The Rutgers Graduate School of Education was recently reward a $60,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to expand its Hip Hop Youth Research and Activism (HHYRA) conference.
The HHYRA Conference aims to bring together young people from diverse communities in workshops and interactions involving teaching ideas about how hip-hop and other art forms can be linked to participation in justice social. It is led by high school and college students and presents their work.
Hector Cruz, one of the youth leaders at HHYRA, said one of the main goals of the conference is to use hip-hop as a medium for social change, as it often showcases modern social justice issues and can talk about it through the eyes of young people. people.
“I think hip-hop in general, for a few generations now, has been a force for bringing change to the world and talking about things that people don’t really want to talk about,” he said.
Lauren Leigh Kelly, director and founder of HHYRA and assistant professor at the Graduate School of Education, said the conference is important because it creates intergenerationality among young people and builds a community that goes beyond their institutions and age groups.
“There aren’t a lot of spaces that bring together young people who are in CEGEP and those who are in high school,” she says. “It’s one or the other… But I think the idea of being able to be a high school student and interacting with students, I think it makes you feel more respected.”
Kelly also said that first-hand involvement is at the heart of creating change and therefore young people should have leadership opportunities and platforms to speak out. For this reason, high school and undergraduate students can serve as Young Leader Fellows or present workshops at the HHYRA conference.
Semaj Skillings, another member of HHYRA’s Young Leaders, said the conference gives young people a free platform to express their own ideas, which they usually cannot do in other settings.
“There is a unique pathway here to help these young people, (to) give them a platform like outside of their own school or non-school activities or projects or presentations,” he said. “We … give them guidance at this young age – to help them formulate their ideas and realize the power they have.”
Skillings also said that being part of HHYRA creates a strong sense of community through collaborations between the diversity of its members.
“We started as participants: submitting a proposal, not really knowing that we were going to enter this day or this experience,” he said. “But once we got there, we saw the community – so many different people our age, but older, but younger – all here together, working together, seeing everyone as equals.
Kelly said the NEA grant will allow the conference to have more opportunities to bring in members who may need to receive monetary compensation to attend due to proximity or for other reasons.
Skillings said the grant money can also be used to make the conference more accessible in terms of student travel and resources.
“(The NEA grant could help us) provide people with any materials or things they need so they can really get really creative with their presentations,” he said.
This year’s conference at Rutgers will be in May, according to Kelly’s website.
Cruz said he hopes attendees and attendees will be inspired by the conference. The biggest impact HHYRA can have is people come away having learned something new and apply it to the classroom and their lives to start conversations, he said.
Kelly said she hopes those who attend the conference will be inspired by how they can use different areas of their identity for civic engagement and how their love for certain types of art can become a mechanism for social change. .
“I would be really interested in seeing people see their role in the world differently from being in this space,” she said.