One by one they arrived and huddled in small, tribe-like circles. The room began to fill with laughter, knuckle bumps and warm embraces. The environment buzzed with excitement and anticipation.
Hundreds of high school and college students from South Sacramento neighborhoods gathered early one Saturday in October to attend the annual “Rock The School Bells” youth empowerment conference at Sacramento City College.
The event was hosted by the Low End Theory Collaborative (LETC), a collective of educators who use hip-hop as a tool for education, personal developed and leadership.
LETC crew advisors are faculty members and community educators who create learning environments that explore through art mediums.
The activities began with live DJ performances from advisors Mike B and Boogalicious. They instantly rocked the crowd. Students were charged, heads bobbing in unison, celebrating the love and versatile elements of hip-hop culture.
The kickoff included a warm welcome and a libation ceremony, a call and response activity to honor the positive contributions of the heroes and loved ones who have lived before us.
The host was counselor, educator and emcee Adam Freas, who led inspirational introductions for dancers and live art performances.
“Personally, being a hip-hop educator means I can stay connected to core pillars of my identity and cultural sensibilities,” Freas says. “It allows me to pursue equity through a fluid and organic process that resonates with students from all backgrounds, but urban youth in particular.”
He continues, “It pushes me to pursue innovation and not stay stagnant, which more importantly reminds me to tap into my students for education of the changing world, through their lens.”
Ultimately, the inspiration Freas gains from hip-hop allows him to better serve his students.
The cultural art form of hip-hop, he says, “Can help educators work to create spaces that value all voices, illuminate social justice and counter the demarcating practices of the educational institution.”
At Rock the School Bells, students were allowed to freestyle their performances and share with peers. This process is known as “Edutainment.”
It’s what makes hip-hop culture relative to personal development and confidence within the educational environment.
Participation and engagement are key elements in allowing students to feel special and included in the learning process. The conference affirmed each student’s presence and enthusiastically set the tone for three development workshop sessions.
Instructors lead workshops built around transformable life skills within the hip-hop culture. Students could have real-life conversations that pertain to positive choices, and not be limited to unhealthy influences of pop culture.
The conference allowed students to engage and participate with a strong sense of self and identify skills and passions to achieve educational goals with positive outcomes.
And that’s what hip-hop “Edutainment” is made of.