COLUMN: Hip Hop as Poetry class makes an impact on student's experience
With another semester ending and the rush of finals week soon behind us, I have been reflecting on the many classes that I have taken. Over the past three years, all of these have been an experience. Some taught me useful facts and figures and, honestly, some were awful.
For the first time there is one class I am actually going to miss that made an impact on me more than any other. Professor Catherine John’s Hip Hop as Poetry and Cultural Expression is one that I am grateful to have experienced and saddened to see end.
I enrolled in her course for the multicultural credit. I had absolutely no exposure to the genre. I literally couldn’t tell you if Nas was an artist or an energy drink, but I thought, "What could be an easier A than an entire class about music?" I was shocked my first day.
The class was packed. I knew that it was popular because I had been wait listed before I got in. Professor John walked in and proceeded to hand out her 6-page syllabus. My heart began to race. She began to go over final exam expectations.
There were three parts to the final: a "spoken word" which we were to write ourselves and perform in front of the class, a "technique" portion in which were supposed to mimic an MC’s style as closely as we could (again in front of the class) and last there was the group portion. Our “crew” would perform a rap that we wrote and "freestyle" in front of everyone.
I can’t speak in public. I began to think that this might be my own personal nightmare, but I stayed in the class. It was the best, most influential choice I have made in college. No exaggeration.
Professor John’s class offered a sense of community in which views and ideas could be shared without fear of judgment or embarrassment. Her class was so much more than a class on hip hop and was anything but easy. However, her course broadened my views on social, economic and racial issues not just in the United States, but on a global scale. The films, songs and readings that were assigned provided a new understanding.
Hip hop is not just music; it is an expression of life. It truly is poetry. I can say without a doubt that I learned more about race, social and economic strain and social challenges.
Also, I learned about myself. I love to rap. Because of her class I also overcame my fear of public speaking. By the end of the class, everyone had shared something so personal that you knew that you could say anything in the safe confines of that class and still be seen as ‘you'.
Trent Cason, a fellow Hip Hop as Poetry student and literature and cultural studies senior, also realized the importance of professor John’s class. "It’s one thing to study a genre, but immersing yourself by creating and performing is a whole different deal,” Cason said.
Sadly, professor John’s Hip Hop as Poetry and Cultural Expression course will not be offered for the next two years as she will be serving as Chairman for the English Department. Professor John was changed by teaching this course. For her, “it has been really transformative. Creation equals freedom. If people have to create something it allows them to overcome feelings of powerlessness and stagnation,” said Professor John.
This class is one that has left an impression on me like no other class. To all freshman: make sure you take this course when it is offered again. If you don’t, you will be missing out on a life changing experience.
Thank you to professor Catherine John and all of my fellow Hip Hop classmates. You made this semester unforgettable.
Sarah Sullivan is an English writing junior.