RPA Instructors and Students Incorporate Black History Into the Classroom

Students in Humanities instructor Joe DeChristopher’s classes had already been studying Shakepeare’s sonnets and play, and with the start of Black History Month last week, he saw an opportunity to
include a connection between Shakespeare’s poetry and the structure of hip-hop lyrics. 

From a popular video called “Hip-Hop & Shakespeare?”, students learned how Shakespeare’s sonnets can easily be plugged into many hip-hop tracks as the sounds of words and construction of lines of poetry/song lyrics are similar.  

“As we began to discuss the parallels between the form of hip-hop and Shakespeare’s Sonnets, my students were interested in why hip-hop seems to be popular among ordinary people whereas Shakespeare has the tendency to be studied by intellectuals,” DeChristopher said. “This turned our discussion to the idea that Shakespeare was highly popular by the common person in his time. And part of what helps to explain the popularity of both Shakespeare and Hip-Hop is the mimesis, or, imitation of the sounds and rhythm of life. The great poets have always tapped into this power of sound.”

For the month of February, humanities instructor Kayla Weaver decided to build her classes around the celebration and recognition of the influential Black scholars, activists, artists, athletes and writers who helped pave the way to equality. 

“The overall mission in my class this month is to pay tribute to the generations of Black Americans who struggled with adversity to achieve equality,” Weaver said.

So far, her classes have done a one-pager research project, where ninth-grade students selected one person from a list of some of the most influential Black Americans in history, and then they created one-pagers that visually celebrated their achievements and recognized their struggles with oppression. 

“The students enjoyed the choice they had when making their selections, and I was pleasantly surprised by their efforts and passion they put into their research,” Weaver explained.

Weaver displayed some of the completed one-pagers in the classroom, so others have the opportunity to read about the amazing individuals their peers researched. 

This week, her classes are doing a poetry analysis of Tupac’s, The Rose That Grew From Concrete, where the students are taking a close look at the themes of oppression, perseverance, and growth. In addition, they are using the poem to study symbolism, metaphor, and personification. As the students analyze the poem, they are asked to engage in discussions that organically connect back to the discussions of adversity and oppression from the week prior. 

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