Entries Tagged 'Education' ↓

When DAM Breaks, the Sound of Palestinian Freedom Gets Unleashed.

Palestinian hip-hop trio DAM, above, wield the power of hip-hop as a force against the Israeli occupation of their homeland—the world’s longest—and their minds as well.

Formed in 1998 by brothers Suhell and Tamer Nafar, center and right (friend Mahmoud Jreri, left, was added later), they initially sought to make party records that would earn them cool points with peers and the ladies. Then it was still “just for fun,” says Tamer. They completed a six-track EP titled Stop Selling Drugs, the first time any Palestinian had ever recorded rap music.

What politicized them, however, was the Second Intifada of 2000…and the music of 2Pac. As Tamer poignantly told me, for my March 2008 piece in VIBE, “Straight Outta Palestine,”

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A Public Enemy Sure Shot.

screen1Photo by Christy Aumer/The Daily Iowan—Inset photo by Harry Allen

screen2You’re watching one of the highlights from a great day in Iowa City, and Fear of a Black Planet, Twenty Years Later, right, hosted by the University of Iowa last week.

As yours truly gestures, above left, event organizer Kembrew McLeod, Keith Shocklee, Hank Shocklee, and Chuck D eye a monitor from the table. It displays that black & white, composite photo, by me, of momentary levity from our WBAU days in the early ’80s. In that image are, l-to-r, Chuck, Keith, radio show host Bill Stephney, Andre “Dr. Dré” Brown, Flavor Flav, Tyrone “T-Money” Kelsie, and his unidentified friend. Good times, friends, front and back.

Shooting the Enemy: My Life in Pictures with the People Who Became Public Enemy.


That’s the title of a presentation I’ve been giving at schools around the country. In it, I show some of the photographs I made in the early 1980s, before I started writing. These images—of Chuck D, Flavor-Flav, Bomb Squad leader Hank, above, and Keith Shocklee, as well as others—were created several years before Public Enemy existed, and long before their place in music history was assured. So, they’re a real insight into an important part of music history in its raw, unformed state.

(In the image, above, Shocklee briefly looks up from twiddling knobs at a fraternity party at Hofstra U. in Long Island. It was the kind of event Spectrum City mobile d.j.s, Hank & Chuck’s crew, hosted fairly often during their so-called “salad days.”)

When giving the talk, I speak about getting involved in photography; meeting Chuck D and the rest at Adelphi U.; and growing in hip-hop with them—my education at the feet of, arguably, some of the culture’s most potent masters.

Audiences who’ve seen the images—whether at my original Eyejammie Fine Arts exhibition in 2007, or at these lecture events—recount the innocence and freshness of the images, their humor, and how black & white pictures, which we see less and less these days, project a sharp, visceral quality.

I’ll be speaking at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, tomorrow, March 23rd, as a guest of the Department of Afro-American Studies, led by chair Dr. Craig Werner (Higher Ground; A Change Is Gonna Come).

Then, next week, I’ll be returning to the University of Iowa for the knockout: A museum show featuring twenty-six of my photographic prints, then Shooting the Enemy with Chuck, Hank, and Keith, directly followed by a panel with them on the making of P.E.’s Fear of a Black Planet, celebrating its 20th anniversary April 10th. (More on this in a week!)

If you go to, or are associated with, a university that would welcome this cultural-history-discussion-with-pictures, please get at me. Or, if you’re a scholar or programmer who values primary voices, and would like to have me present at your school or in concert with your department, this year or next year, please let me know: Drop me a note at HAllen@HarryAllen.info, or tweet me @HarryAllen, and, as Chuck D says, let’s get it on.

It’s Hard Out Here For a Nerd.

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Looks like knowledge reigns supreme over human biology at Tiger Woods’ alma mater: For an undergrad course there, says the Stanford University News,

instructor Tom McFadden has created a series of rap videos to explain concepts such as gene regulation and evolution.  His latest video, entitled “Oxidate It Or Love It” explains how metabolism works while paying homage to “Hate It Or Love It” by 50 Cent/The Game and “On To The Next One” by Jay-Z.

Yeaaah, boyee.

Next & Last Stop: Omicron Centauri.


Though I’ve never ridden the London Tube, I ride the New York City subway system all the time. So, this graphic by Samuel Arbesman, postdoctoral fellow at Harvard studying computational sociology, hit me like a little blitz of genius.

It’s a map of our Milky Way galaxy, done in the style of those in the UK underground trains system, published by Arbesman’s imaginary “Milky Way Transit Authority.” He says his map is

an attempt to approach our galaxy with a bit more familiarity than usual and get people thinking about long-term possibilities in outer space. Hopefully it can provide as a useful shorthand for our place in the Milky Way, the ‘important’ sights, and make inconceivable distances a bit less daunting. And while convenient interstellar travel is nothing more than a murky dream, and might always be that way, there is power in creating tools for beginning to wrap our minds around the interconnections of our galactic neighborhood.

Since you’re looking, the red arm, in the Orion belt, pictures Sol, the scientific name of our own star, the Sun. Heading left, the Orion Nebula is the next stop, 1,344 light years away. In other words, traveling 186,282 miles a second, it would take you over 1300 years to get there. Better pack a lunch.

[via collisiondetection.net]

The School of Hard Knocks.


“A Winchester rifle should have a place of honor in every black home, and it should be used for that protection which the law refuses to give. When the white man who is always the aggressor knows he runs as great risk of biting the dust every time his Afro-American victim does, he will have greater respect for Afro-American life.”

paula-giddings-headshotToday’s broadcast continues my discussion with scholar Paula Giddings, right, author of When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America. This time, we’re talking about about her latest book, Ida: A Sword Among Lions: Ida B. Wells and the Campaign Against Lynching. (Part 1 aired on January 1st. That’s Ida B. Wells-Barnett, above, in a 1930 photo, taken the year before she died at 68. For a picture of her when she was not yet 30, follow this link to our January 1 post.)

Giddings and I resume our conversation, speaking on, among other subjects, Wells-Barnett’s success in politically organizing Chicago; an effort, the author holds, whose branches, leaves, and fruit reach to the White House today.

Then, our conversation took a turn, and during the second part of today’s broadcast—the last 20 minutes—we spoke about the life of the Black scholar, especially the female Black scholar.

It was frank and insightful, and it naturally rose out of the issues we were addressing the moment before. So, it was the best kind of digression one can have with a guest.

Paula J. Giddings is the Elizabeth A. Woodson 1922 Professor in Afro-American Studies at Smith College, and the guest today on my WBAI-NY / 99.5 FM radio show, NONFICTION, this afternoon, Friday, January 22, at 2 pm ET.

You’ll hear it by tuning in at 2 pm. If you’re outside of the New York tri-state, check out our live stream on the web. If you miss the live show, dig into our archives for up to 90 days after broadcast.

Justice’s Drum Major Still Leads.


Most are familiar with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. image, above, his sonorous voice, and with many of his speeches.

Bu few, perhaps, know that King was a published author who wrote six books during his lifetime: Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story (1958), The Measure of a Man (1959), Strength to Love (1963), Why We Can’t Wait (1964), Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? (1967), and The Trumpet of Conscience, published in 1968, the year he was assassinated.

All of these works are available on Amazon.com, and can provide us with a deeper, more profound appreciation for and understanding of Dr. King’s ideas and great legacy.

Why not commit to reading more of what he said, himself, in his own hand? It would be another way to honor the man who led the march we still walk.

Lyrical Literacy: Asheru’s H.E.L.P. Fuses the Power of Hip-Hop with Learning to Truly Spark Heads.

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In this recent clip, above, Gabriel “Asheru” Benn, D.C.-based educator and founder of Educational Lyrics, talks about H.E.L.P.—Hip-Hop Educational Literacy Program. H.E.L.P. uses music to teach reading to schoolchildren, utilizing hip-hop’s currency to make ideas stick.

That’s an area in which Mr. Benn has some authority, by the way, as his mind-spinning flow on the theme from The Boondocks proves with each episode, below. Study hard, kids.

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Crash Text Dummies.


I’ll give you one guess why British viewers were so outraged by this provocative anti-texting-while-driving PSA, above.

Drive safely.

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Ronald T. Takaki, 1939-2009


“He couldn’t deal with it anymore.”—Troy Takaki

In January, I spoke with historian Dr. Ronald T. Takaki about his  book, A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America, for my WBAI radio show, NONFICTION. Specifically, we talked about the new Obama administration, and especially the president’s inaugural address, which he’d given mere hours earlier.

Almost exactly four months later, on May 26, Takaki, 70, ended his own life. He was, as his son said, above, seeking a way out of the pain and debilitation of multiple sclerosis., having suffered with the degenerative neurological condition for 20 years..

Had I known that I would never talk to Ron Takaki again, would I have spoken to him longer, more penetratingly, or differently, in some other way? Certainly. But, more, I’m honored that I had the chance to speak with him.

9780316022361_154x233I’d heard him talk in-person once before, at an otherwise middling race conference hosted by Michigan State University, about a dozen years earlier. He gave an explanation of the term “master narrative”—the history of the U.S. popularly held to be true by most people, and that our powerful institutions overwhelmingly support and reinforce.

For the most part, the master narrative is the story of white people, their victories, conquests, and supposed brilliance. Other people are attached to that tale, from time to time, like appliqués to a jacket. But the amazing race dominates the conversation.

Then, after explaining this concept, Takaki told his own version of the nation’s history. What I remember most is how, as he traveled through time in his story, different groups would appear, act, diminish, then reappear and repeat, over and over. It was almost like watching a master weaver, but one whose fabric was temporal and societal, not material.

With his sad and unfortunate death, our nation lost an irreplaceable educator and innovator. (Deeper, still, was his family’s loss of a husband, father, and grandfather.)

Thankfully, still, we have his ideas, in the form of his many books, and we also have his voice: Ronald Takaki is a guest today, on this encore presentation of my WBAI-NY / 99.5 FM radio show, NONFICTION, this afternoon, Friday, November 27, at 2 pm ET.

shemekia-copelandHe’s preceded by blues vocalist Shemekia Copeland, right, and director Joe Stevens, co-creator of the 2008, sound-systems-on-BMX-bikes short, Made in Queens.

You can hear their ideas by tuning in at 2 pm. If you’re outside of the New York tri-state, check out our stream on the web. If you miss the live show, dig into our archives for up to 90 days after broadcast.