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.