Archive | November 2013

Hip Hop Think Tank III #HipHopEd

The Hip­Hop Education Center and The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in collaboration with the Institute for Urban and Minority Education, Teachers College – Columbia University and the Metropolitan Center for Urban Education, Steinhardt School ­ New York University

After over a year of participating and another year lurking on the #HipHopEd Chat I decided I needed to meet these amazing educators and artists.  Having a weekend conference was the perfect opportunity for me take the bus down for the weekend.  Having met Sam Seidel and Elliot Gann in Toronto two times it was great to see them again in NYC.  The conference had many organizers but Martha Diaz did such a great job with the event. I have emailed Martha before and her enthusiasm and love for community was even more evident in person.  Finally meeting Dr Chris Emdin was an honour, after reading so many of his articles and his book, I still can’t believe I forgot the book to get him to sign it. Timothy Jones, who tweets me weekly, was such a pleasure to meet as well.  Meeting Brad Cunningham was great as another teacher from Canada but from the opposite coast.  We talked about similarities between BC and Ontario and how we use Hip Hop in our classes. There are way too many people I met that day and so would like to thank everyone else for the great learning and friendships formed.

Martha kicked off the conference with a great opening and the room filled up with such a great diversity of people. Hip­Hop Development: From Expression 2 Pedagogical Commodity” Dr. P. Thandi Hicks Harper (Founder and President, Youth Popular Culture Institute, Inc. – Clinton, MD) had an amazing speech that moved the audience.  I purchased her book on Hip Hop Education which was a great read for the bus ride home.

Opening The Cipher ­ Framing The Conversations ­ Martha Diaz (moderator), Dr. Raymond Codrington (Director, HHEC – New York, NY), Sam Seidel (Hip­Hop Scholar­in­Residence, Teachers College Columbia University ­ New York, NY), Casey Wong (Think Tank Manager & Development Associate, HHEC / Founding Director, MIC Empowerment Program – Stanford, CA), Moira Pirsch (Think Tank Logistics Coordinator, HHEC – Harvard, MA), and Moises Lopez (International Research Committee Manager, HHEC ­ New York, NY).  This was a great session that set the context of the days events and where Hip Hop Education stands across many cities within the US. It was good to hear from the rich experiences of the panel.

During the break off session of creating a Hip Hop Education Certificate, much heated debate happened over who should teach Hip Hop and how to “certify” someone in this field.  Many people questioned if institutions like colleges and universities should co-opt Hip Hop and sell it as a program someone can be taught it.  I think it is a double edged sword where you don’t want to remove it from the community but at the same time to help students succeed having regulations and professors researching it would be helpful.

I was most excited for this next segment Dropping Science, Sparking a Social Movement as I have been following the #sciencegenius program and entered the contest with my own students. To here Dr Emdin live in person was amazing, he has great TedTalks and videos on the net but feeling the power and enthusiasm in person was inspiring. Timothy Jones, Ian Levy, Bakari Kitwana, and Jabari Johnson gave a great perspective about the project.

During the Hip­Hop Pedagogy Lightning Rounds, many community groups got to share all the great work they are doing with Hip Hop. Dr Elliot Gann gave such an inspiring overview of his program Today’s Future Sound. ­ John Jennings, Nate Nevado, Nathan Jones, and Kareem Edouard all shared the amazing programs across the country they are involved in.

The book talks started with too many to list.  I bought  Dr. Emery Petchauer’s Schooling Hip­hop: Expanding Hip­hop Based Education Across the Curriculum and  Albert “Prodigy” Johnson’s My Infamous Life: The Autobiography of Mobb Deep’s Prodigy and Dr P Thandi Hicks Harper’s book. All of them I got to meet with the author and get an autograph. Meeting Prodigy was super cool for me as listening to Mobb Deep growing up and seeing an artist interested in the community and Hip Hop Education movement was exciting.

I spent day 2 not at the conference but going on my own Hip Hop self guided tour of NYC. I came back with so many great ideas, new friends and energy to make a difference for youth back in Canada. Schools and curriculum don’t work for all students and by engaging in Hip Hop as pedagogy can make a more accommodating space for youth.

The Conference Agenda Agenda:

10800119934_bac19c2b1b 10800226243_1c1876281d 10799990726_c149b14449 10799989966_452782f4af 10799989106_12bb5a625e 10799974685_27061bf507 10800216213_806c8ba871 10800102634_410575a8c8


More photos


New York, All 5 Boroughs in 16 hours!

A few weeks ago I attended the Hip Hop Think Tank III in NYC.  It was a great experience! The second day in NYC, I awoke from the Harlem YMCA Hostel (which was a great deal at 55 bucks a night/private room) and got a 7 AM start time.  Walking around Harlem for soul breakfast in the beautiful sun was refreshing.  Walking up to South Bronx, and across seeing many great South American restaurants and residences setting up food and drink stands along the street.  The subway was closed so had to walk back Harlem to catch the Subway down to Central Park.  From there I walked across the Queensboro Bridge which was a super long walk into the Queensboro Projects, where Nas was from.  The area looked so similar to Regent Park in Toronto due to the rapid gentrification of the area.  When Manhattan is busting at the seams, expansion into parts of Queens is happening.  From there, I walked down to the 5Pointz Graffiti Centre  and then took the subway down to Marcy Housing, where Jay-Z was from.











The housing area there looked similar to Toronto public housing but at a larger scale.  You could see community projects like gardens and murals that have faded away, but most noticeably were the closed down stores, garbage lined streets and lack of quality places to purchase food.  I didn’t see access to supermarkets/grocery stores or community centres along my route.  It was not until I walked down to see the ODB mural, I noticed, again, the area start to gentrify.  Notorious BIG childhood home was in a very nice area, with cafes, speciality bagel stores and assortment of vegan eateries. This area situated right by the Barclay centre, where I stopped for a drink at the Starbucks that overlooks the practice court of the Brooklyn Nets. The weather was getting bad so I hopped onto the subway.



I emerged from the subway in Manhattan and found the fire hall that Ghost Busters was filmed at.  I decided to walk down to Ground Zero and waited in line for the 9/11 Memorial.  The lines were long and security rivalled that of an airport, as people were searched, bags x-rayed and identification was checked. The memorial was silent, almost like time was standing still.  I noticed yellow roses in some of the names along the memorial. It wasn’t until I got across to the second tower area where a sign read that a yellow rose is put on the names who’s birthday it was that day.  Suddenly my mind exploded with shock and sadness, it really made the names become more than just names surrounding a pool of water.  People have birthdays, not names on stone,  and to see how many people would not be celebrating their birthdays that day was saddening.

9/11 Memorial

9/11 Memorial

9/11 Memorial

9/11 Memorial

After that, I walked down to the Staten Island Ferry and hopped on a ferry to catch a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty. It was a great view of NYC skyline as well, to see the Statue of Liberty first hand was great. It was dark by the time I made it across and I had to catch my 10 PM bus back to Toronto.  Arriving back in Manhattan, I went to Wall St and the famous Charging Bull, which had its own Police Officer watching for people climbing on it.  Up to China town, I went to get dinner and some bubble tea, it had the same feel as Toronto’s china town with street level open markets, food everywhere and people offering knock-off name brand clothes, watches and purses.  I had to make it back up to the bus terminal, so took the subway up to Grand Central for some touristy photos and walked along to the New York Public Library, an outdoor skating rink and then Times Square.  Time Square looked busier and way more flashing signs than I had remembered seeing 9 years ago.  I got changed into some more comfortable clothes, found a Starbucks so I could say I tried a Trenta sized drink and boarded my bus and was on the long bus ride back to Toronto.  A well worth it trip!

Times Square

Times Square

Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty




Complete Flickr Set Here



My visit to 5Pointz Graffiti #HipHopEd

I feel extremely fortunate to have visited 5Pointz ( 2 weeks ago.  Getting there just a week before they painted over each masterpiece, which is a crime in my eyes.  See before and after photos

Graffiti is a great art form that often doesn’t get the same respect as traditional art.  Often graffiti is associated with tagging or teenagers spraying a quick picture or signature on someone’s property but this wasn’t what 5Pointz was.  Considered a Mecca of graffiti by many, it is unfortunate these pieces were covered and the building will be destroyed.

During my one day adventure of NYC, I attempted to go to all 5 boroughs in 1 day.  I did it, extremely tired, but made it.  I was walking over the Queensboro Bridge and through the Queensboro Projects and noticed a large amount of gentrification going on, similar to Regent Park in Toronto.  Its close proximity to Manhattan makes this area attractive for developers.  I wasn’t sure where the subway was and asked a couple where it was.  They said they were walking that way and would walk with me.  We started talking about me being in NYC for a Hip Hop Education conference and that I was looking for Hip Hop landmarks to visit.  They said they were going to 5Pointz, I was extremely lucky to bump into them as it wasn’t on my radar.   From an educational standpoint, there is so much to discuss about 5Pointz, from graffiti’s inception to the culture that it has built up, infused with equity issues.

Photos are my own below.  Click here for my Flickr Album –

10800278003_c7d1283c7d 10800234594_6a5a710c52 10800041726_a1bb7fac60 10800072556_13b1a45c82 10800050315_9fec0aac79

GZA and Project Freedom, University of Toronto


Project Freedom proudly presented GZA of the Wu-Tang Clan with opening by Dr. Stan Dolye-Wood.

The jammed packed hallways of U of T were filled with Wu fans from elementary students that came with their parents to adults who grew up listening to GZA. Project Freedom started off the night with a documentary about their program.  A grassroots program that helps students learn in a non-traditional method. Many explained that the traditional ways of learning in straight rows to a curriculum that does not reflect their own backgrounds and cultures is difficult. Project Freedom works to make a more inclusive curriculum and increase student success.

Dr Stan Dolye-Wood of University of Toronto gave a very powerful and moving opening to what is consciousness.  It was not only his words but the feeling he put in, he had the packed lecture hall mesmerized.  He talked about the lived experiences of many and how we get many messages passed through us both formally and informally which shape our consciousness. He spoke of the importance of Hip Hop and how consciousness is embedded in the production for the rapper as well as the listener.

GZA came out to a crowd with all their W’s in the air.  He spoke softly, a humble voice, for his introduction, as lecturing at a University is something he isn’t accustomed to, but the passion was in his words. He spoke of how it all started and announced it is ODB’s birthday today (original Wu-tang member who has passed away). He spoke about growing up and always being interested in science.  Like many children, experiences with science start on their own and not in the classroom.  Kids battle gravity, notice that things fall down, GZA spoke about wondering why some metals were magnetic and others were not.  He had a natural curiosity to understand science.  He talked about sound waves and how they are present not only in music but waves are still bouncing through the universe of sound and light from the big bang. He talked about the Science Genius project with Dr Chris Emdin and Rap Genius to get students from inner city schools to learn science through hip hop. He stressed that Hip Hop should be for everyone and that artists are limiting themselves by making music for only one kind of person.  By putting an explicit lyrics sticker on the album, that limits people from hearing the music. That being said, violence is still a part of many people’s lives and to rap about that is ok, it is a lived experience of someone. Not to be confused with promoting violence but if you live in an area with violence and are exposed to it.  His next album entitled Dark Matter will be releasing next year.  The album will have a science focus and meant to reach youth and adults.  GZA has been visiting professors at MIT and Neil deGrasse Tyson to discuss astrophysics.

In his closing, he wanted to reinforce, no matter where you start out in life or career you are in, do not stop learning about yourself and the universe both physically and metaphysically.  GZA also wanted to people to leave their comfort zone as it enabled him to make new friends, colleagues and given him tremendous opportunities.


His PBS article


STAO – Using Technology and Social Media to Explore STSE Issues #STAO2013

During TDSB’s board wide PD session I attended and presented at the STAO Conference (Science Teachers Association of Ontario).  I attended some great sessions and got some real inspiration from Steve Spangler.  He not only showed some great demos but shared many heart warming stories.  Spangler stressed the importance of never knowing which moment in teaching inspires which students.  Students may resonate with something that was trivial to you but sticks with them. His story involved a retired grade 1 teacher who ran into her former student during breakfast one day. The student, now with a family of his own, asked if she remembered the grade 1 solar system activity and that it inspired him.  She didn’t remember at first and then upon his further explanation she remembers hanging planets on the ceiling and kids pretending to fly to them. She thought it was just a fun activity but the former student said it inspired him.  The student was part of the team that worked on the Mars rover.

Heading over to the STAO Tweet Up I got to meet some great educators that are also using social media personally and professionaly in the classroom with their students.  Always great to get a real life visit with people you interact with online and consider a valuable professional development resource.

My presentation – “Using Technology and Social Media to Explore STSE Issues”

“Engaging students with technology and social media to explore STSE issues and student-led, research-informed action projects. Lesson plans, student examples and demos include netbooks, Wikispaces, Twitter, YouTube, VROC, and simulations.”



I felt the presentation went well with many engaged educators who not only were listening to me but interacting and sharing their own ideas.  I love when I can go present at a conference at learn from others in my own presentation. I think it shows a whole new level of engagement and respect for the attendees as valuable participants. contest:

Want to win an Apple TV or iTunes gift card? Click the link above and join, make connections and share with fellow educators!

Thanks John for the photo!

Zoras Presentation