The Connections Between Hip-Hop and Social Justice

January 18, 2008

Hip-Hop music’s pounding beats and pumping lyrics have become highly regarded by nearly every student in the county. On a chilly January afternoon, Saint Anselm College students, staff, and faculty filled the Cushing Center to hear Dr. Erika Dalya Muhammad present a new spin on this popular topic.

Dr. Muhammad gave a lecture entitled “No Borders: Social Justice, Hip Hop, and Pop” in which she described the strong and enduring connections between hip hop and youth culture. She also discussed how the powerful relationship between them can translate into social activism among today’s youth. She credits her efforts to those who came before her, especially Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who himself often used contemporary cultural references in order to create change.

Calling herself a “cultural worker” and a “creative hybrid,” Muhammad has worked in the Mount Vernon, New York area for years. The town, located just north of the Bronx, has close ties to the hip-hop community; it saw the beginnings of hip-hop and pop culture legends such as Diddy, Mary J. Blige, and Denzel Washington. Therefore, it was the perfect location to “employ the arts as a catalyst for economic development in the area.” And so, the Mount Vernon Hip-Hop Arts Center was born.

Muhammad described her work at the center and her desire to use hip-hop as a medium to encourage more participation in the arts along with civic engagement. She stated that one of her goals is to show young people today that “the world is bigger than they can even imagine.”


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