Nafasi Ferrell: Let’s Talk! Race and Class through Hip-Hop and Poetry

Nafasi Ferrell, a second year Master of Arts in Cultural Studies student, developed and facilitated a three-hour workshop at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center with community members of varying ages. Let’s Talk!! Race and Class Through Hip-Hop and Poetry challenged participants to define and redefine their understandings of race and class using the mediums of hip-hop and poetry. Part of her capstone project for the MA in Cultural Studies degree, the workshop was a pilot intended to demonstrate the value of cross-generational, interracial community spaces and advocate for them as a site in which to discuss and imagine new ways of engaging with and understanding current circumstances and issues.

Throughout the workshop participants worked in groups to define and redefine what race and class meant to them individually and collectively. They analyzed three different selections of Hip-Hop lyrics to connect their discussions to popular culture, and ended the evening with writing their own ‘I am’ and ‘We are’ poems to show how powerful telling stories and creating collective knowledge can be to help them transform their thinking and actions around these issues. Participants were able to connect their lived experiences, knowledge, and perspectives to the hip-hop texts as well as begin to see poetry as a way to express their knowledge, experiences, and visions of the world.

One of the greatest results of the workshop that many of the participants highlighted was having the ability to discuss the issues in new ways, being provided with the ability to have conversations with people they didn’t know and to learn about each other’s stories and perspectives. One of the participants stated, “I think it’s interesting that we come here to talk about how we can break these divides, these divisions that divide us, and specifically about race and class, and I sit here and I look around at the circle and I see we all look so different, but at the end we all came together and we created beauty, together. That’s really cool because we are addressing the problem, but are also offering a solution.”