By Alex Perri ‘17
Are you ready to stand up for social justice? An upcoming conference at Brevard College’s Porter Center for Performing Arts might be just the place for you to do so. The Hymns & Hip Hop conference is free of charge and will take place Saturday, April 1, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The conference was created by members of Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was a co-pastor with his father, Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr., in response to police shootings and to help heal and prevent this type of violence. The traveling event “is a collective that utilizes the resistance traditions of the Black Church and Hip Hop to dismantle oppressive systems of injustice,” according to the Hymns & Hip Hop Facebook page.
Brevard College organizers invite the community to come together to advocate for social justice through this unique and experiential workshop. Conference leaders say the event will “address issues of race, poverty and oppression as an explanation for the violence against black bodies with sessions like, ‘Bible, Beats, and Bars,’ ‘Trap or Die: The Economy of Poverty,’ and ‘#16BarsForJustice.” Throughout the day, the group will define how faith and hip-hop can be instruments of resistance alongside civic engagement.
Church leaders and representatives from Hymns & Hip Hop will be on hand to discuss social justice issues in the morning, followed by writing workshops and hip-hop performances in the afternoon.
“Brevard College is hosting this workshop in order to build bridges between the community and students about racial issues,” said Associate Professor of History and one of the conference organizers, Margaret Brown.
The idea for bringing the event to BC was sparked after a group of students from the College’s Institute for Women in Leadership program spontaneously ended up at the Ebenezer Baptist Church during a service trip in Atlanta, Georgia, in September 2016.
“I was extremely impressed with the Hymns & Hip Hop conference. Not only with the program and topics that were discussed, but also by how the IWIL women responded and participated,” said Gabrielle Mellendorf, co-chair of IWIL. “By the end of a long day, we had heard from a Puerto Rican-American who was threatened at the age of 14, a lawyer who talked about criminal injustice and learned how hip hop is not only a beat but also reflected through art and poetry.”
After experiencing the powerful voices of conference attendees in Atlanta, the IWIL women felt that the same kind of event was needed at Brevard to bring our own community members together to be heard.
The conference will also be a great opportunity for those with an interest in hip-hop music to explore their interest creatively with writing workshops and the performance part of the day. Attendees will collaborate with their peers while working with professionals in the hip-hop industry.
“I believe Hymns & Hip Hop will use two phenomenal genres of music to expose our community to some of the most profound expressions of the human experience,” said Sharad Creasman, Brevard College campus minister and faculty adviser for the recently reinstated Black Student Union.