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Art of Resistance’ panel discussion touches on civil rights issues, hip-hop culture

Unapologetic empowerment was the theme of the night during “Rap Sessions Presents: The Art of Resistance.”
A panel of six hip-hop activists, scholars and artists addressed a crowd of about 240 people at the Wexner Center for the Arts Monday about topics ranging from the role of African Americans in politics, the degradation of women in hip-hop and the now notorious “Harlem Shake” dance craze.
Amanda Potter, educator for public and university programs at the Wexner Center, touched on the reason behind the event.
“Any time there is a student body as large as ours, it’s a great place to kind of have a public forum and talk about these things,” Potter said. “There is already kind of a community here that is in tune with the issues and the potential of hip-hop as more than just music that has the power to be a tool for activism and change.”
“Rap Sessions” is a national tour that brings town hall-style meetings to cities across the country and “explores the major civil rights issues of our time,” according to the Wexner Center website.
“We really started after we were working with a group of activists around the country, about 20 folks who started the first national hip-hop political convention in 2004,” said Bakari Kitwana, the organizer of “Rap Sessions,” who also served as the moderator for the evening. “Out of that, one of the things we saw was that we needed more dialogue amongst ourselves before we began to really engage in intellectual politics.”
In an effort to set the mood for the audience, panelist and poet Chinaka Hodge presented the crowd with “Bulletproof Dress,” a true poem inspired by Hodge’s students.
“Every black girl, every one even me, been pimped, poked, prodded and sold on the cheap. It’s part of a process, part of what haunts her,” Hodge said, varying the tone of her voice as she performed. “I invest in a dress that protects all my best and sometimes I miss love while dodging the drama. It’s tinned to my needs in this bullet proof armor.”
Following this, Kitwana proceeded to introduce the panel of experts, which consisted of Jorge “Popmaster” Fabel Pabon, a renowned hip-hop dancer, choreographer and historian, Hodge, who is also a playwright and the author of “For Girls With Hips: Collected Writings and Poems,” Angela Woodson, the co-founder of B.U.I.L.D. (Blacks United In Local Democracy), Haki Madhubuti, a poet, activist and educator and Joe Schloss, assistant professor of Black and Latino Studies at Baruch College in N.Y., and author of “Foundation: B-boys, B-girls and Hip-Hop Culture.”
The panelists held about an hour of discussion among themselves, going deeper into the realm of hip-hop as what Pabon called a “vehicle for freedom.”
After the hour of panelist discussion, the floor was open for questions from the audience.
The mood of the room quickly became somber once questions regarding misogyny and female degradation were posed.
“I don’t like that,” said Brandon Conley, a fifth-year in theater, in reference to the overt female degradation in mainstream hip-hop. “I have a lot of friends who are women and if I can be a voice to change that and be some kind of small impact to influence somebody else to start this domino effect to change the history of what it is now to what it could be.” 

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