Hip-Hop Symposium incorporates international focus

For Coordinator of Multicultural Programs and Services Fatima Rodriguez-Johnson, the Hip-Hop Symposium is about viewing the creativity and ingenuity of hip-hop on par with more established genres like classical music and jazz. According to Rodriguez-Johnson, the event adds a vital sense of balance to Geneseo’s artistic community. After five years, the symposium has become an established tradition on campus. The early years focused on explaining the roots and history of hip-hop as a musical movement, established in Brooklyn and the Bronx during the 1970s and ‘80s. It later evolved to discuss more contemporary issues and artists in the hip-hop genre. This semester’s symposium has an international focus, spotlighting hip-hop’s influence on the largest scale yet.

“Hip-hop has been an art form that if you’ve kind of watched in the last 10 years, you have so many different kinds of people that are not only listeners of hip-hop, but who are also contributing their own voice and their own time and their own talent to this genre of music,” Rodriguez-Johnson said.

On Tuesday April 1, slam poet, actor and musician Carvens Lissaint discussed his experience as a child of Haitian immigrants and how his culture has impacted his self-image. He emphasized that Haitian and American concepts of masculinity make it difficult to promote positive male body image and identity, particularly in men’s interactions with one another. Lissaint explained his long journey to finding the positive identity within himself.

The event’s keynote speaker Jean Grae is a lyricist and producer from Cape Town, South Africa who relocated to the United States to pursue hip-hop. Grae discussed her journey as a hip-hop artist and the cultural influences that set her experiences apart.

The symposium will conclude on Friday April 4 with a disc jockey showcase featuring DJ Xtina, a critically acclaimed DJ popular on the East Coast. The showcase will feature an exploration of hip-hop’s history and spotlight hip-hop from around the world.

Candace Hairston ’12 approached Rodriguez-Johnson in 2009 about starting the symposium to recognize hip-hop’s vital place as a performing art. Students have played a role in selecting relevant programming for the event ever since. According to Rodriguez-Johnson, student evaluations of each event and general suggestions for performers play a big role in the “community process” for organizing each symposium.

“People may think, ‘Oh that’s not for me,’ or maybe, ‘That particular kind of music is for a certain group of people,’ and it’s not,” Rodriguez-Johnson said. “I think it crosses all of our different experiences, and it can be something that all of us can enjoy.”