Last week, I got a chance to reflect on the digital storytelling course I taught last year (Fall 2017) about the history of Hartford hip hop. These 7 stories, produced by 15 undergraduate students, along with the full audio/video interviews, will be accessible at the Hartford History Center as part of the Hartford Hip Hop Digital Repository. Many thanks to Giovanni Jones, a Hartford resident and undergraduate student, with the help of Prof. Jack Dougherty of the Educational Studies program.
Hartford, Connecticut, April 18, 2018—Year after year, the Trinity International Hip-Hop Festival celebrates the power of hip-hop as an educational tool and source of cultural identity for artists, educators, scholars, and organizers from around the world. To this day, it remains the biggest and longest-running festival of its kind hosted by a U.S. college/university. Mainly organized by the Trinity Chapter of Temple of Hip Hop, the 13th festival took place the weekend of April 6 through 8.
Every year, Temple of Hip Hop student organizers choose a theme for the festival, which is usually an outgrowth of what’s been happening on campus. As a result, this year’s theme was “Free Speech, Censorship, and Protest.” Three panels and one lecture examined this theme in depth. On Friday, April 6, Jesse Benjamin of Kennesaw State University kicked off the festival with a riveting lecture titled, “Taking Hip Hop Human Rights to the Root, From Columbus to Cointelpro: Resisting the Invention of Humans Without Rights.” Later that day, more than 90 people packed Rittenberg Lounge for a panel discussion moderated by Msia Clark (Howard University) featuring Emile YX? (South Africa), Dana Burton (China), and MC Pous (China). On Saturday, April 7, hip-hop pioneers DJ Stretch Armstrong and Pete Nice, along with hip-hop journalist/author Brian Coleman, addressed free speech by talking about the early years of hip-hop fliers. This discussion preceded a politically charged panel that looked at the connection between hip-hop, free speech, and censorship in Cuba featuring hip-hop artists Escuadron Patriota and David Omni.
Friday night’s hip-hop dance competition and exhibition once again proved that this element of hip-hop culture is thriving locally, nationally, and internationally. More than 300 people found themselves in the Washington Room to watch hip-hop dancers of all styles compete to the music coming from the turntables of DJL.I.D. (San Diego) and DJ Stealth (Hartford). The All Styles competition saw the Squirrel Squad (Connecticut) battle and defeat Fire Squad (Connecticut) to claim the $800 prize money. A special exhibition by b-boys Phil Wizard (Canada) and Lokito (USA) took place before NYC, featuring Pop, Gravity, and A-Rod, claimed victory over the Dynamic Rockers, another b-boy crew from New York City, to win the $600 prize money.
Saturday was a jam-packed day of events held both indoors and outdoors. At Gates Quad, the live graffiti exhibition featured Brazilian graffiti writer Marcelo Ment, Lindaluz Carrillo (Hartford), Wiley (Hartford), and five other Connecticut writers. While the graffiti writers were showcasing their spray-painting talents, more than 70 young people of all ages were participating in the festival’s annual Youth 4 Change conference. The conference consisted of a series of workshops on the history of African diaspora music, song writing and the music industry, and dance facilitated by Project South (Atlanta), Keysha Freshh (Canada), Angyil McNeal (Kansas City), and Studio860 (Hartford) and performances by DJ Henny Red (New Haven), YouMedia (Hartford), and Youthful Expressions (Hartford). ‘The Cave Patio Showcase” came after the Youth 4 Change conference as rappers joined co-hosts Self Suffice and Versatile Poetiq, along with DJ Stealth on the 1s and 2s, for performances by DJ Trouble Kidd (Jervon Adams Jr. ’20, Trinity College) and Klein Fortuin (South Africa), among many others. Between performances, the SELFCTRL Band (Josh Michtom on bass, Sam King on drums, Malibongwe Thwala ’17 on guitar, and Tang $auce on cornet) kept the positive vibes going strong.
On Saturday night, more than 400 people attended the main concert hosted by Minister Server. Klein Fortuin (South Africa), Political Animals (Connecticut), Demi Day (North Carolina), Keysha Freshh (Canada), Hache ST (Dominican Republic), Old City (Cape Verde), Five Steez (Jamaica), David Omni (Cuba), and Escuadron Patriota (Cuba) hyped up the crowd before Chicago’s Taylor Bennett took the stage to deliver a highly energized performance. Sadly, this year’s main headliner, Noname, could not perform due to an illness. However, hip-hop is about making something out of nothing, so to close out the night the majority of the international rappers joined Minister Server, Self Suffice and DJ Boo on stage for a 30-minute freestyle session.
On Sunday, April 8, the last day of the festival, activities moved from Mather Hall to Vernon Social Center and Heaven Skatepark. At Heaven Skatepark, a park located in downtown Hartford that permits legal graffiti, Marcelo Ment (Brazil), Lindaluz Carrillo (Hartford), and Emile YX? (South Africa) created colorful pieces. Back on the Trinity campus, a large crowd attended the “DJ and Producer Cypher” session, getting the opportunity to listen to and talk about hip-hop beats produced featuring Marc Angelo, Willz, G Whiz (founder of Musicology), and G Dot. Panelists also answered questions about collaborating with MCs, approaches to new technology, cultural appropriation, integrity in an evolving industry, and differences between hip-hop production from different regions. Additional DJs/producers included: Ralphie-O, Cruze, Steede Chinan, Nuk Beatz, to name but a few. An improvisational collaboration between producers and MCs was a great finale to the event.
“The Iron Poet Challenge and Annual Championship” marked the last event of the festival. Co-hosted by Versatile Poetiq (Hartford) and Mya Peters ’18 (Trinity College), eight spoken word poets competed in front of selected judges over three rounds. Deem Malik (Hartford) came out on top, beating out Mazin Khalil ’15 (Trinity College) and Naieem Levi Kelly (Hartford).
“So much to take away from this weekend,” commented DJ Stealth of Hartford. “I re-connected and became closer with old friends and formed relationships with new ones. I said it before: the festival is like Mecca to us Hip-Hop Heads. It’s the only international hip-hop event in America and right in my home town.”
A special thanks to our co-organizers Greg Schick of Nomadic Wax, Khaiim “Self Suffice” Kelly ’03, Taris “Machinegun Poptart” Clemmons, Brittana “Versatile Poetic” Tatum, Olusanya Bey, Mickey Correa ’20, and Jasmin Agosto ’10 for doing such a wonderful job. Also, the Trinity Chapter of Temple of Hip Hop would like to thank Karla Spurlock-Evans and Carol Correa de Best IDP ’01 of the Office of Multicultural Affairs, the President’s Office, Center for Urban and Global Studies Arts Committee, Human Rights Program, History Department, International Studies Program, Romulus Perez of Student Activities, Christina Kelley of the Calendar and Special Events Office, Hartford Lumber Company, WRTC89.3, and the Buildings and Grounds staff for all of their support.
13th Annual Event Runs April 6-8 at Trinity College
Hartford, Connecticut, March 19, 2018 – The 13th annual Trinity International Hip-Hop Festival returns to Trinity College Friday, April 6, through Sunday, April 8, with recording artists Noname and Taylor Bennett co-headlining the Main Concert on Saturday night. The weekend-long festival, which is free and open to the public, has a theme this year of “Censorship, Free Speech, and Protest.”
Noname, who grew up in Chicago, began her career in 2013 and released her first full mixtape, Telefone, in 2016. Her music is very personal and highlights Black women’s pain and struggles. Over the last two years, Noname (born Fatimah Warner) has performed at many large-scale festivals and was featured in an NPR Tiny Desk concert in 2017.
Taylor Bennett is also a Chicago native and the younger brother of Chance the Rapper. Bennett’s latest album, Restoration of an American Idol, was released in 2017, the sequel to 2015’s Broad Shoulders. Bennett has also released four mixtapes and an EP. He is just wrapping up his first U.S. tour and heading out on his first European tour in April. His newest single is “Minimum Wage.”
This year’s festival will feature a Friday night dance show and dance battle, plus an extensive lineup of lectures, workshops, panel discussions, and films as part of the weekend-long academic study of the music and subculture of the hip-hop genre.
Of note, a presentation on Saturday, April 7, at 11:00 a.m. will feature “Prime Minister” Pete Nice, formerly of hip-hop group 3rd Bass, and legendary ’90s hip-hop radio DJ Stretch Armstrong. The duo will share a history of hip-hop’s golden age through fliers, of which both are avid collectors. Armstrong released a book in 2016, No Sleep: NYC Nightlife Fliers 1988-1999.
The Main Concert will take place Saturday, April 7, at 8:00 p.m. in the Washington Room of Trinity’s Mather Hall (photo i.d. will be required to attend the concert). Performances by international hip-hop artists—from Cuba, South Africa, China, Canada, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and Cabo Verde—will precede sets by festival co-headliners Noname and Taylor Bennett.
Additional Hip-Hop Festival social media links are: Instagram: @trinityhiphop
About the Festival: The Trinity International Hip-Hop Festival, founded by Trinity students in 2006, is the largest festival of its kind in the United States. The festival continues to be organized by students in association with Nomadic Wax, World Hip Hop Market, Temple of Hip Hop, and Notable Productions. Past performers include MC Lyte, Rakim, DJ Kool Herc, Talib Kweli, Brother Ali, dead prez, KRS-One, Grandmaster Caz, K’Naan, Jean Grae, Blitz the Ambassador, Comrade Fatso, Les Nubians, Sam the Kid, and many other national and international hip-hop artists and academics.
“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.”
“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.”
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.
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.
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!
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.