Hip-Hop, Global Citizenship and Double Consciousness

I mentioned in my first blog, that I was trying to work with an organization called ICE (the Information and Cultural Exchange). It looks like I will work as a “Thinker-in-Residence.” I am truly excited about this opportunity! In this role, I will be teaching a global hip-hop technology class in their new center. Additionally, I will work as part of the ICE team to help think of creative solutions to help reach some of their long-term goals, as well as help evaluate some of the hip-hop related events they have sponsored.

ICE supports various artistic endeavors throughout Western Sydney. ICE invited me to attend a project that took place after Rise; a play titled East London – West Sydney. This production was a hip-hop themed play/spoken word performance. It gives you glimpses into the lives of 5 people and how they end up influencing or impacting each other. The show’s actors (BrothaBlack, Sarah Sayeed, MC Trey, Rima Najm and Maxwell Golden) are hip-hop artists who are based either in East London or West Sydney. This intense play requires them to combine their acting, b-boying /girling, and lyricist skills to share stories of the cultural conflicts they face in their daily struggle to simply exist and be themselves in Sydney or London. For example, one of the characters portrayed by Trey, has to struggle with how her success as a news anchor has caused her to disconnect from her Fijian roots. Or how Sydney’s Rima Najm – aka Soul Beats’ s character is rejected for scientific jobs and misinterpreted by her colleagues due to colleagues finding her name too difficult to pronounce or ignorance about the practices of the Muslim faith.
The show also highlights the “the parallels and divergences between two cities,” specifically speaking to how colonization has connected these two locations in interesting ways that often aren’t discussed. The play is set in contemporary times, and deals with contemporary issues, however, as I watched the play I was struck by how much the struggles the characters faced in their lives related back to the discussions of “double consciousness” coined by W.E.B. DuBois over one hundred years ago. Dubois uses the term double consciousness to describe the paradox that arises from existing as both an American and a person of African descent during America’s reconstruction period. In his book, Souls of Black Folks, Dubois speaks to the two-ness that these two identities create as they try to exist in one body. The two-ness, he explains comes from the contradicting ideas that exist between the realities of being both of African descent and being a loyal American.

This play illustrated that double consciousness is not an experience unique to African Americans. The characters in East London West Sydney illustrate a modern version of DuBois’ dilemma from several different perspectives. Each of the artists uses hip-hop to explore the paradoxes they have been born into as each character reaches critical moments in his or her life. I also found that this play helped me to think about different ways of expanding DuBois’ idea of double consciousness and how it interacts with issues of global citizenship education. I appreciated the way the play utilized that elements of hip-hop to provide a vivid example of how the global reach of hip-hop can help us think about universal issues people face regardless of where they are situated in the world. This was an excellent production that was able to engage a very eclectic audience.

In my next blogs, I will take you a couple of places I recently attended the Musicians Making a Difference conference. This organization helps network artist who are using their name and music to promote positive changes in their local, national and global communities. I had a chance to meet with a few of the artists and organizations that presented at their national conference and will share with you how their work contributes to the ways of promoting of global citizenship education and digital literacy. Also I will introduce you to the winner and some of the participants in the National Australian Poetry Slam, and their thoughts on hip-hop and global citizenship. Of course I will also update you with the progress my research is taking.

Photo Credits: Joanne Saad via the Information and Cultural Exchange

3 thoughts on “Hip-Hop, Global Citizenship and Double Consciousness

  1. Thinker-in-residence is quite a cool title. I’m quite interested to find out, in the coming months, what a “global hip-hop technology class” looks like.

    From your post, the play seems facinating. I’ve had recent discussions with colleagues about how individuals manage and feel about having multiple identities, in particular, whether multiple identiies have to be resolved into one or whether a person can merely acknowledge that different contexts are more likely to bring out different aspects of their identity and accept the contradictions that may bring. I suppose that if society has negative or strong ideas or stereotypes about one of your identities you must resolve them somehow or remain in a very uncomfortable place.


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