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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Writing Names, Reading Hip Hop: Children (re)Mixing and (re)Making Language, Literacy, and Learning Through the Hip Hop Cultural Naming Practices and Pedagogies of StyleWriting

  • Author(s): Rodriguez, Gloria Beatriz
  • Advisor(s): Orellana, Marjorie F
  • et al.

Writing Names, Reading Hip Hop reports on the cultural naming practices and pedagogies of the Beats Club, an experimental Language and Literacy(ies) program for children in central Los Angeles (Orellana, 2016). Across three years of play and study in Beats - Stely, Caiyl, Feldspar, Kiboo, Fina, Curipaii and 70 others engaged in the invention and writing of their Club pseudonyms, following the Hip Hop cultural practices known as StyleWriting (Rossomando, 1996). In this dissertation I break down what our Beats Club Naming (BCN) activity is and means, unpacking the names-based Pedagogy(ies) employed and kids’ dynamic Response(s). I ask and answer, how do these naming practices of StyleWriting shape and support children’s pathways to and through Language, Literacy(ies), and Learning.

I take aim at the problem of inequality, and its perpetuation through standardized, Western schooling (Au, 2009; Hill, 1998; Woodson, 1969). I (Hip Hop) intervene(s) in the problem with a fresh pedagogical design and methods from those that dominate school structuring. I articulate an architecture for Hip Hop Pedagogy built from historical record and the knowledge of cultural practitioners. This socio-historical, socio-cultural knowledge is paired with children’s multi-dimensional engagement in names practice, to develop fresh ideas about Language, Literacy, and Pedagogy that is grounded (Petchauer, 2009; Silverman, 2010; Suddaby, 2006) in the naming social practice of Beats. Driven by Hip Hop’s “intimate tie[s] to educational practices and possibilities” (Alim & Pennycook, 2007), this work builds on the important research tradition of studying and theorizing children’s and youths’ social, language and literacies practice(s) (Alim, 2004; Bucholtz, 2002; Lee, 1997; Moll, Amanti, Neff, & Gonzalez, 1992; Orellana, 2016; Orellana & Reynolds, 2008; Rymes, 1996; Willis, 1990; Zentella, 1997), including the vast body of Literacy(ies) research and discourse following the works of Heath (1983); Labov (2004); Street (1984); TheNewLondonGroup (1996). This work engages with Third Space (Guiterrez, 2008), play-based (Cole, 2006) literatures. It enters into dialogue with a broad field of research on critical pedagogy(ies) (Duncan-Andrade & Morrell, 2008; Freire, 1970; Shor, 1992; Trafi-Prats, 2009) and focused on developing “asset-based” pedagogies (Paris, 2012; Paris & Alim, 2014). In this piece, these streams of works and theoretical sources are taken “to bold new levels” of Hip Hop education (Seidel, 2011). By engaging children in Hip Hop’s elemental practices and cultural principles, this work breaks new ground in the tradition of Hip Hop-based educational research (Alim, 2004, 2006, 2009; Alim, 2011; Dimitriadis, 2009; Duncan-Andrade & Morrell, 2008; Hill, 2009; Pennycook, 2007; Petchauer, 2009, 2015; Seidel, 2011). As any good Hip Hop research should, I (re)Mix across this multi-stream conceptual framing to (re)Make fresh ideas of/for educational theory, research, and practice.

To conduct the study, I use and introduce Hip Hop Methodology (HHM), an approach whose goals are to create original, authentic research. HHM represents new directions and potentials in research by and about POC. It is a participatory, Africalogical (Asante, 1990; Mazama, 2003) and Indigenous (Cajete, 1994; Grande, 2004), whole (Hilliard, 1986; Nobles, 2008) approach to research. In Beats, I engaged HipHopographic methods (Alim, 2006; Spady, 2013) to collect, organize, and triangulate information sources (Erickson, 2004), including: a) observational fieldnotes (Heath & Street, 2008), b) photographs and video recordings; c) artifacts (Hammersley & Atkinson, 2007); and d) Dialogues (Ada & Beutel, 1993; Freire and Macedo, 1987) held with14 participants at the end of three years. These methods aim to capture a prismic or multi-perspectival, aesthetic (Eagleton, 1988; Thompson, 1984), and whole (Asante, 1990; Hilliard, 1995; Nobles, 2008) view and interpretation of activity. I reviewed and color-coded by hand a triangulated Tome of all sources. I employed fluid, blended domain-theme-taxonomic analyses (LeCompte & Schensul, 2010; Spradley, 1980), and visual mapping strategies, to (re)organize and make sense of data, uncovering the patterns of Beats Club Naming (BCN).

Here I organize a Phase-time (Rossomando, 1996) historical record of our Beatstory . This narrative of Beats naming provides an evidentiary reference and basis for explaining children’s five-dimensional engagement in practice, and the True Hip Hop Pedagogy model animating it. StyleWriting is and offers a pedagogical approach in which kids practice and play with Language all-modally, developing Literacy(ies) multi-dimensionally. Kids sample from possible means and modes, and invent - or Mix and Make- their names. Over time they engage in sustained re-Mixing that results in kids’ re-Making of their selves. Children determine their selves through names, a practice that builds self-esteem, self-worth, and self-love. The self-knowledge and love kids gain from deep personal introspection and fluid practice of names, builds collective-community-cultural engagement. Names becomes a lived practice of Writing and learning that children take and create across all of their lifeworlds, connecting all of their Literacies and Learning from across contexts. Through our name invention we navigate the (infinite) possibilities for shaping ourselves and our social worlds and futures, on our own terms, engaging in self–directed education, or la autoeducaci�n. Through names children restore their agency in schools and society, “reclaiming authorship of their lives” (Freire & Macedo, 1987).

Also emerging from analyses of kids naming is an overstanding (KRS-One, 2009) of Beats’ Pedagogy model, a Hip Hop educational scheme of dimensions and themes. And together these explanations of Beats names practice(s) and pedagogy(ies) answer the research question of how StyleWriting practice shapes and supports children’s Language and Literacies.

Beats’ Hip Hop model successfully flips the script on the dominant order (Miller, 2002) of schooling. StyleWriting and Hip Hop culture offer an alternative to traditional models, that humanizes and multi-dimensionally engages learners. The practice of names provides students with tools for getting through and getting over. This model engenders equality, and ignites student creativity(ies). This Hip Hop design stands to offer Education that is not only relevant, but also revelatory. It is capable of the great change to the unequal conditions of schools and society necessary for future global sustainability.

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