MOGO Movie Vault: Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes

“We’re like in this box. In order to be in that box you have to be strong. You have to be tough. You have to have a lot of girls. You gotta have money. You gotta be a player or a pimp. You know, you gotta be in control. You have to dominate other men, other people.”
~ Byron Hurt, filmmaker

Look at hip-hop videos, listen to the lyrics, and you notice a lot of similarities: guns, violence, women, sex, and money. Filmmaker Byron Hurt is a huge hip-hop fan, but he began to question the representations of manhood and masculinity, the portrayal of women and the prevalence of violence in hip-hop music and videos. Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes is a record of his journey.

In a society full of hypermasculine violence and posturing in music, movies, video games, and sports and military culture, this film serves as an excellent tool for exploring issues surrounding what it means to be a man (especially a man of color) in America, through the lens of hip-hop.

In his exploration of hip-hop music and culture, Hurt raises questions about several issues, from perceptions of masculinity, to the prevalence of sexism, misogyny and the objectification of women, to the existence of homophobia and homoeroticism in lyrics and images. He also explores the roots of hip-hop and the exploitation and domination of hip-hop by the major music industry, which is primarily controlled by white men.

I learned a lot from this film that I hadn’t thought about before. For example, Hurt points out that guns in the videos are an outlet for the rage that many young men of color feel, that there is a lineage of black men wanting to deny their own frailty, and that guns, violence and posturing are a way for young men to assert themselves and to assert the power that rich white guys manifest in other ways.

One of the interviewees in the film said that “…the only way in which men are allowed to make a connection in the popular culture with women is through sexuality….”  Hurt also pointed out that between 60-70% of hip-hop listeners are young white men, and that a lot of the emphasis on violence and sexism comes from those at the top of the music industry, most of whom are white men.

Hip-Hop was originally shown on PBS, and the companion website includes clips from the documentary, suggested resources, background information about the film and the issues explored, and educational materials, such as a discussion guide.

This is a great video to share with friends, older students, people working with older teens (especially young men), and others interested in issues surrounding masculinity, sexism, violence and media.  (Be aware that the film and website include explicit language and images.)

~ Marsha


7 Ways You Can Support Fair Trade

October is Fair Trade Month, designed to educate others about the importance of fair trade and encourage them to buy fair trade products.

The goal of fair trade is to empower producers in developing countries, advocate for a fair price for their goods, and to establish social and environmental standards for the production of those goods. (Find out more from Wikipedia.)

When we buy products, most of us want to know that our desire for coffee or chocolate or sugar isn’t harming people or the planet. Fair trade is one avenue for helping us make more positive choices.

Here are 7 ways you can support fair trade:

  1. Buy fair trade products whenever you can. Look for the certified fair trade labels from Transfair USA or Fair Trade Labeling International. Fair trade products can include coffee, chocolate, sugar, rice, tea, bananas, flowers, and many other products (including non-agricultural ones). Transfair USA, Global Exchange and the Fair Trade Federation offer resources on where to buy such products.
  2. Ask stores, restaurants and any place that sells products like coffee, tea and chocolate to stock fair trade products.
  3. Educate yourself about issues surrounding fair trade, so that you can make informed choices and share what you’ve learned with others. A few useful resources include:
    Transfair USA
    Global Exchange
    Co-op America
    Fair Trade Resource
  4. Teach others about fair trade issues. Host film screenings, discussions, parties, tastings and other events. Talk with your friends and neighbors. Contact retailers and legislators. Write letters to the editor. Give presentations at schools and community events. Post to your blog, get a widget for your Facebook page, share with your online communities.
  5. Introduce fair trade products and issues in your community – at work, your place of worship, school, community groups, etc. Encourage your community groups to become part of Co-op America’s Fair Trade Alliance, or suggest fair trade fundraising for your child’s school.
  6. Participate in campaigns such as Reverse Trick of Treating or Fair Trade Month to increase awareness about fair trade issues.
  7. Work to get your town or city declared a fair trade town. Use resources such as those from Transfair USA and Fair Trade Towns USA to help you.

If we stay connected to our deepest values, maintain awareness of the impact of our actions, educate ourselves about positive alternatives, and take steps to make MOGO (Most Good) choices, then we can work to help create a world that’s fair for everyone.

~ Marsha

Follow the One Dollar Diet Project

More than 1 billion people live on $1 or less a day. A colleague of mine (and fellow IHE grad) Christopher Greenslate, and his partner Kerri — both social studies teachers — have embarked on a project to each eat on a food budget of $1/day.  As they say in their first post:

“When we first started talking about doing this, we didn’t really have an agenda, or any developed sense of why we wanted to do it. It  just seemed like an interesting challenge; one that would force us to see things differently.

“We are interested in many of the strands related to this experiment; food choices, consumerism, waste, poverty, social psychology, etc., and this experience may provide insights that could help us better understand and teach about a variety of concerns.”

Here’s their Day 1 Totals:

Breakfast: 1 cup cooked oatmeal – $0.06

Lunch: PB and J sandwich on homemade bread – $0.36,  2cups popped popcorn with salt – $0.07

Dinner: 2 Bean and Rice Burritos – $0.42 ( Beans – $0.07, Rice -$0.11, Tortillas – $0.05ea., small strips of Lettuce – $0.07, 1 TBSP taco sauce – $0.12)

Dessert: 1TBSP Peanut butter – $0.05

Total: $0.96

Follow their journey on the One Dollar Diet Project.

~ Marsha