An assignment from “Curriculum & Instruction: English” class...
As a pedagogue kickin’ some metacognition, my vocation is locatin’ what my repertoire’s missing. The art and aesthetics of Hip-Hop culture and practice have and continue to play a profound role in my life and in that of those around me. I would argue that the roots of language, the English language, and particularly the English language that exists within Hip-Hop culture, cannot be discussed in an ethical way, without considering issues of power, powerlessness, and the endless circular conflict they are engaged in. Having command and an overstanding of English and its etymology, will not only be useful in my self-empowerment, but just as importantly in my being an ally to young people whose communities have been historically exploited, dispossessed and/or targeted for destruction. In the words of Dr. Patrick Camangian, “Until young people are given the tools to articulate their own realities, for their own benefit, they will always live at the behest of power.” In other words, the ability to transform the material conditions of those with the least, as well as this world, lies in young peoples’ ability to speak truth to power and be heard.
I would also posit due to my life’s experience, that my racialization as an Asian and mixed race/class/ethnicity/religion/heritage person can and does often lead the majority of my fellow citizens to perceive me as inauthentic in numerous American contexts. My ability to speak and code-switch between Anglicized as well as Ebonicized English is often deemed unusual outside of (but also within at times) my Bay Area community, due largely to the “common sense” perceptions that regard Asian people as perpetually foreign and unassimilable. My Teaching reading and writing of the English language in a way that not only troubles these implications, but simultaneously encourages students to discover pleasure and potential for (necessarily painful) growth and development in them, may ultimately result in the shared ability to love and therefore humanize ourselves and one another. Author Junot Díaz argues convincingly:
In a world organized around competition, the act of reading is revolutionary – it creates compassion, it demands that we look at the world from the point of view of another. Moreover, reading creates human beings as it undermines the narcissistic myth that we are entirely awesome, that we always win, that we deserve all the stuff we have. It lets us recognize that we are vulnerable, flawed, contradictory, and petty. But in addition to making us face that, it reminds us that we are beautiful, worthy of love, and extraordinarily important.
When this creation of compassion takes place, pushes towards justice occur organically. When one is able to love and recognize the humanity in another, they intuitively become filled with anger and compelled to act when they see anyone suffering unjustly. I, like so many others, have witnessed and experienced a wealth of unearned suffering in my personal and professional life, and have also been fortunate enough to perceive that I have loved and been loved. This, coupled with the fact that leading Scientists infer it will be “game over” for our planet’s ecosystem should the Keystone XL Pipeline Project be allowed to pass next year, means that I and multitudes like me, quite literally have no choice but to support our current and future students as they fight to access the tools for their liberation, and our collective human salvation.