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Conference to showcase hip-hop scholars, performances, focus on positive influence

Hip-hop has a wider value than what is expressed through radio and commercial media, or at least that’s what Elaine Richardson believes.
Richardson, professor of literacy studies in the College of Education and Human Ecology, wants to showcase that value Friday and Saturday at the “Hip-Hop Literacies Conference: Pedagogies for Social Change” at the Ohio Union, the Hale Black Cultural Center and the King Arts Complex.
“Hip-hop to me is a youth movement, (an) arts and cultural-based movement,” Richardson said. “It gets distorted a lot because it has been co-opted into industry. It’s been watered down and fed back to people in a way that distorts its real core values in a way that shuts out a lot of creativity and what the culture can really do and be to a lot of people.”
The conference is set to feature workshops, panels and performances by hip-hop scholars from the Columbus community and around the country.
Notable scholars scheduled to attend include professor Martha Diaz of the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University, Christopher Emdin of Teachers College at Columbia University and James Braxton Peterson, the director of Africana Studies at Lehigh University, who all have experience in hip-hop and education.
Hip-hop artists of the Columbus community and elsewhere are scheduled for the weekend as well, ending the conference Saturday with their own performance, called “Beat Street.” These artists include YoYo, a Grammy-nominated artist, and MC Toni Blackman, a freestyle artist and the first U.S. Ambassador of Hip-Hop, where she focuses on the power of hip-hop against bullying and negative self-image in the U.S. Department of State.
Jevon Collins, director of programming at the King Arts Complex, said the purpose of the event is for the community to “learn about the positive influence of hip-hop.”
“(We want the community) to know that all hip-hop is not bad,” Collins said. “Essentially, it wasn’t created for the negative connotation or to lead our society down this path of lack of care for human life.”
He said he believes hip-hop is negatively interpreted among society.
“I think it’s a reflection of society now, where that’s kind of the thing where these horrible, violent things happen,” Collins said. “We’re kind of desensitized based on the level of occurrences, so we treat misogyny, violence and gun violence like it’s normal, and it’s really a bad thing, so this allows people to go on a more thoughtful approach on what they’re feeding their minds and what they listen to.”
Zac McPherson, a third-year in criminology, said this conference will be beneficial for college students.
“It’s better for the college students to attend,” McPherson said. “They’re closer to campus and have greater access to these conferences, so they might as well take advantage of them.”
Friday marks the first day of the conference, and events are set to take place at the Ohio Union and the Hale Black Cultural Center. All events on Saturday, however, are scheduled at the King Arts Complex in Columbus, a venue rich with African-American history dating back to the 1920s.
Collins said the theater “holds a position as a major community landmark for the Columbus African-American population.”
Richardson hopes the conference brings the OSU and Columbus community into “coalition” with one another.
“(These) like-minded people in the community (should) have an interest in building coalition around youth advocacy and relevant education that spans race and socioeconomic factors that is really targeted toward building a coalition between artists, educators, scholars, families and people around this forward movement,” Richardson said.
The “Hip-Hop Literacies Conference: Pedagogies for Social Change” is free to the general public but requires online registration available at the OSU College of Education and Human Ecology website. The King Arts Complex is located at 867 Mt. Vernon Ave.

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