To many people, the terms "Hip Hop" and "education" are polar opposites. However, Miami's, Tony Muhammad thinks differently. Known as the "Hip Hop Educator" Muhammad has been successful at using the art form to educate the children of Florida.
Originally from New York, Muhammad has been an instructor for the last 10 years and sees Hip Hop as a useful tool when trying to reach young minds, many of whom have become bored with the educational system.
"Public education is not meeting the needs of black and Latino students," says Muhammad.
In order to meet this need he often incorporates rap lyrics into his lesson plan. Although he teaches history classes, Muhammad says that Hip Hop has been instrumental in bridging the gap between the past and the present and has served as a motivational tool.
"Students feel that there is a separation between the people of history and themselves", he said. "We have the same problems."
No stranger to the world of Hip Hop, Muhammad says that he began "B-Boyin'" in the third grade and has been hooked on Hip Hop every since. He does, however, admit that the message of Hip Hop has changed from positive to sex driven and overly materialistic. Even so, he refuses to judge his students who listen to the music but instead he challenges them to think analytically about the lyrics.
Despite the type of music being played on the radio, today, the Hip Hop educator is optimistic about the future of the art form.
"We are headed towards a new era of intelligence," he said. "Educators must use Hip Hop to bring forth a new breed of intelligence."
Although much of his work focuses on reaching the children, he also does professional development workshops to teach his fellow educators how to use the art form to inspire their students to learn. Unfortunately, many teachers have so distanced themselves from pop culture that they can no longer relate to their students on a personal level.
So, he has a dual mission; to educate children and adults about the positive potential of Hip Hop.
As he put it, "there is always a lesson to be learned."
Yep, even for grown folks.
Tony Muhammad can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Paul Scott writes for No Warning Shots Fired.com. He can be reached at email@example.com
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