Hip Hop, Hartford and The Power of Digital Storytelling

Short Documentary Films by Trinity Students Tell Stories of Local Hip Hop Pioneers‘Hartford Hip Hop Digital Stories’ Screening and Discussion Held at Hartford Public Library

Hartford, Connecticut, February 28, 2018—“Hartford Hip Hop Digital Stories,” a collection of short documentary films created by Trinity College students featuring local hip hop artists, recently screened at the Hartford Public Library’s Hartford History Center. The February 13 event also included a discussion with some of the student filmmakers and hip hop artists. The project began when Associate Professor of History and International Studies Seth Markle, who teaches a course called “Global Hip Hop Cultures,” met with Trinity alumna Jasmin Agosto ’10, a staff member at the Hartford History Center. “She was in the early stages of creating a digital archive on hip hop in Hartford, and I wanted to make a contribution through my class,” Markle said. “The course was about more than a grade. We wanted to produce something for the community. The students’ work is going to be accessible to the people, who can learn about Hartford from a cultural, musical perspective.” Markle’s design for his course began to take shape when he received a fellowship from Trinity’s Center for Teaching and Learning, which provided an opportunity for him to meet with other professors to discuss curriculum, exchange syllabi, and brainstorm ideas for assignments. He made changes to the existing “Global Hip Hop Cultures” course to take advantage of the opportunity for students to work with the Hartford History Center. “In rethinking the course, I wanted to combine oral history with digital storytelling,” Markle said. “As a historian, I’m very comfortable with oral history, but the technological component of digital storytelling was new to me.” The 15 students enrolled in Markle’s class during the fall 2017 semester were tasked with creating a collection of short digital stories that featured seven of Hartford’s hip-hop pioneers: Myron Moye, Tony Villarini, Rick Torres, Juanita “Empress Nujuabi” Chislom, Dooney Bates, Janice Flemming and Mike “Nice” Wilson.”

Read the full article HERE.

Review of my new book by Peter Cole

“Historian Seth Markle has written the latest must-have book on Black Power politics. His book is “required reading” because he explores one of Black Power’s (and, more generally, Black nationalism’s) core principles, Pan-Africanism, in a new and novel way. Markle follows Black Power adherents, in the 1960s and ‘70s, as they traveled to and were inspired by the African continent’s Pan-African lodestar of that time, Tanzania, and its legendary leader, Julius Nyerere, who championed Pan-Africanism.

Due to Nyerere and Tanzania’s embrace of Pan-Africanism, many hundreds of radical African Americans and West Indians made pilgrimages to Tanzania, to learn about and support that nation. Some visitors, like Malcolm X and Stokely Carmichael, are legends. So, too, historian Walter Rodney who wrote his still-vital How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (1972) while teaching at the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM). Many other less-renowned but still-important African Americans and West Indians also visited Tanzania or settled there in the years from 1964 to 1974, for Markle the pivotal decade. Markle’s book culminates with the much referenced but insufficiently analyzed 6th Pan-African Congress (6PAC), which he treats as tragedy.

Markle does not blow a triumphant horn about these often-glorified subjects. Rather, he frames his book as a cautionary tale. He does not shy away from the many tensions within and limitations of African American and Caribbean encounters with Tanzanians. Markle drives home the complexities that abounded when diasporic Black Power activists ran headlong into Tanzanians striving to build an African socialist nation on the foundation of a one-party political system. Markle’s book offers a fascinating take on a dynamic era as he leads readers from the United States and Guyana to Ghana and South Africa in addition to East Africa.”

Read more HERE:

Spring Semester Recap: The Video promo

The college has been pushing the use of the digital shorts for promotion.  This past semester they featured one of my students, Cam Clarke, a human rights and philosophy major and lead co-organizer of the Trinity Chapter of Temple of Hip Hop. I’ve known Cam since her sophomore year when she enrolled in my black internationalism seminar. Cam also accompanied me to Russia for the hip hop exchange back in February.  In addition to all of this, I also served as her thesis advisor for human rights and went along with her on her journey to critically examine the intersectional politics of the black marxist feminist Claudio Jones.  Sadly, all of this is not captured in the promo video. Nevertheless, I’m happy Cam got recognized for the kinds of contributions she has made to the college over four long years.  

Global Hip Hop in the College Classroom: A Teaching Collaboration

I often treat the summer as a time to decompress from a long academic year, travel the country and abroad to visit friends and family, and conduct research, writing… pretty much anything but teaching. But after traveling to Russia and coming face to face with a die-hard hip hop community that was seriously interested in hip hop education at the university/college level, I started to rethink my summer plans a bit. 

This summer I will be co-teaching my “INTS 344: Global Hip Hop Cultures” with hip-hop artist, activist, educator and entrepreneur Self Suffice the RaPoet. I first met Suffice seven years ago through the Trinity International Hip Hop Festival. Since then I’ve worked with him as a co-organizer and mentor of the festival, but also as an educator, bringing him into my hip-hop related classes for guest lectures and workshops. It first started in 2012 with my course “FYSM: Intro to Hip Hop” where Self Suffice schooled my first-year students on the aesthetics and politics of rhyming and battling. Two years later, in 2014, he came through to the same course to discuss the history of hip hop. And this past semester he was a guest lecturer in my INTS 344 class where he spoke on the origins hip hop and its importance for understanding global hip-hop formations. The collaborative efforts, however, were short-lived and I always thought it would be dope to bring our overlapping and divergent hip hop lenses into the college classroom over the course of a full semester. Add all of this to the fact that we spent a week together in Russia building with various hip hop communities in three different cities on a hip hop exchange program called, “Under the Curtain: Hip Hop Knowledge Seminar” and I can rightfully say that Suffice and I needed to form like Voltron. The Trinity College Summer Institute has provided us with a unique opportunity to see that idea come to fruition.  

From May 31 to July 13, 2017, Suffice and I will be teaching a global hip hop seminar course open to college students, adults, and high school seniors.  

If interested, go HERE for all the information you need. Registration closes on May 17th. 

Or call us directly at: 860-631-7277

Report Back: Russia-USA Hip Hop Exchange Digital Shorts

It’s been a couple of months since my visit to Russia as part of an international hip-hop exchange associated with the Trinity International Hip Hop Festival.  Luckily, there have been a number of digital shorts that have come out and captured the eye-opening experience we had in three different Russian cities. Glad that my amateur video footage went to good use!!

The first one is from Nomadic Wax chopped up by DJ Nio and the second one is chopped up by and Smol 01  of Funk Fanatix. Enjoy!

Posse and Applied Improvisation

For last week’s group meeting, I invited Kevin MacDonald to facilitate team building using Applied Improvisation exercises.  Kevin is the head coach of the rowing team at Trinity College. I met him last semester for the first time while serving as a Center for Teach and Learning (CTL) Fellow.  As CTL fellows, we meet once a month to workshop “a big pedagogical idea”. Kevin’s project is titled, ““Applied Improvisation: Collaborative Creativity in the Classroom”.  After Kevin did some of these exercises with the CTL fellows, I knew he would be a big hit with my Posse, which frankly was in need of some team building.

Kevin describes his project as follows: “My project examines the use of Applied Improvisation skills and techniques, employed in the classroom through group games and exercises.  Applied Improvisation requires participants to listen intently, respond honestly, and contribute enthusiastically to the collective effort.  Executed in the classroom, the exercises cultivate collaboration, camaraderie, teamwork, trust, and creativity.  Adapted from training for theatrical performances, improv exercises infuse energy, reduce inhibition, spark creativity and seek to eliminate self-consciousness within the working group.  I’m excited to work collaboratively with a large number of constituent groups across campus to put Applied Improvisation principles into practice.”

After the session, Kevin told me that this was one of the most cohesive groups he had worked with.  My Posse has been together for almost a year. Despite the fact that they may not all be best buddies, they still have a mutual respect for one another and when given a collective talk based on various forms of communication, concentration and creative expression, they step up to the plate and perform at a high level. 

2016 in Review: HFD Hip Hop Archive Project

I’m not going to lie, when I was notified that I got tenure back in May I went numb, overcome by a combination of guilt (a sad case of survivor’s remorse caused by the stresses of the tenure process), fear of professional complacency, and excitement for future possibilities related to new research and education projects to dig my teeth into.  One project that has gradually progressed from idea/vision to practical implementation has been the Hartford Hip Hop Digital Archive.  

The idea for this archive really came into being when the Hartford History Center at the Hartford Public Library hosted “Hartford Hip Hop: Then and Now” in November 2016. I was saddled with the task of serving as moderator for a panel of 7-8 hip hop pioneers from Hartford from the 1970s and 1980s era. A difficult job no doubt. I basically let them get lost in their memories and recollections of their time as youth artists in Hartford mesmerized by hip hop music and culture until I gave them that look that said, “Don’t hog the mic”.  It was an amazing event descibed by one attendee as something akin to a family reunion absent the sweet tea and bbq ribs. 

I wish I could say I am the brains behind this project. Truth be told, I’ve been interested in creating a hip hop archive largely due to Trinity International Hip Hop Festival http://www.trinityhiphop.org which I help organize. But the archive reamined only an idea   until I reconnected with Jasmin Agosto. Jasmin is a former Trinity student, a former Temple of Hip Hop organizer of the international hip hop festival and former research assistant in creating the Black Panther Party-Hartford chapter archive, all during her time at Trinity. 

After heading to NYC to get her Master’s degree at NYU’s heralded Gallatin School for Individualized Study where she wrote a thesis on independent artists and self-sustainability in Hartford, Jas returned home to Hartford, got a gig at the Hartford History Center at the Hartford Public Library and the rest is history. Like me, Jas is poised to preserve Hartford’s rich hip hop history, which dates back to mid-1970s. This digital archive would be accessible to the public, including access to visual, audio, photographic materials.  2017 should be an exciting year, one where I hope to work with Jas in laying the groundwork for an archive that focuses on a marginalized, silenced community.  

2016 in Review: Being a Posse Mentor

As I walked to my car feeling despondent, having just got off the phone with my assigned Posse Trainer who notified me that one of my scholars had abruptly left the school and was leaving for home as soon as possible, I kept thinking to myself, “What did I do wrong? As a mentor, wasn’t I supposed to be the frontline, the authority figure scholars would go to for advice, support, and mentorship? In this case, with this student, I started my car with this aching feeling of self-defeat, especially because this scholar never contacted me about anything, rarely coming to our 1 on 1 meetings.

Then, as I was exiting the parking lot, I saw one of my colleagues who had been a Posse mentor.  I hit the brakes, rolled down my window, said hello and asked, “How many of your Posse scholars ended up graduating?” I could tell she could see the sadness and frustration etched all over my face.  “Seth, I lost so many students. Many didn’t make it.”. Didn’t Make It. This program is about making it. It’s about making it through four years of college, navigating through the struggles of being a POC attending an elitist TWI in the northeast.

Looking back on my first semester as a Posse mentor, this memory – a memory of failure in my mind – sticks out the most. It’s not how I built great rapport and trust with 9 of 10 the scholars.  It’s not about their collective GPA of 3.3 – a huge success. Instead, I’ve been harping on the one that got away, the one I didn’t reach, the one that I didn’t establish trust with.  That student is set to return this semester and I am excited and concerned. Will the student be welcomed back by the scholars? Is there such a thing as a reset button? Will the scholars ride the wave of momentum brought on by a successful first semester? 

Being a Posse mentor is a profound responsibility.  What I liked the most was the ability to explore creative ways to mentor. It has allowed me to experiment with approaches to reaching and connecting with undergraduate students. I only hope that the progress made in building unique in relationships with each scholar continues; that the students continue to “trust the process” and develop as students, as leaders, as global citizens. 

The Origins of Hip Hop with Self Suffice

To kick off my INTS 344: Global Hip Hop Cultures seminar, I sought out Self-Suffice, a Hartford-based emcee, educator and author who plays a big supportive role in the annual Trinity International Hip Hop Festival.  For the past couple of years I’ve been collaborating with him on bringing hip hop to the college classrom through lectures and active learning workshops. So when the opportunity came up to apply for a community learning grant from the college, I jumped on it.  After seeing Suffice in action for so long, I knew all I needed to tell him was that 1) most of the students know very little about hip hop and 2) if he could address the origins of hip hop in the US.  Leading up to the lecture, students read materials that gave them insight into the pioneering agency of DJ Kool Herc as a way to shed light on hip hop’s Jamaican roots. This was supplemented by works that addressed the Peurto Rican and Chicano contributions to the hip hop movement as well. To begin the class session, Suffice wrote and displayed 2 phrases for the students to think about: “Peace Love Unity Havin Fun” and “Sex, Money, Violence, Drugs” , opening the lecture with the question:  Which one of these phrases, do you think, is what hip hop is all about? From there, Suffice explored the cultural explosion that unfolded in the South Bronx in the early 1970s by talking about creativity, oppression, individuality, the break beat, the sound system, the fresh styles, the four artistic elements, among other themes. 

To contact Self Suffice, go here: http://www.rapoets.com

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