I recently had the opportunity to speak with Jeff Chang, author of Can’t Stop Won’t Stop and We Gon’ Be Alright, about hip hop culture and its impact on political issues.
Jeff stated that before we can make political change, we have to make cultural change, and that happens in communities like breaking and hip hop.
During our discussion, we explored breaking and how it can be interpreted as almost an act of defiance or rebellion towards political movements. For example, in South Korea, many professional bboys surrender their dancing careers after they are forced into the military. So many Korean have a very different mentality than other groups because culturally, bboying is used to express themselves before they are forced into the military and consequently lose some of their individuality.
My colleagues, Maciek Chuchra and Dawson Davenport, both felt as inspired as I did after our talk with Jeff. His words helped contextualize some of our projects and sparked new avenues for us to explore. I’ll especially keep in mind what we talked about in regards to hip hop with my final project: discussing climate change through breaking.
Theme: How society’s dependency on coal/fossil fuels detrimentally affects us and the things around us.
General Storyline: I will be representing the harm that humanity, other creatures, and the environment all suffer from as a result of mankind’s inaction towards our increasingly unstable use of fossil fuels. I have been dancing for eight years, and will be using dance as a means to to understand the pain that the environment must endure as a result of corporate ignorance.
Main Characters: Me
Interviews/Research: I plan to interview three people with specific areas of expertise: dance, hip hop, and renewable energy. I have interviewed Rebekah Kowal, Department Chair and Associate Professor at the University of Iowa’s Dance Department, on how dance works as a catalyst for social change. I am scheduling an interview with renown author Jeff Chang to learn about the history of hip hop and how the culture’s elements are relevant in the world of art today. Finally, I am contacting the Iowa Energy Center to set up a potential meeting with one of their representatives in order to discuss the harmful effects of fossil fuels.
Arts Medium: Combination of b-boying (breakdancing) and modern dance
As mentioned in one of my previous posts, I will be using hip hop dance as a catalyst for discussing human dependence on coal. I have scheduled an interview with Rebekah Kowal, Chair of the University of Iowa’s Dance Department, for March 23rd at 10:30am.
I decided to interview Professor Kowal because she is not only a dance professor, but a historian and researcher. You can find a feature of Professor Kowal on the University’s Research and Economic Development page here.
I will also be interviewing Jeff Chang, an infamous Asian American writer who has written about hip hop culture and its relation to social justice. I believe that both Professor Kowal and Jeff Chang are individuals that have made remarkable contributions to their fields and it is incredibly humbling to be able to speak with them soon.
Steve Reed uses OhmConnect, a service that pays customers to lower their energy use at home during periods of high demand.
Iowa Public Radio recently published a story about OhmConnect, an energy company that is promoting incremental changes to the way we use electricity.
Check out this short clip from their article:
Steve Reed of San Diego says he signed up for free with OhmConnect. He was eager to see how much his family could cut back on electricity at times when there is a high demand for it in the area.
Soon, he got a text prompting him to lower use for an hour — from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. the next day.
“The easiest thing in the beginning is to just avoid big power usage,” he says. “The big item for most people is actually their air conditioner or their heater, a stove or an oven or a microwave. The big big-ticket items.”
On days when there is a high demand for electricity, extra power plants have to turn on, and they tend to be more polluting.
“Any individual person couldn’t really do much about this,” he says. “This is something you can do that’s very easy, and it helps.”
I have been seriously conflicted in regards to deciding what creative mode I will pursue for my CNP project. I am interested in writing spoken word poetry and song lyrics, because they have always been unchecked boxes on my bucket list. Being an English major, I have heard from numerous successful writers and poets throughout my time at the university. However, I never was able to truly engage in the art of performance-based writing.
I am also interested in performing a variation of “Dance Your PhD“, where I would be using b-boying (breakdancing) and elements of modern dance to tell a story about pollution in inner cities. I teach and perform dance regularly, so I’m not sure if this would challenge me in the same way that writing would. I acknowledge, however, that there have been countless spoken word pieces in the CNP alone – and even more reflecting on the grand theme of climate change – but there has been little in terms of representation through b-boying. I don’t even think it has ever been done. This could be a way of showcasing the dance I have devoted my life to and how it can tell stories and be relevant in the conversation about climate change.
Popular Science recently posted an article about the 1,000 Acre Pollinator Initiative in Cedar Rapids, discussing the specificity of the project along with the impact that it will have on the community.
Here’s a short snippet of the article:
This spring, Cedar Rapids (population: 130,000) will seed 188 acres with native prairie grasses and wildflowers. The city’s plan is to eventually create 1,000 acres of bee paradise by planting these pollinator-friendly foodstuffs.
Scientists think the pollinator crisis is caused by a variety of factors, including pesticides, pathogens, and climate change. Meanwhile, with farms, parking lots, mowed lawns, and other human developments replacing wildflower fields, bees have been losing habitat and their food supply. While many of the drivers behind bee population decline remain mysterious, the people of Cedar Rapids hope to at least give pollinators places to perch and plants to feed on.
The 1,000 Acre Pollinator Initiative grew out of a partnership with the Monarch Research Project(MRP), whose goal is to restore monarch butterfly populations. It was Cedar Rapids Park Superintendent Daniel Gibbins who proposed converting 1,000 acres into pollinator habitat over five years. So far, the project has secured $180,000 in funding from the state and the MRP.