- Created on 21 December 2011
WASHINGTON -- Michael Eric Dyson parses Jay-Z's rap lyrics as if analyzing fine literature. The rapper's riffs on luxury cars and tailored clothes and boasts of being the ''Mike Jordan of recording'' may make for catchy rhymes, but to Dyson, they also reflect incisive social commentary.
Dyson, a professor, author, radio host and television personality, has offered at Georgetown University this semester a popular, if unusual, class dedicated to Jay-Z and his career. The course, ''Sociology of Hip Hop: Jay-Z,'' may seem an unlikely offering at a majority-White Jesuit university that counts former President Bill Clinton among its alumni. But Dyson insists that his class confronts topics present in any sociology course: racial and gender identity, sexuality, capitalism and economic inequality.
'' It just happens to have an interesting object of engagement in Jay-Z, and what better way to meet people where they are?'' Dyson said.
''It's like Jesus talking to the woman at the well. You ask for a drink of water, then you get into some theological discussions.''
Classes centered on pop culture superstars like Bruce Springsteen have sprouted on college campuses in recent years; Dyson himself says he previously taught classes on rapper Tupac Shakur and rythm and blues singer Marvin Gaye at the University of Pennsylvania. He says Jay-Z, whose real name is Shawn Carter, is a worthy subject because of his diversity of business interests. A clothing entrepreneur, he also is part owner of the National Basketball Association's New Jersey Nets (soon to move to his native New York borough of Brooklyn), as well as his immense cross-cultural appeal and ''lyrical prowess'' in articulating contemporary Black culture and his place in it.
'' I think he's an icon of American excellence,'' Dyson said.
Though hardly as rigorous as organic chemistry, the course does have midterm and final examinations and required readings, including from Jay-Z's book, '' Decoded.'' The 75-minute classes, the final one coming Wednesday, focus more on African-American culture and business than on the particulars of the rapper's biography,
which include millions in record sales, Grammy Awards, a marriage to singer Beyonce with a baby on the way and tours with rappers Kanye West and Eminem.
One recent lecture centered on how popular Black artists reflect their culture and race to the public at large, with Dyson name-dropping rapper LL Cool J, singer Diahann Carroll and actor-comedian Bill Cosby. The professor and one student went back and forth on whether the rapper's lyrical depictions of his extravagant lifestyle -- ''Used to rock a throwback, balling on the corner/Now I rock a Teller suit, looking like an owner'' is one of many examples -- amounted to bragging and rubbing his taste for fine living in the faces of his listeners, almost all restricted to much less opulent lifestyles.
The student took the position that Jay-Z appears overly boastful, but Dyson countered that the rapper, who grew up in a Brooklyn housing project but has since become a multimillionaire, has never lost his ability to relate to the struggles of everyday people and has continued giving voice to their concerns. Though Jay-Z raps about Saint-Tropez and expensive cigars, he also talks about being nurtured by Brooklyn. And in one song, ''99 Problems,'' he attacks racial profiling with a stark depiction of a racially motivated traffic stop: ''Son, do you know why I'm stopping you for?'' the officer asks. Jay-Z replies: ''Cause I'm young and I'm black and my hat's real low.''
The chairman of Georgetown's sociology department, Timothy Wickham-Crowley, says he supports Dyson's course for trying to show how Jay-Z's music fits into American society, and Steve Stoute, an author and marketing executive who has done business with Jay-Z and has spoken to the class, said the course has practical value for students interested in business.
Others think differently.
Kevin Powell, who writes about hip-hop and has run unsuccessfully for Congress in Brooklyn, said any discussion of Jay-Z should account for what Powell says are the rapper's derogatory lyrics toward women and his expressions of excessive materialism. Kris Marsh, an assistant sociology professor at the University of Maryland who specializes in the Black middle class, said that while she appreciated Jay-Z's cultural significance, she was wary of structuring an entire course around him and using his narrative alone to reflect Black America. Although hip-hop artists can focus a lens on urban life, she said, ''sometimes these artists use poetic license'' and blend fact and fiction to an audience that is often suburban and White.
''We're not sure if it's fiction or real life. It can be almost indistinguishable sometimes in hip-hop,'' she said.
Danielle Bailey, a senior international business and marketing major who is taking the class, said she was a Jay-Z fan before enrolling but now has greater appreciation for his business acumen.
- Created on 21 December 2011
The Westlake Dance Team celebrates after winning big at the Annual Battle of the Dance Lines, with Westlake Dance Department Director Rae Ransom Coleman (seated, second from right), dance team coach; Kim Coln, owner of Dazz and Jazz Dance Studio (center wearing tan); and Mekyah McQueen, Westlake assistant dance team coach (standing extreme left, wearing grey).
- Created on 21 December 2011
By Special to the Daily World
BOSTON — Road Scholar has awarded the Road Scholar Asa Grant Hilliard III Award for Lifelong Learning to Huberta Jackson-Lowman, Ph.D. The award provides $5,000 toward a learning adventure offered by not-for-profit Road Scholar, and honors the late Dr. Asa Grant Hilliard III, world-renowned Pan-Africanist, educator, historian, psychologist and advocate for learning through travel. Kathy Taylor, associate vice president at Road Scholar, presented the award on behalf of Road Scholar and the Hilliard family during the National Alliance for Black School Educators (NABSE) Annual Conference recently held in New Orleans.
Jackson-Lowman is an associate professor of clinical and community psychology and recent past chair of the Department of Psychology at Florida A&M University. Prior to joining Florida A&M in 1996, she served as executive director of the Mayor's Commission on Families in Pittsburgh, focusing on the implementation of strategies for reducing the high African- American infant mortality rate, and as co-director of the former Institute for the Black Family at the University of Pittsburgh.
Dr. Jackson-Lowman's research interests include using African proverbs as a socialization tool with African-American children; examining the use of proverbs as a tool for value transmission among African-American elders; the relationship between cultural identity, spiritual orientation, and the mental health and psychological functioning of African-American women and factors impacting African- American male-female relationships. She is also interested in multicultural clinical and community intervention methods.
Currently Jackson-Lowman serves as the Southern Regional Representative for the Association of Black Psychologists (ABPsi) and has served in various roles within that organization. She is also a board member of the Ujamaa Collective, a women's cooperative in Pittsburgh, and a certified diplomat and fellow in African-centered psychology. In 2008, she was awarded the Scholarship Award for her research and presentations by ABPsi.
"Education and lifelong learning are crucial to African Americans," says Jackson-Lowman. "I am thrilled to receive the Road Scholar Hilliard Award. Understanding, respect and compassion must become integral components of education and the lifelong learning processes that we establish for future generations. I look forward to raising awareness about Road Scholar and the importance of lifelong learning throughout our community."
Road Scholar awards this competitive scholarship annually to an educator with at least 10 years of experience, who is a member of NABSE; a member of Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH); is on the faculty of a Historically Black College or University; is a professor of African-American studies; or is a supporter of lifelong learning.
The scholarship provides an opportunity to experience a Road Scholar program anywhere in the world.
"The Road Scholar Asa Grant Hilliard III Award for Lifelong Learning honors the legacy of a true lifelong learner. Through this award, Road Scholar is delighted to recognize an educator who shares our commitment to promoting lifelong learning," says James Moses, president and CEO of Road Scholar. "We are pleased to recognize Dr. Jackson-Lowman's longstanding dedication to her field and look forward to welcoming her on a Road Scholar adventure."
The Asa Grant Hilliard III Road Scholar Award for Lifelong Learning is part of a national outreach initiative to build awareness of Road Scholar's educational adventures in the African- American community and to promote the benefits of learning through travel. For more information, visit www.roadscholar.org/
- Created on 21 December 2011
By Special to the Daily World
NEW YORK – Reader's Digest recently launched the second year of its "We Hear You America" campaign, the popular national, grassroots initiative that serves as a catalyst to empower Americans to help their local communities by casting votes on behalf of their hometowns. Last year's program touched 50 percent of the cities, towns and villages in the United States, 110 of which received funds and promotional support for needed community projects and civic initiatives.
Atlanta, Duluth and Porterdale were among the communities visited by the first Reader's Digest "We Hear You America" campaign and it received a $1,000 donation. As part of the new five-month-long "We Hear You America" campaign, Atlanta, Duluth and Porterdale are eligible to compete for new funds and promotional support by reigniting the interest of local residents to cast their votes on ReadersDigest.com. All across the country, people will be casting their votes and rallying others to their cause by using any communication tools at their disposal, including blogs, social media, local websites, email and public access television.
With the support of local residents and other Americans, Atlanta, Duluth, and Porterdale could be in the running to be among the U.S. towns, cities, and villages that may benefit from millions of dollars worth of promotional and financial support for community and civic initiatives. More important, the stories of Atlanta, Duluth and Porterdale may be highlighted by Reader's Digest in its magazine and on its digital and social media channels to bring them to the attention of people across the country.
Dan Lagani, president of Reader's Digest North America, says, "'The We Hear You America' campaign is about giving back to the people and towns that have meant so much to Reader's Digest over the years. Cities, towns, and villages across our country continue to face economic challenges. Reader's Digest is bringing back "We Hear You America" to help these communities get the attention they deserve."
It's easy for people to vote for a town. Go online, log on to ReadersDigest.com, type in the name of the town, and click on the word "Vote." People may cast as many votes as they like. While on the site, individuals are encouraged to upload photos of their towns, describe the needs of their communities, and talk about why where they live is the best place in America. The "We Hear You America" campaign will provide support to the towns receiving the most votes, including being featured in the Reader's Digest annual Best of America issue and on ReadersDigest.com. Communities participating in the initiative may also be featured in Reader's Digest and on ReadersDigest.com during 2012.
Reader's Digest has joined forces with rocker and pop culture icon Bret Michaels to expand the reach of the "We Hear You America" campaign.
To help jump-start contributions, Reader's Digest is offering anyone who contributes $10 via ReadersDigest.com a one-year subscription to Reader's Digest magazine as a bonus. Americans can learn more about the Reader's Digest "We Hear You America Foundation" and how to contribute at WeHearYouAmericaFoundation.org. Cities and towns can win up to $50,000 from Reader's Digest.
- Created on 24 September 2011
By Special to the Daily World
What should TV be like ten years from now? What is the next great TV app? What is the next must-see television show? The Cable Center has launched two contests as part of its Cable Mavericks Masters Forum: One Day Degree in Cable that will give students the opportunity to present their ideas in person to an elite panel of industry executives in New York City. The contests task college students with changing the way consumers watch television today.
The contests are open to anyone between the ages of 18 and 24 who is a full or part-time student at a U.S. higher education institution. Technology Challenge entrants are asked to create a video of three minutes or less that shows their vision of how they would redesign and reconfigure the viewing experience to revolutionize the way the public consumes video. The Creative Challenge asks students to put themselves in the producer's seat, considering the full potential of the multi-platform cable universe, and pitch an idea for a show in three minutes or less that takes advantage of the new cable TV world.
Students will compete for a grand prize package that includes $1000 and a $1000 Motorola tablet and accessories package; a first place prize package of $500 and up to four Motorola Bluetooth (one for each team member); as well as money and Motorola products for second through fourth place winners. The five finalists in each category will also be given $750 to cover travel expenses to New York to present their ideas live to a panel of industry judges at an evening event at the Paley Center for Media in New York on October 27, 2011.
Students can visit www.memelabs.com/cablemavericks for complete contest rules and to upload their video entries. All entries are due by September 22, 2011. The event will be held at the Paley Center for Media in New York on October 28, 2011, and also be made available for live streaming to students across the United States and internationally, and for on demand playback after the event is complete. For more information, visit www.cablemavericks.org.