Above: The PAA All-Stars with Jahi on October 16.
By Dawn Einsel
“Hip-hop and Harvard don’t seem like they go together,” said Rolanda Carter. But Carter and the rest of the PAA All-Stars proved why hip-hop has its place at the Ivy League school on Friday, October 16.The fundraiser, appropriately titled “No Sleep til Harvard”, raised over $2,000 and allowed the group of nine students from the RHAPSODY Hip-Hop Summer Arts Camp to showcase their skills locally before traveling to Boston to perform at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education’s Continuing the Conversation: Building Community Conference on Oct. 31.
“I am most excited that they will be able to share their work with an international academic audience,” said Santina Protopapa, Executive Director of Progressive Arts Alliance.Protopapa, who founded the summer camp in 2002, was inspired by work she had done at her previous job at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.“As a musician and an arts educator, I was deeply moved by the personal histories that shaped the beginnings of hip-hop culture,” she said.“After launching the Progressive Arts Alliance, I thought it would be interesting to give students an intensive experience to learn more about hip-hop’s history and to have the chance to have hands-on instruction in each of the culture’s art forms.” The four elements of hip-hop are DJing, graffiti, breaking and MCing.
This summer the instruction came from international emcee and Cleveland native Jahi, among other artists at the camp. Ten years ago, Jahi made the decision to become an emcee full-time. Since then he has toured with icons such as KRS One and Public Enemy, spreading his positive and socially-conscious brand of hip-hop.“It (working with Jahi) was really inspirational,” said 6-year hip-hop camp veteran Connor “Urbindex” Musarra. “I felt I was a good performer, but working with him made me reach a new level. It forced me to go beyond my limits.”
Jahi, who believes the best way to teach youth is by example, noticed the progression too.“It’s a constant evolution and that’s really what artistry should be,” he said.“You should be evolving, and as you evolve, you unlock new things about yourself.”All students said they have enjoyed the learning experience, and have attributed positive changes, as performers and on a personal level, to their involvement with the camp.
“I have definitely become more outgoing and I have definitely improved my skills,” said Tristen Hall who joined the group five years ago. “I stopped doubting myself.”PAA’s presentation at the Harvard conference will showcase its work within the community and the use of hip-hop as a powerful and positive art form.There is currently a $2,500 funding need to help make the trip a reality. To make a tax-deductible donation to help cover travel costs click here.