American Ethnic Studies Student Association educates on hip-hop culture

ILL Se7en, rapper and activist from Denver, performs in front of a crowd during "The Great Paradigm" event at the Little Theater in the K-State Student Union on Feb. 4, 2016. (Emily Lenk | The Collegian)

K-State’s American Ethnic Studies Student Association’s hip-hop-themed event, “The Great Paradigm,” featured the hip-hop artists, activists and educators ILL Se7en, FaT TrAk and Francisco “Enuf” Garcia from communities around the nation. The event took place in the K-State Student Union’s Little Theatre Thursday evening.

During the event, the artists spoke of their personal experiences with the art of hip-hop and engaged the audience with stories of their social justice activism.

The event also included performances by the artist panel as well as a Q-and-A period. This was followed by a dance party and freestyle session, which were open for audience participation.

Shaun Dowdell, senior in American ethnic studies and association member, helped coordinate the event. He said it was also hosted by Hy-Vee and Pepsi, who donated refreshments, and the Student Governing Association.

Rachel Hare, senior in life science and president of AESSA, said the group hoped the event would highlight the social justice aspect of hip-hop culture that is often overlooked.

“I think the main purpose of this event is to bring awareness to the culture that is behind hip-hop and how its influences have effected so many people,” Hare said. “I think hip-hop is prominent in our media, so being able to know more of the background will really educate people and get them more involved and just really get them to learn to appreciate everything that hip-hop involves.”

Garcia, an artist and activist from Phoenix, said his roots lie in hip-hop graffiti. He said hip-hop culture is a culture of expression and learning, which makes it a great outlet for influencing social change.

“I think that hip-hop is an art form,” Garcia said. “When you feed off someone’s expression, you’ll get a vibe. You’ll understand if it’s a positive one, an empowering one. If you get in tune with the art forms, I think the passion can transcend through the message and through the expression, and it’s another way of learning.”

Dowdell said the event carried an important message about hip-hop and was meant to inspire and inform attendees about the true spirit of hip-hop culture in a fun way.

“This event is trying to bridge community together at K-State, but within that, we also want to be able to show that hip-hop is a network that allows people to build bridges,” Dowdell said. “It’s always been a movement for people with disadvantages to become not just a nobody. Hip-hop allows people to become somebody, and other people are able to use this as a method to communicate their struggles.”

According to Hare, Dowdell was the main mind behind the event. Dowdell said he hoped each audience member took something personal out of the artists’ discussions and performances.

“What excites me is that everyone is going to learn something unique to themselves,” Dowdell said. “Everybody’s going to get this message differently, so they’re going to feel it in different ways, but I really do hope that people are able to learn about themselves in this process, and within learning about yourself, you can understand everybody else who is not you.”

Hey there! I'm Danielle Cook. I'm currently a freshman in journalism and mass communications. I live for telling true stories, so I hope to be doing it for the rest of my life. Luckily, I also live for late nights and early mornings – as long as there's coffee and I'm in good company.