I have been in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Sydney, for about a month now. On my first trip I was able to see a large part of the city of Sydney. This time I am spending much more time in Sydney metro. I would “reckon” that if you have never visited Australia, you are most familiar with the city of Sydney through its notable landmarks. It is here where you will see the beautiful Darling Harbour Bridge, the world’s largest IMAX theatre, as well as Circular Quay (pronounced the same way you would pronounce the word key), which is the home to the magnificent Sydney Opera House, as well as many other popular tourist attractions. Venturing out further will show you Sydney Metro, which is just as beautiful in its own right, but probably much more different than you would imagine. Western Sydney, for example, could be considered the demographic hotspot of the metro area. Over 150 different nationalities are represented! In 2009 the Australian government noted that Western Sydney has a current population of about 1.87 million people, which is 43% of the Sydney metropolitan total, and is home to just over 1 in 11 Australians, and 1 in 3 of the people in Western Sydney are under the age of 24.
Western Sydney is where I spend most of my time, as I try to discover first-hand what hip-hop looks in Sydney. Yes. They have hip-hop in Sydney (which is how I answered the most frequently asked question I received prior to my departure). They have hip-hop everywhere in the world, but I digress… I have specifically been looking for instances that illustrate how hip-hop can teach youth about global citizenship as well as digital literacy. In the short time I have been here, I have found SEVERAL examples. The following is brief overview of some of the projects I have been connecting with the last couple of weeks. I hope to provide more detailed articles on each of these topics (and more!) over the course of my stay:
The first week I was here, I was able to catch up with Morganics. He is a phenomenal hip-hop artist, activist, and educator. He graciously invited me to the set of a movie he is directing Survival Tactics. I was able to watch a few scenes as they were being filmed. This film will be Australia’s first feature-length film on hip-hop! It was developed from a play that has been performed at the Sydney Opera house. While it’s not a documentary, it does pull from real life stories of some of the actors in the movies as well as collective experiences of youth they worked with over the years. Even if you are not a hip-hop head, you will be able to relate to the overarching themes of the movie, such as love, friendship, redemption and hope (just to name a few). Morganics has kindly allowed me to shadow him, which has been great. Check back here soon for an interview with Morganics, who will describe how this project came about, as well as how some of the components of global citizenship are naturally woven into the movie, as well as how he uses hip-hop as his global passport. Watch the trailer:
While on set, I learned I arrived just in time for the semi-finals (heats) and finals of the
Australian Poetry Slam. This relates to my project in several ways; several hip-hop artists participate in this event, and quite often they discuss issues of social justice as well as global issues via the art of spoken word. I spoke to the national director, Miles Merrill, who notes how programs such as this one are used to help bridge communities who might not often come in contact with each other in their day-to-day existence, but share a love for the arts. One of the heats was set at Street University and sponsored in part by the Information and Cultural Exchange. Be sure to check back for more detailed coverage of the road to the finals!
Street University is a unique non-profit that is under the umbrella of the Ted Noffs Foundation. This organization is breaking down the barriers of how they engage with youth by providing a friendly, safe, and open environment for young people to create and learn. One of the many things this organization offers is weekly educational programs, which are developed based on feedback from local community members. Students of various ages can come in and receive free tutoring from volunteers at local Uni students from schools throughout Sydney. (Uni is what a University is often called) Additionally, quite a few of the classes offered, such as the dance classes and graffiti arts classes are hip-hop themed. Artist from the community as well as from around the world have been connected with Street Uni, and participants have been able to showcase their talent for former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, as well as Prince William. Be sure to stay connected with this blog, so you can see a virtual tour of the place, as well as some of the community driven programs it host.
The Informational and Cultural Exchange (ICE) is an amazing place like no other I have seen. It provides several innovative training programs that combine art and digital medium. They also use multimedia to tell the stories of the diverse community it serves, which in turn helps deepen the ties of the residents within the community. I am currently volunteering with an ICE sponsored project called The Rise. This free program teaches youth and young adults, how to express themselves through the urban cultures of music, dance and parkour, with direction from professional artists in a positive and encouraging environment. I will be helping/observing the lead teacher/artist, Thelma “Trey” Thomas who is a well-known hip-hop artist in Australia. The young people involved in this program are phenomenal. I am looking forward to teaching a section on web pages for the students in the program. I am also in discussions with ICE on how I can teach a class via this center that will be similar to a multimedia class I taught in Michigan on the intersection of hip-hop and global and digital citizenship education.
I also hope to take you to Krosswerdz. The members of this congregation come together once per month to celebrate Christianity through the elements of hip-hop. At the service I attended, I learned that Krosswerdz is part of a global movement. It is one of many churches around the world that use hip-hop to deliver Gospel. In this church service, there were ample examples of global and digital literacy’s at work that I hope to expand on in a future blog.
Additionally, I will reach out to MC Trey, Maya Jupiter (who is on tour in the U.S. right now), Wire MC (the Abo-digital Artists), Mirrah Reflects, Brotha Black, Lystic, as well as other hip-hop artist (based on their availability) for interviews. Many have participated in educationally based hip-hop projects, aimed at improving the lives of urban youth, and have valuable input that all of us (including educators such as myself) can benefit from.
I want to thank all of the people I have mentioned in this blog, as well as my hosts at the University of Technology, Sydney, Alistair Pennycook and Tony Mitchell, the wonderful people in the Transforming Cultures Research Centre, my flat mates in Lane Cove, and of course the Fulbright Offices in Australia and New York as well as mtvU! They have all overextended themselves to me, and made me feel like I am at home. Also, thank you for taking the time to read this blog. I look forward to sharing what I learn with you, as well receiving feedback from you.