We hold, and have held for centuries that a proper education is a fundamental right for all citizens, not just for those that can afford it. This core value has compelled us to create access by means of a public school system. We believe at our core that the more educated a civilization is the more the nation and its people will prosper. However, like any other systematic structure, the education system is not without flaws; flaws, that despite our tireless efforts, endless hours of research, and restructuring, we have yet to overcome. Too often, these flaws are in direct correlation with socioeconomic and racial issues that have also plagued our country. Still, there are brave educators, policymakers, and researchers that have not given up on our children and the future of education as a whole. I personally and proudly salute you.
Hip hop as genre has always had something to say about education and its importance. A genre of music that sits in the same stream as blues, jazz, R&B, and negro spirituals, hip hop at its core is a narrative. It sets out to tell the story of people and their struggles. Hip hop, in its inception was looking to be a driving force of change in urban communities. It stressed what was called “knowledge of self,” which included an understanding of where one comes from and where one is going. This stream of thought, although not as visible, has never left the genre.
It’s on this backdrop that Alma Zaragoza-Petty and I enter. A cursory survey of my music will show my passion for education and social change. Some of you may already know this, but prior to being a full time touring artist, I taught high school for six years. I helped in the development of two charter high schools, wrote curriculum and assisted in the Educational Philosophy appendix for WASC accreditation applications. These experiences coupled with first hand accounts in the classroom inspired the poem "Dear Bored of Education."
Alma, who just happens to be my wonderful wife, is a PhD candidate at UCI in the field of Educational Policy and Social Context. Alma's passion for systemic change comes from her own experience as a student in inner city Los Angeles. Her work addresses how schools and policy perpetuate negative stereotypes of low-income youth of color deemed “at risk.” She feels that this places all fault on individuals as “risky” rather than address real issues in poverty stricken communities and in a country built on a legacy of racism. She instead hopes to see a kind of public education that reflects the people it serves, both in content and through the diversity of those who serve youth. As such, her works center on humanizing the experiences of low-income urban youth by giving them voice through her research. She has over a decade of experience as an outreach counselor and community liaison and hopes to become a professor one day.
Our hope as a couple and as professionals is to be examples of the good that can come from the partnership of Hip hop and Education. We are by no means the only examples. There are programs across the country that are changing the face of Education for the better. With this project, we hope to inspire more change makers.