At age 14, Elmer Martinez started dancing in Lowell’s underground hip-hop scene. He said hip-hop influenced his upbringing, and he saw a lack of that culture at Emerson. When he pitched a dance battle event to the Office of Intercultural Student Affairs, director Tamia Jordan decided to place the event in Emerson Hip-Hop Month.
Emerson Hip-Hop Month is the month-long celebration in April focused on creating a community around hip-hop and activism through art. Events include panel discussions, dances, and film screenings focused around “artivism,” the combination of art and activism, through hip-hop.
“I hope that students learn the interrelationship between hip-hop and activism. I hope they learn how to use hip-hop to be impactful in movements, and I want folks to know this is a space of learning and a space of community,” Jordan said.
The events are sponsored by Emerson’s Alliance for Gays, Lesbians, and Everyone, Emerson Counseling and Psychological Services, Emerson Hip-Hop Society, Student Affairs, Student Engagement and Leadership, Student Success, and the Office of Housing and Residential Life.
Jordan said the month aims to promote diversity specifically at Emerson.
“We’re trying to create more spaces at Emerson that are diverse spaces and multicultural spaces,” she said.
Martinez organized the dance battle event that kicked off the month.
“The event was really successful within the hip-hop community. A lot of different groups came out from outside the college,” Martinez said. “However, Emerson—the student body who the event was advertised to and catered to and given discounts to and pandered to—did not show up to the event.”
The winners of the competition, Xavia Perkins and Ashton Lites, are part of the underground hip-hop scene. Martinez said two Emerson students attended the event aside from those working it.
The next event is Social Justice Academy: Hip-Hop Artivism, scheduled for April 19 in the Bill Bordy Theater. The annual event provides students with social justice training.
“It’s about action and activism,” Jordan said. “It’s about seeing structure and us challenging those structures and looking for ways to be impactful in movements.”
The event includes a dance workshop led by campus Chaplain Harrison Blum, along with a panel about artivism moderated by faculty member Jabari Asim, and a movement building workshop, Jordan said.
Following the Social Justice Academy, Hip-Hop Month will host two film screenings at the Bright Family Screening room. The first film, “I Gotta Have It,” is a full-length documentary about Boston hip-hop artist Edo.G. It will be shown on April 21. The second screening on April 23 includes a first look at documentary “Digging for Weldon Irvine.” Excerpts from the film will be on display accompanied by music, art, and photographs.
Justice Harrison, president of Emerson Hip-Hop Society, said he hopes the month inspires inclusivity at the college.
“I think it’s a really powerful and important thing at a college that feels oftentimes very separate from the rest of the world,” Harrison said. “Hip-hop is such a multi-disciplinary space. You have people who dance, people who do art, people who rap, and being able to bring all these people together into a cohesive space, especially in a space that’s not super great for marginalized people, is important.”
Jordan said she hopes to make Emerson Hip-Hop Month an annual function.
“It’s not a one-and-done situation,” she said. “When you’re looking to impact a culture and change a culture, we certainly can’t do this one time.”