Project Amplify: Mixing arts, hip-hop and poetry

Students painting mural

by Reyna Brown, Performing Arts & Social Justice, Peace and Justice Studies, ’19, and
Ebony Azumah, Politics, African American History, ’19

Throughout our last 3 years at the University of San Francisco, we learned an immense amount about the ills of our country, specifically in relation to our Black community. We delved into the history of African Americans, critically considered the ethics of American politics, and explored the realms of artistic expression in search of purposeful practice. Project Amplify was just that: an avenue for us to put our knowledge to the test and leave a positive impact on our community.

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(l-r) Ebony and Rayna leading the class

 

 


Project Amplify is a program that explores the history of African Americans using hip-hop as a means of personal and social truth. From African origins, all the way to present day, we discuss the
creation and purpose of music as a means to resist oppression, uplift the spirit, and sustain and evolve culture. The goal is to use art, music, and poetry to give students an opportunity to see a new perspective on the world around them, while simultaneously giving them tools to explore and create their own artistic talent.

Partners such as the Magic Zone, Booker T. Washington Community Service Center, and the USF/Mo’MAGIC summer reading program gave us the perfect opportunity to put our curriculum for Project Amplify to use. We were given the opportunity to spend two hours with a group of 10-25 students between the ages of 11 and 13 once a week. Though at first two hours appeared to be intimidating, once the program began it was clear that time was speeding by. In two sessions we were able to cover the history of Black America in conjunction with the rise of hip-hop to keep students engaged and have a new perspective on the benefits of hip-hop/rap music. We then dissected poems by Maya Angelou, and dissecting lyrics from old and new rap songs to explore the hidden truths and hints towards politics that are spread throughout each piece of art.

Working with this age group was a challenge that neither of us were anticipating. Many times in class we were forced to think on the spot and change our plans to fit the circumstances we were faced with. Though this was difficult, it taught us an immense amount about the work we want to do to teach our community and what that entails. This experience has given us more than we could have asked for, and it is an experience we will take with us wherever we go.

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For even more photos, check out the McCarthy Center album on Flickr!

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