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By Timothy Jones, Chief Visionary Officer #HipHopEd @tdj6899
I’m sitting at my computer with my headphones on listening to “Take Me To Your Leader” created by DJ Hoodwink provided by @raptjr as my personal way to reflect on the day that the nation celebrates and commemorates the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This is not a standard mix tape review where I say this song is hot and this artist is featured. This is a mix tape overview where I expound on the intent of the mix tape and the hope that the listener gets the responsibility that comes within the re-creation of the project.
To drop “Take Me To Your Leader” on #MLKDAY14 would naturally make you believe that the leader that we are being taken to is Dr. King and what he represented for us as a people. But if you really listen to the music and focus on the power of Hip-Hop as a medium that is now a worldwide phenomenon; the leader(s) are the voices of the artists on the project. Leadership is something that can no longer be embodied in an individual that can be assassinated in an attempt to stop whatever movement the individual represented. Leadership is a shared responsibility that we do not have the luxury of deciding whether to embrace without severe consequences for our failure to act. There are roles within the notion of leadership that position some as leaders, but not in the traditional sense that led to the assassinations of Malcolm and Martin amongst others.
Leadership is the theory by which we embrace our connectivity to one another as people who are aligned by our experiences which include our victories, sacrifices and our sufferings. Music and art has always been one of our most powerful weapons in evoking collective thought that incite a people to the point that they see themselves and the world around them through the paradigms created by the music. Art is a continual remix of sounds, thoughts and method of expression; which inherently attaches a responsibility to all who dare call themselves artists. This ideology is not prevalent in our commercialized Hip-Hop that dominates American airwaves, but is bubbling in what we call the “Underground.” Is it a coincidence that the “Underground Railroad” is the name of the system that was developed to transport individuals from enslaved to free? Can the music on “Take Me To Your Leader” be a stop on the “Underground Railroad” of Hip-Hop music that can transport the mentality of our youth and adults from enslaved to free? A mindset that is free to question the way things are and presenting an alternative narrative that explains the way things can and should be?
5 Ways to use “Take Me To Your Leader” as way to introduce civil rights education to youth and adults
1. Listen to Mix Tape with a group of young people and conduct searches for the subject matters that are in the songs. An example would be listening to “Dear Chicago Summer” and examine how violence increases in the summer and discuss ways that this pattern can be changed for summer 2014.
2. There are portions of tracks where you hear words from President Obama’s tribute to Nelson Mandela laid over Hip-Hop beats. Take some of the words of Dr. King that speak to the realities that many people are still dealing with and have them remix the words by putting them to music. Here is a Dr. King snippet that is seldom presented in schools, Dr. King said it: “I’m Black and I’m Proud”
3. Track 28 “Wake Up Everybody” on the Mix Tape is a remake of “Wake Up Everybody” by Teddy Pendergrass, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes in 1975. This creative expression is a great time travel bridge to begin to look at music from the past that called for us as a community to go higher and the Hip-Hop that is doing the same thing today.
4. Track 10 Jasiri X’s “21 Forever” provides the backdrop to look at the portrayal of young adulthood that is presented in commercial Hip-Hop and compare it to the role that young people played in the civil rights movement. Teach our young people what the Freedom Riders were doing as 21 year olds.
5. Track 29 Dee-1 “Walking Revolution” provides a list of rules embodied by Dee-1 and the movement behind his music. Look up some of the rules or creeds developed by organizations that were involved with civil rights. Have the students develop their own set of rules that they must agree upon as a class for a movement to empower themselves. Also check out Dee-1’s “American Dream” and discuss the feasibility of achieving an “American Dream” from an “Inner City Nightmare”
“A man without a mission is in mental prison, no bail”- Dee-1