Hip-Hop Literacies Conference returns after pandemic in a hybrid format

The Lantern
The Hiphop Literacies conference is being held March 30 and 31. Credit: Courtesy of Elaine Richardson

Hip-Hop’s popularity can’t be denied, and its growing community can learn more about the genre at the ninth Hip-Hop Literacies Conference.

The conference’s second day will be held Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and attendees can expect to take part in a series of workshops, attend a concert headlined by Saucy Santana at the Lincoln Theater and listen to keynote speakers Shanté Paradigm Smalls and Treva B. Lindsey. This year’s theme is hip-hop and queer/transgender Black feminism. The conference is being held using a hybrid format at Frank W. Hale Jr. Black Cultural Center and over Zoom, according to its website .

Elaine Richardson, founder of the event and professor of literacy studies, said literacies, interpretation and understating of music and language vary.

“Literacy is not a neutral thing. It’s not a one-to-one,” Richardson said. “Everybody is not getting the same thing or even focusing on the same meaning.”

Richardson said language is used in various ways within hip-hop and what is typically seen as wrong in standard English, is viewed differently under an artistic lens.

“Within hip-hop, you know that language is prestigious, that language even shows you the creativity and the innovation of the people who write the lyrics and of the communities who enjoy those lyrics, and who understand what the music is about, and who understand the references that they’re making and how they are switching up the language,” Richardson said. “How they’re splitting verbs, all those things are not seen as wrong, it’s seen as creative, as part of poetry.”

Erin Upchurch, a lecturer in the College of Social Work and a co-organizer in the event, said she aims to get youth involved with this event as hip-hop culture intertwines with self-expression and history.

“There’s such a foundation of hip-hop in our culture, and it is in Black culture, and it’s not only in Black culture, so much of just our American culture, youth culture, Gen Z,” Upchurch said. “It’s so embedded in there, around the language, the literacy, the practices, the history, and I think that’s important for us to be connected to our history in that way.”

Upchurch said attendees are going to be presented with new ideas, and she hopes they are able to gain new perspectives on hip-hop culture.

“They can expect to be invited into maybe some discomfort at times because they might be hearing something for the first time or might challenge them, which is great,” Upchurch said. “That’s how critical thought was developed.”

Upchurch said she hopes attendees feel and build a sense of community and visibility at the event.

“I hope that people are able to see themselves in the conference, whether it’s attending a panel or keynote or a performance,” Upchurch said.

Doors open at 7 p.m. for the performance which will be held at the Lincoln Theater at 796 E. Long St. The concert is headlined by Saucy Santana.

Those interested in the conference or performance can RSVP online .

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