address this racism (Pulido, 2009, p. 72). According to Critical Race Theory, racism must be historically contextualized and analysis must center on the voices (Pulido, 2009, p. 72), and experiential knowledge of students of colour (Solórzano & Bernal, 2001). Critical Race Theory takes a transdisciplinary approach. In the commitment to social justice Critical Race Theory acknowledges the intersectionality of other forms of oppression other than race and racism (Solórzano & Bernal, 2001). The objective of Critical Race Theory is the elimination of all forms of oppression.
Critical Hip Hop Pedagogy is one important method which should be utilized in the implementation of this pedagogy into praxis. Hip hop is an area where we see theory and practice coming together. Hip hop music is that was developed in the late 1970’s, largely as a response to socioeconomic and political disenfranchisement, neglect, and isolation experienced by inner-city youth of colour (Pulido, 2009, p. 70). The four essential elements of Hip Hop culture are the DJ (deejay, turntablism), the MC (Emcee), graffiti art and break-dancing. Hip hop originated in New York City, although some such as Davey D have located the origins all the way back to Africa. “Hip-Hop is where many urban students live; it is the music they listen to, their traditions, the language they speak, the clothes they wear, the way they interact in the streets (Bruce & Davis, 2000, p. 122).” Only through the praxis with hip hop can this type of pedagogy develop “as a method for organizing youth around issues that are important to their survival (Hamilton, 2004, p. 35).”
For A Akom what is fundamental to Critical Hip Hop Pedagogy is that it is participatory, youth driven, and cooperative; where student’s contributions are treated equitably (Akom, 2009, p. 56). In order for this praxis to remain relevant students must be repositioned as both the subjects and architects of the research (Akom, 2009, p. 57). Students bring with them a deep diversity of experiential knowledge which must be utilized.
Issues of race, racism, gender and other axes of social difference are put to the forefront with recognition of the intersectionality of difference (Akom, 2009, p. 56). Critical Hip Hop Pedagogy should be part of a discourse which reflects the actual conditions and experiences of people of colour. Critical Hip Hop Pedagogy allows for students to hold a mirror to society; to name problems, make connections among problems, and re-imagine solutions to those problems through transformational resistance (Akom, 2009, p. 62). Pualo Freire’s critical pedagogy is relevant to the teaching of urban youth as a method to eradicate the racialized opportunity gaps, as well as making education relevant in addressing many of the life and death issues many urban youth face (Akom, 2009, p. 53). There must be a balance between critical thinking, reflection, analysis, and action for Critical Hip Hop Pedagogy to be successful.
Critical Hip Hop Pedagogy should capitalize on local and community involvement. “Community dialogues should serve as “virtual community centres” that enhance young peoples’ reading habits, their social and political engagement, and their desire to participate in our emerging cyber-civilization as agents of social change” (Akom, 2009, p. 59). Communities of colour are places of strength which should be utilized. They should not be viewed as communities with “problems,” “pathologies,” and “poisons,” but rather as communities with emerging assets, agency, and aspirations (Akom, 2009, p. 60). There needs to be collaboration with hip hop academics and musicians, who also benefit from the dialogue in that it gives them the opportunity to learn from the students. There needs to be a transcendental approach in which the educational development of urban youth becomes synonymous with community development (Akom, 2009, p. 63).
Critical Hip Hop Pedagogy should be transdisciplinary using a wide range of methodologies, in a variety of academic disciplines. Hip hop allows for feminist, Marxist, structuralist, psychoanalytic and postmodernist critiques (Morrell & Duncan-Andrade, 2002, p. 89). Critical Hip Hop Pedagogy has been used in the development of emotional self-esteem and cultivation of critical literacy in the English classroom. It has been used in the development of critical consciousness through counter-narratives in the Social Studies and History classrooms. Critical Hip Hop Pedagogy should be used to help youth of colour better understand the failure of the educational system to provide them with the skills they need to survive. This pedagogy can even be used to turn a critical lens on itself by examining hip hop music and culture. Critical Hip Hop Pedagogy is one of the best ways to encourage students of colour to “envision a social order which supports their full humanity (Stovall, 2006, p. 589).”
For Critical Hip Hop Pedagogy to be successfully implemented, teachers must first re-examine their misconceptions and stereotypical knowledge of hip hop. Hip hop is “often associated with the realm of leisure and anti-intellectualism (Akom, 2009, p. 53). The moral panic surrounding ‘Gangsta’ rap resulting from a reputation of explicit language, violence, and misogyny should not be confused with hip hop culture as a whole. The criminalization, pathologization, and characterization of hip hop music as fierce, ignores the fact that American popular culture in general is equally patriarchal, violent, and misogynistic (Pulido, 2009, p. 71). Robin Kelly aims to demystify the stigma associated with ‘Gangsta’ rap by arguing that these rappers are not merely glorifying gang violence, and they do not take partisan positions in support of a particular gang (Kelley, 1996, p. 189). He goes on to argue that many of the violent lyrics are not intended to be taken literally, but rather should be seen as metaphorically boasting and as artistic challenges to competitors on the microphone (Kelley, 1996, p. 189).
The implementation of Critical Hip Hop Pedagogical praxis which will be examined first, is the work done by Bruce and Davis to curb the epidemic of violence which many students of colour participate in and die from. They want to use the power of the written and spoken word in the English classroom, “so that people stop killing each other” (Bruce & Davis, 2000, p. 119). The mass media often blames teachers and public schools for the rise in urban youth violence, while paradoxically viewing them as the solution (Bruce & Davis, 2000, p. 119).
Hip hop is the term for urban-based creativity and expression of culture. Rap is the style of rhythm-spoken words across a musical terrain. The English classroom can be the site for the “wording of the world” (Friere, 1970). Words help to construct reality; they have a powerful effect on real people. Expression through hip hop for youth promotes development of an emotional vocabulary which makes it easier for youth to think and talk about their complex thoughts and feelings, weakening the grip on anger and hostility which is at the root of their violent reactions. For young women the structural and systemic violence which result from living in a patriarchal society is often internalized and manifested as depression, eating disorders and violence towards themselves and not expressed as violence towards others (Bruce & Davis, 2000, p. 120). Hip hop helps youth to identify, clarify, express, and channel their feelings rather than reacting inwardly or outwardly with violence.
The way in which this form of Critical Hip Hop Pedagogy is put into praxis is by utilizing a combination of poetry and performance art which is also known as Slam Poetry. An English teacher, Heather Bruce, utilized Slam Poetry to counteract the typical eye-rolling groans she received to the poetry unit. Slam poems like that of Saul Williams speak of the love, anger, joy, and the pain of emotional and material poverty experienced by urban youth (Bruce & Davis, 2000, p. 121). The elements of hip hop “coalesces around concepts of flow, layering, repetition and ruptures in line (Bruce & Davis, 2000, p. 123).” Youth at slams are playing with words, texturing of language with rich rhythms and sounds.
Slam Poetry enables urban youth to grow in confidence and pride in being able to share how they feel with peers and their communities. Using Slam Poetry in the classroom helps urban youth to develop a greater tolerance and respect for each other as well as for their teachers. Teachers need to strive to recognize, understand, honour, and legitimize student’s linguistic and cultural identifications (Bruce & Davis, 2000, p. 126). The Slam Poetry curriculum advocated by Heather Bruce, to be used in English classes is meant to be developed in partnership with local community, organizations, and poets.
Other types of work such as fostering the creation of critical literacy can be done in the urban English classroom. For Freire, the oppressed can only liberate themselves from oppressive ideology after first developing the critical consciousness which is also required for critical literacy (Morrell & Duncan-Andrade, 2002, p. 89). Hip hop can be a bridge between the streets and academia. The social commentary derived from some hip hop can lead to consciousness-raising discussions, essays and research projects. Many hip hop musicians like KRS who often goes by the name ‘The Teacher’ consider themselves educators.
Hip hop texts can be used to help students better understand irony, tone, diction, and point of view, as well as analyses of theme, motif, plot, and character development. The work by Morrell & Duncan-Andrade found that it was important that the teacher place hip hop music right alongside other historical periods and poems so that students could use the genre of poetry they were familiar with to examine other literary works (2002, p. 90). Hip hop can be used as a tool to bridge the gap between the district-mandated literary cannon and urban cultures. An example of this would be to get students to present a canonical poem alongside a hip hop text. One group in this case study articulated that both Grand Master Flash’s “The Message” and T. S. Eliot’s “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” were representations of a society in decline and invoked images of “wastelands” (Morrell & Duncan-Andrade, 2002, p. 91). This project was consistent with the principles of Critical Pedagogy in that it was focused on the existential experiences of the students as opposed to those of the teacher; it called for critical dialogue and critical engagement with literary text and related those texts to larger social and political issues.
Critical Hip Hop Pedagogy should be used as an educational tool to cultivate critical consciousness through the development of counter-narratives for urban youth of colour. Critical Hip Hop Pedagogy helps marginalized youth become aware of how their lives are shaped by larger institutions like the schooling system. Through the development of “a counter-hegemonic curricula that focuses on youth culture and resistance, racial identity and social reproduction, and counter-narratives, students of colour are able to provide alternative explanations of school inequality and simultaneously gain a critical perspective of their world” (Akom, 2009, p. 55). This is to help students become what Gramsci termed “organic intellectuals (Gramsci, 1971)” in an effort to create positive change in their communities. Critical Hip Hop Pedagogy puts student at the center in order to help them “identify and name the societal and systemic problems students of colour face, analyze the causes of the problems, and find solutions to the problems (Smith-Maddox & Solorzano, 2002, p. 80).” Counter-narratives, according to Critical Race Theory are the stories told by people of colour who are submerged in a racially hierarchical society (Delgado & Stefancic, 2000). Critical Hip Hop Pedagogy should be used as a tool to illuminate the problems facing many urban youth such as poverty, police brutality, patriarchy, misogyny, incarceration, racial discrimination but also issues of love, hope and joy. Critical Hip Hop Pedagogy is the process of teaching as bell hooks refers to this as the “catalyst that calls everyone [teachers and students] to become more and more engaged, to become active participants in learning” (hooks, 1994, p. 11).
Through the use of song lyrics David Stovall argues that hip hop as an element of popular culture can be used to develop critical pedagogy in secondary Social Studies curriculum. Urban youth are often blamed for society’s ills such as crime, drug use, delinquency, and apathy. Teachers act as facilitators by encouraging students to create and recreate their learning experiences as means of better fostering critical consciousness; this results in each workshop being a unique experience (Stovall, 2006, p. 586). Songs are used to provide historical and social context. The learning experience is in a constant state of evolution with students providing feedback to improve the way in which hip hop was used as a tool to developing critical consciousness.
Stovall uses the song “Four Women” by vocalist and pianist Nina Simone which tells the story of four women’s experiences during slavery (Stovall, 2006, p. 596). This led to a dialogue in which students realized that history and social studies curriculum was not reflective of their lived experiences in the United States. Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States was then utilized as a bridge to introduce students to alternative historical records instead of the ones they have previously been taught. In Zinn’s chapter “Slavery Without Submission, Emancipation Without Freedom” he highlights the contributions of abolitionists while demystifying Lincoln as the great emancipator (Stovall, 2006, p. 597).
KRS-One also known as “The Teacher” criticized the embedded Eurocentrism in the U.S. public school curricula and its impact on Black children and youth (Akom, 2009, pp. 53-54). In “You Must Learn” KRS-One rhymes about Blacks who get left out of the history books:
“No one told you about Benjamin Banneker, a brilliant Black man (who created an) almanac... Granville Woods made the walkie talkie, Louis Latimar improved on Edison, Charles Drew did a lot for medicine, Garret Morgan made the traffic light, Harriet Tubman freed the slaves at night” (KRS-One, 1989).
Critical Hip Hop Pedagogy as a form of liberatory practice stems from the long history of Black freedom struggles and the quest for self-determination for oppressed communities around the world (Akom, 2009, p. 53). Critical Hip Hop Pedagogy aims to allow economically and socially marginalized youth to become the intellectual leaders in the classroom. Students are taught as part of a community and not as isolated individuals. The youths’ real-life experiences are a legitimate part of the curriculum. In Critical Hip Hop Pedagogy students and teachers are cognisant of the fact that they are political entities who are engaged in a collective struggle against the status-quo (Stovall, 2006, p. 588).
Delgado and Stefancic examined the relationship between Hip-Hop music, Latinos and education by interviewing 20 Mexican and Puerto Rican youth living in the Chicago area. Urban youth face several challenges in the education system; low level curriculum, unqualified or uncaring teachers, lack of resources, and poor quality of English as a second language programs. Academic expectations and individualistic understandings of achievement and success are constructed through white normative, cultural understandings (Pulido, 2009, p. 69). Latino youth identities, cultures, and languages are routinely marginalized by the education system. There is a devaluing of the Spanish language, Mexico, Mexican culture, and all things Mexican (Pulido, 2009, p. 69). Raul, a nineteen-year-old Mexican college student, refers to hip hop as “Music just fit for us minorities” (Pulido, 2009, p. 73). Hip hop music bridges the ethnic divide between Latinos and African Americans by carving out a space through a collective understanding of shared struggles.
Hip hop music contributes to the knowledge and self-awareness of urban youth. 23-year-old Gabriela came to understand the deeper issues of gentrification in Chicago through the lyrics of Common in his song Cabrini Green (Pulido, 2009, p. 74). Gabriela’s connection with the lyrics helped her understand how Reaganomics affected certain populations like her own more than others (Pulido, 2009, p. 74).
Immortal Technique’s, “The Poverty of Philosophy” explores the way in which Latina/o immigration to the US is a consequence of imperialism, racism, and capitalism which has had a negative impact on Latin America. Furthermore the song addresses the contradiction between anti-immigration and anti-Latino discourses with U.S. foreign policy and demand for low-wage migrant workers which fuelled the migration patterns (Pulido, 2009, p. 75). The anti-immigration and Latino sentiments have a real impact on the youth with over 50% concerned that a close family member or friend may be deported (Pulido, 2009, p. 75). Critical Hip Hop Pedagogy provides the cohesion of urban youths through the racialized historical and contextual perspective on inequality and is at the heart of the hip hop music’s lyrics.
Fifteen-year-old Alesandra speaks about how the school system only teaches you what they want you to learn (Pulido, 2009, p. 80). She cites the characterization of Fidel Castro as all things horrible but the failure to mention how Castro does not want a puppet government controlled by the U.S. forced upon the Cuban people (Pulido, 2009, p. 80). Alesandra concludes that schools do not provide multiple or contradictory perspectives because it would threaten their role as the machine of social reproduction (Pulido, 2009, p. 81). Her Critical Hip Hop Pedagogy helps her view her everyday experiences resulting from the material representations of local, national, and global processes (Pulido, 2009, p. 81).
Critical Hip Hop Pedagogy makes marginalized youth proud of their cultural identities (Pulido, 2009, p. 76). In history one Latino student commented that Mexicans were not even mentioned “until like the ‘80s... it was like they were non-existent” (Pulido, 2009, p. 78).
For too long, the under-achievement of youth of colour has been explained as individual pathologies or lack of cultural adaptation, which stems from social disorganization in their communities, or a lack of individual effort (Akom, 2009, p. 60). Despite what the school system claims, it is neither neutral nor colour-blind. There is a conceptualised view that inferior abilities of people of colour offers no insight into the nuances of how racism manifests in terms of language, cultural and immigration status of Latino youth. There is also structural racism from the school system, as nineteen-year-old Frank recounts the excessive force used by the school to prevent some of the students from attending a pro-immigration rally. Many of these students were later suspended for their attendance at the protest (Pulido, 2009, p. 76). Hip hop music connects students to these systemic, structural, and everyday racist attitudes towards Latinos.
Critical Hip Hop Pedagogy needs to develop a counter-hegemonic public sphere in which students deconstruct deep-seated norms about race, class, gender, culture, language. Counter-narratives are required to address the fact that the education system has been an active player in both structural and systemic violence towards youth of colour. Critical Hip Hop Pedagogy challenges the way in which schools merely reproduce social inequalities. This is often done through hidden and an official curriculum, which promotes the hegemony of the dominant class and through pedagogies that devalue the voices and backgrounds of urban students of colour (Akom, 2009, p. 63). Youth of colour use hip hop discourses to help them better understand their position in racial and ethnic hierarchies, and also the way in which the institutional public school system fails to incorporate their racialized ethnic and cultural identities into the official dialogue and curricula.
Dead Prez who draw on black freedom fighters like Malcolm X and Carter G. Woodson, criticize the Eurocentic and Anglocentic educational system which they view as mental incarceration in the song “They Schools.” In “They Schools” they argue that the traditional school system strategically fails communities of colour by preparing them for working-class jobs. According to Dead Prez:
“They schools can't teach us shit. My people need freedom, we tryin to get all we can get...Tellin’ me white man lies straight bullshit. They schools ain’t teaching us what we need to know to survive, they schools don’t educate, all they teach the people is lies” (C. Gavin, 2000).
Critical Hip Hop Pedagogy aims to address deep-rooted ideologies as well as social inequalities by using hip hop as a tool for social justice in teacher education. The removal of traditional performance norms helps students to participate honestly without the fear of being silenced (Akom, 2009, p. 59). Hip hop music creates spaces where youth can challenge relations of power and the hegemonic discourses within the education system (Pulido, 2009, p. 82). Critical Hip Hop Pedagogy provides an interpretive lens for youth to analyse and critique the school system through the broader perspective of racial inequalities intersected by multiple forms of oppression.
Through the pedagogy of hip hop, Latino students like Luis develop an interpretive lens to help him understand that schools are not there to serve his interests (Pulido, 2009, p. 79). Luis comments that schools look at their Mexican populations with hate because they are the scapegoats for many of the country’s problems (Pulido, 2009, p. 79). He draws on hip hop lyrics to make sense of the local and national discourses, and he links schools with social reproduction (Pulido, 2009, p. 80).
Critical Hip Hop Pedagogy can be used to turn a critical lens back on the hip hop music as part of this popular media which must also be discussed, interrogated and critiqued. These projects could examine in particular the consumerism, homophobia, misogyny, violence and glorification of drug culture present in mainstream hip hop. Not all forms of hip hop are emancipatory, revolutionary, or resistive; some are the exact opposite (Akom, 2009, p. 54). But even the hip hop which is considered to glorify violence is useful in that it reflects the lived realities of urban students. Reflection centered on the students lived experiences should create dialogue which the teacher could facilitate, but should not be used for teachers to convince students of their own way of thinking (Stovall, 2006, p. 592). Hip hop further underscores how decreased opportunities for youth of colour combined with economic restructuring, erosion of civil rights, and an increasingly hierarchical education pipeline make hip hop music a viable educational discourse for many urban youth.
A Latino student named, Jose turns the critical lens on the hip hop artists themselves, for example he was very disappointed to see Common had begun to do advertisements for The Gap and the luxury SUV, the Lincoln Navigator (Pulido, 2009, p. 80). Jose’s observations are indicative of the fact that youth are not merely passive reciprocals who consume hip hop music but are able to turn a critical lens on the artists and music itself.
Stovall asked his class if the rap artists actually owned the money, cars, and jewellery in their music videos (Stovall, 2006, p. 593). Stovall then introduced the class to the song “Thieves in the Night,” by Black Star, a hip hop collaboration between the two solo artists Mos Def and Talib Kweli. The song invoked images of how the record industry controls and manipulates artists to be sold as commodities to the general public often without their consent. This creates a dialogue from which the students discovered that the grandiose images projected in these hip hop videos did not reflect the lives that many artists live (Stovall, 2006, p. 593). After this exercise Stovall introduced the students to the author James Baldwin through discussion about his essay “If Black Language Isn’t a Language, The What Is?”
“A child cannot be taught by anyone who despises him and a child cannot afford to be fooled. A child cannot be taught by anyone whose demand, essentially, is that the child repudiate this experience (Baldwin, 1985, p. 652).”
This was then followed by a writing exercise in which the students were asked to describe a just society. In the critical analysis of the consumerist, sexist, and misogynistic themes in some hip hop, students must examine how those themes exist in their daily lives as well as in the society as a whole (Stovall, 2006, p. 589). The very same critical approach must also be turned on Critical Hip Hop Pedagogy itself. This is done in part through regular feedback by teachers and students to re-evaluate and change the pedagogical approach.
In future use of Critical Hip-Hop Pedagogy Stovall argues that more material should be chosen by the students instead of the facilitator as well as a more equal balance between male and female artists used (Stovall, 2006, pp. 598-9). There is also great potential in involving the local hip hop community through mentorship programs. Hip hop culture has also been used to introduce White America to the rest of the society which they never see. Seventy percent of hip hop albums are purchased by suburban white males (Morrell & Duncan-Andrade, 2002, p. 88)
Akom, A. A. (2009, March). Critical Hip Hop Pedagogy as a Form of Liberatory Praxis. Equality & Excellence in Education , pp. 52-66.
Baldwin, J. (1985). The price of the ticket: Collected nonfiction 1948-1985. New York: St. Martin's.
Bruce, H. E., & Davis, D. B. (2000, May). Slam: Hip-Hop Meets Poetry -- A Strategy for Violence Intervention . The English Journal, Vol. 89, No. 5, A Curriculum of Peace , pp. 119-127.
C. Gavin, L. A. (Composer). (2000). They Schools. [M.-1. (. stic.man, Performer, & d. p. Hedrush, Conductor] United States of America.
Delgado, R., & Stefancic, J. (2000). The Latino condition: A critical reader. Temple University Press .
Dimitriadis, G., & McCarthy, C. (2001). Reading and Teaching the Postcolonial: From Basquiat and Beyond. New York: Teachers College Press.
Friere, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Herder and Herder.
Gramsci, A. (1971). Selections from the Prison Notebooks. London: Lawrence and Wishart.
Hamilton, K. (2004). Making some noise: The Academy's hip hop generation. Black Issues in Higher Education Vol. 21 No. 5 , pp. 34-35.
hooks, b. (1994). Teaching to transgress. New York: Routledge.
Kelley, R. D. (1996). Race rebels: Culture, politics, and the Black working class. New York: Free Press.
KRS-One. (1989). You Must Learn. In On Getto Music: The Blueprint of Hip Hop. New York: Jive Records.
Ladson-Billing, G. (2001). America Still Eats Her Young. In W. Ayers, B. Dorhn, & R. Ayer, Zero Tolerance: Resisting the Drive for Punishment in our Schools (pp. 77-85). New York: The New Press.
Morrell, E., & Duncan-Andrade, J. M. (2002, July). Promoting Academic Literacey with Urban Youth through Engaging Hip-Hop Culture. The English Journal Vol. 91 No. 6 , pp. 88-92.
Pulido, I. (2009, March). "Music fit for us minorities": Latinas/os' Use of Hip Hop as Pedagogy and Interpretive Framework to Negotiate and Challenge Racism. Equity & Excellence in Education , pp. 67-85.
Smith-Maddox, R., & Solorzano, D. (2002). Using Critical Race Theory, Paulo Freire's Problem-Posing Method, and case study Research to Confront Race and Racism in Education. Qualitative Inquiry Vol. 8 No. 1 , pp. 66-84.
Solórzano, D. G., & Bernal, D. (2001). Examining transformational resistance through a critical race and LatCrit theory framework: Chicana and Chicano students in an urban context. Urban Education Vol. 36 No. 3 , pp. 121-136.
Stovall, D. (2006, November). WE CAN RELATE Hip-Hop Culture, Critical Pedagogy, and the Secondary Classroom. Urban Education Vol. 41, No. 6 , pp.