Keynote speakers discussed hip-hop, social justice, politics, and the pandemic during 15th annual hip-hop conference 

Hip-hop Keynote / California University of Pennsylvania


Cal U Communications

Cal U’s Hip-hop conference, 2021

Hannah Wyman, News Editor

“Hip-Hop, Social Justice, Politics, and the Pandemic” launched the first half of Cal U’s 15th Annual Hip Hop Conference on April 13 at 6 p.m. over Zoom. This keynote panel featured author and professor Cornel West and author and cultural critic Jeff Chang. Moderated by Cal U’s own Ayanna Walker, director of the Frederick Douglass Institute and health science professor, and Kelton Edmonds, director of African American studies and history professor, the speakers discussed various topics on what hip-hop and social justice look like today.  

Hiphop, for me, is a particular moment in this very very rich and profound tradition of artistic creativity and spiritual fortitude,” West explained. For me, when we say falling in love with hiphop, part of it is just falling in love with a quest for truth and beauty and goodness manifested in young Black brothers and sisters on the streets of the Bronx spilling over and I can’t conceive myself without it.”  

On social responsibilities hip-hop artists have, Chang said he believes artists have the responsibility to represent the world that we are in and to do that truthfully.  

“Sometimes that means not necessarily being what used to be called politically correct, but what needs to raised,” he said. “Hip-hop has expanded a number of voices that we’re able to hear in the mainstream culture all around the world.”  

He cited the late artist DMX as a figure who worked on this spectrum as he created anthems for his fans while also talking about his pain and overcoming troubles 

West and Chang were also talked about how the oppressed face oppression and what role allies may play in helping. According to West, “anybody who makes a choice in integrity, honesty, courage and decency can be in solidarity with those who are suffering.”  

Yet, West pointed out that humility is also a crucial part of being a productive and meaningful ally. Genuinely learning from each other and genuinely listening to each other will help in the “the anthem of Black people which is lift every voice and lift every echo.”  

Students who are looking to join the fight for social justice are recommended by Chang to focus on self-care because the anger that often drives young people does not have the longevity many movements need. In emerging movements, Chang said that he sees young people talking about self-care and community care more than his generation ever did and that this ideology should be nurtured.  

That’s where the sustainability for this comes in,” Chang stated. “Love is something that is a renewable resource. The arts are something that renews us. Creativity is a source of renewal. Creativity is the engine that drives all of this.”  

Tuesday’s panel was the first out of two events that made up the conference. A roundtable titled “What’s Next for Hip-Hop – Artistically and Academically?” was virtually held April 15 and featured “MyFavoriteColor,” national recording artist and Cal U alum, Bryon Turman, professor of hip-hop studies at North Carolina A&T, Jessica Spradley, sociologist at Cal U and Wil Boone, professor of Black studies at Winston-Salen State University.  

A recording of the keynote panel with Chang and West can be found on YouTube