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Doin' good in the 'hood

Posted November 1, 2007 10:52 pm (about 2606 days ago)

Yesterday my school was fortunate to have Ilana Weaver AKA Invincible stop through and do a couple of workshops for our students. As a performer, she’s world famous and done shows and worked with the likes of Talib Kweli and Eminem as a member of the Anomalies hip-hop crew. But while her music résumé is impressive enough, I actually invited her to come speak due to her work with Detroit Summer, a community organization that tackles issues such as poverty and urban farming. Among their projects is a recent CD titled the “Chronicles of a Drop Out” that addresses problems of the public education system. I've already used portions of the CD in my classes, which is made easier by curriculum that Invincible provided.

Yesterday my school was fortunate to have Ilana Weaver AKA  Invincible stop through and do a couple of workshops for our students. As a performer, she’s world famous and done shows and worked with the likes of Talib Kweli and Eminem as a member of the Anomalies hip-hop crew. But while her music résumé is impressive enough, I actually invited her to come speak due to her work with Detroit Summer, a community organization that tackles issues such as poverty and urban farming. Among their projects is a recent CD titled the “Chronicles of a Drop Out” that addresses problems of the pubic education system. I've already used portions of the CD in my classes, which is made easier by curriculum that Invincible provided.

I hadn’t seen her in nearly a decade, dating back to shows at the University of Michigan student union and the Phat House in Detroit. We reconnected last week at a panel she was on at Stanford University with Bakari Kitwana’s Rap Sessions program. I was impressed with what she had to say, but beyond that, we have mutual friends back in The D so it was good to vibe over the commonality. It’s funny how things come full circle.

As minor as it may sound, I have to give her respect for the great communication as we put these workshop together and showing up on time. We were literally stood up the day before by some other guests and my students like to joke that our invited local guest from the Bay can be a crap shoot. Sometimes they show up, sometimes they don’t. They’re pretty leery of adults, to no surprise, and we've often had better luck with our out of state guests. Invincible showed up in plenty of time and dived right in.

Her first workshop revolved around restorative justice, which basically means balancing out punitive responses to crimes with actions that rebuild the community, lead to learning, and building relationships. The workshop was very interactive and including jeopardy, small group work, discussion, and she even drop a couple of rhymes. Initial student feedback was very positive and one said that “we should have more guests like that.”

Her second workshop was a writing one helping ninth graders in our after school music program. I actually don’t work with the program this year, but the students definitely seemed to be engaged.

Afterwards we had a great conversation that left me with a lot of good stuff to think about. Among other things, continuing with ways to continue building bridges between activists, artists, educators, and others, when our roles don't overlap. I've worked with or spoke with too many artists who sell selves as activists but have stood our students up and mysteriously disappeared and didn’t return messages when the
actual date arrived. We always offer some sort of compensation and the impact on the students is immeasurable.  It's pretty disappointing. On that last note, my respect for Ilana as a person, and Invincible as an artist, has gone up substantially. I definitely hope we can continue to build!

Workshop pics
Invincible spits video 1
Invincible spits video 2

Comments

1. Mariana Torres said at June 11, 2008 7:59 pm:

In my opinion when it comes to music and artist i believe their sould be more positive lyrics just the the ones llana raps. Also as you may know many students look up to rappers as an influence in their lives, their fore i beleive that rappers should try to communicate more with students because we are the fans who are are listening to their music and helping them with their career. I beleive you made a really great point and people should really get involve in activities like these.

2. Shatika S. said at June 11, 2008 10:06 pm:

I like when llana Weaver came to school because the workshops that we participated in were interesting, she made me look at things from different views. I actually have really become attached to classes that include hip-hop and politics. I really recommend that next year and so on hip hop and politics activities should continue to happen at school because I know it really helped me stay on track and interested in the history classes. I recommend that everyone should try to take one class or attend one event that includes hip hop and politics.

3. Roman B. said at June 12, 2008 7:21 pm:

This collective workshop was one of the most memorable events in my life. We had fun with a little jeopardy as well as the writing workshop we did. Invincible got a few good points out there about restorative justice and she spit some good lines. But I still haven't listened to the CD she gave me, what a shame. I honestly think she should come back because she works hard to communicate most her points and gets through in interesting ways. Next years students should definitely get a glimpse of Invincible and Restorative Justice.

4. Claudia Robles said at June 21, 2008 2:26 am:

Reading this article named "Doin' good in the 'hood" was something really interesting in the way that we have been using pars of llana Weaver's CD which is titled the "Chronicles of a Drop Out" in our class. This is interesting because through out our school we have been learning about the different problems that our public education system deals with. Even though I personally did not take a chance to be part of this workshop from the readings that were documented on it I got a chance to read what the workshop was about. After reading this to me it seemed that this workshop was really helpful and that the students that did actually participated got a chance to learn something.

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