Should 2Pac Be Taught In College?
1 month ago
Scholars promote slain artist's cultural significance during Atlanta conference
There was a time where listening to 2Pac in class guaranteed you a trip to a the principal's office. But now, 14 years after his murder (or to some, "assassination") Tupac Shakur is being welcomed on college campuses.
On September 28-29, the Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library and the Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation joined forces to create the first annual Tupac Amaru Shakur Collection Conference. The conference invited scholars and public speakers from around the country to submit and share papers they've written on the life and lyrics of Shakur and it has influenced America.
This was far from those dorm room "Pac or Biggie" arguments that you and your friends used to have freshman year of college. No, these were tenured professors, people with doctorate degrees using words like "dystopian" to describe some of Pac's content.
"He was an intellectual as well, but he didn't always speak in that manner," says Dr. Jesse Benjamin, Associate Professor of Sociology at Kennesaw State University, whose paper "Tupac In the Classroom: From COINTELPRO to Critical Consciousness" was displayed at the conference. "He could break things down to layman terms. In academics, if you can't break things down to people who aren't in the academy, you're wasting your time. If you can't talk real, to regular people, your theories sound silly."
The conference is a branch of the Tupac Amaru Shakur Collection that was placed in the Woodruff library in 2009. The collection includes handwritten manuscripts, including song lyrics, track listings, video and album treatments, short stories and poetry that was donated by Tupac's mother, Afeni Shakur. According to the library's website, the conference and collection "was designed to combine AUC Woodruff Library's mission to facilitate scholarly research and the Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation's mission to encourage hip hop curriculum."
Teaching Hip Hop in schools has been in affect for some years now. Producer 9th Wonder (Jay-Z, Destiny's Child, Little Brother) taught a music class called "Sampling Soul" at Duke University in 2010. Michael Eric Dyson taught a course on Jay-Z at Georgetown University in 2011. Clark Atlanta University has included Hip Hop classes in their African American studies program. Usually, Hip Hop is taught in the context of dance, but programs like these and especially the efforts at the Woodruff are attempting to put the culture and artform, 2Pac's specifically, on the same plateau as Shakespeare and Mark Twain.
"His authentic experiences as a young black male, gave him legitimacy among many black youth, as a true black leader inthe post civil rights era," says Dr. Seneca Vaught in his paper "Tupac's Law: Thug Policy and the Crisis of Black Masculinity" which was displayed at the conference.
But, just as some kids may look at the works of Twain and say "is this going to get me a job?" The same must be asked about Hip Hop and 2Pac. Why does it deserve to be taught on college campuses?
"I use hip hop in my classroom to get comfortable with the idea of critical thought, giving them a familiar starting point. Once we use that, we get into how they can use hip hop to get into important issues that effect them inside and outside of the classroom."