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.
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.
Fellows with the spring 2015 Climate Narrative Project presented their works on Thursday night at Art Building West on the University of Iowa campus.
The Climate Narrative Project is “a special media arts initiative in the Office of Sustainability at the University of Iowa, designed to reach across academic disciplines and chronicle regenerative approaches to energy, food, agriculture, water and waste management, community planning and transportation.” Fellows participate in a semester-long graduate-level workshop where they developed ideas ranging from documentary films to dance performances. This semester the fellows focused on “regenerative agriculture, urban farming and food policy, with a special focus on schools.”
During Thursday night’s event – Urban Farms, Real Food, Edible Campus: An Evening of Film, Art, Dance and Storytelling – I was the first one to present with a documentary entitled “Soil Mate: It Takes A Teacher.” The film focused on Iowa City soil educator Scott Koepke and the influence he has had on children in the area. Koepke stresses with his students the importance of organic gardening techniques, composting, and healthy eating.
Anna Kilzer presented next with her project “Edible Campus: Beyond a Public Health Building” in which she laid out ideas for planting vegetables and other plants near the UI’s new College of Public Health building with the hope that the rest of the campus would eventual embrace this concept. Kilzer presented her project in the form of a monologue, describing what the UI’s campus would look like if it emulated edible campus models such as the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.
“I can see Pawpaw trees and raspberry bushes outside McBride Hall stretching down the sidewalk like a corridor to Clinton street. The wind carries the aroma of basil, thyme and rosemary, as leafy greens reached out of raised beds with the gentle pokes of kale, spinach, and arugula. . Students swing in the Hammocks studying and napping between classes. And those famous writers at their workshop – they were meeting in the middle of rooted vegetables and walnut trees, bookended by pages of lettuce. Engineering students argue over the water irrigation system, as the math assistants measured the perfect amount of water to each vegetation. The PE students lounged on the chairs and benches designed by the 3D design students on display for the general public to enjoy. And down below, the Iowa River teems with life and as the boats cart the boxes of fresh veggies, and food carts and truck lined up with the fervency of filling sand bags–though this time, filling bags of real food from the Edible Campus to feed students, faculty and community members of Iowa City.”
Sophia Finster then took the stage for a dance performance entitled “The Dinner Party: Processed vs. Unprocessed Food.” The performance consisted of four dancers and their struggles to eat healthy unprocessed food when faced with the monetary constraints and the busy lifestyle of being a college student. The story was told through the medium of dance but also used statistics and facts about the environmental impact of processed foods.
“Forty percent of food grown, processed, and transported in the U.S. will never be consumed. Every year 60 million tons of food waste is generated in the U.S. and nearly 40 million tons of that goes to the landfill. Unprocessed food often has much less packaging than processed food and around 45% of our food system’s carbon emissions arises from the production of food that is never eaten. But that’s another conversation for another time. What’s really in our food, safely sealed up in crinkly bags and flashy boxes?”
Audience members to the stage at the end of Sophia Finster’s performance to enjoy some locally- and -organically-grown produce. (Photo by Sarah Nagengast)
The night concluded with Bridget Fonseca and her project “Don’t Let Your Children Grow Up to Be Farmers: Women Farmers Respond,” a question and answer session between herself (an aspiring farmer) and four characters who played the role of real-life female farmers in the Iowa City area. Fonseca asked the farmers about monetary and other struggles they face to maintain a sustainable operation. At the end, she reflected on her project and reevaluated whether or not she wanted to pursue a career in farming.
“Over this journey, I’ve gained a new perspective on the realities of owning a far. It’s not as flexible [or] glamorous as I initially though. Farming is hard work and the answer is hot that we all have to become farmers to save the food system. What we need is more support for out farmers, for our environment, and for our health.”
Climate Narrative Project fellow Bridget Fonseca presented her project “Don’t Let Your Children Grow Up To Be Farmers: Women Farmers Respond.” (Photo by Nick Fetty)
The Climate Narrative Project is currently accepting applications for six fellows for the fall semester. Those interested in applying should contact UI writer-in-residence and workshop leader Jeff Biggers (jrbiggers[at]gmail.com).
Dot grew up surrounded by backyard gardens and farmers markets. She was nourished by home-cooked family meals that hadn’t traveled far from farm to plate. Since her arrival in Iowa, she has cultivated a collection of cookbooks and continues to invest in local in-season produce. Dot comes from a primarily Scottish heritage and has enjoyed expanding her palate. She likes trying and learning to cook new cuisines.
Valeria grew up with homemade, store-bought, and restaurant meals. Coming from a latino heritage, most meals contained red meat, rice or pasta, and potatoes or vegetables. Although she prefers homemade food, Valeria’s busy lifestyle has kept her from learning in-depth cooking skills or their origins. After moving to Iowa, her life is even busier and often fueled by fast and easy food.
Raud grew up lucky to have a mother who is a fabulous Iranian cook, and who encouraged him to be open to trying a variety of foods. Traditional Iranian food is healthy, because it often contains much more unprocessed food than the typical midwest diet. He began to learn more about the environment and focus on his fitness when he came to college. Now he has completely cut red meat out of his diet and rarely eats white meat. He’s not a full vegetarian yet because the BURGE meal plan has such poor vegetarian options.
Lindsey grew up in A family that bought directly from farmers market or farmers. Now that she is in college, she relies on her dining hall meal plan. This does not provide as much unprocessed food as farmers markets and farms. She is excited to have a kitchen next year so she can have more food options.
Dot and Valeria are now planted in their apartment, busy studying for classes as they await for Raud and Lindsey’s arrival to their upcoming dinner party. Naturally, they must decide what to eat.
***Lights come up and dance begins to Youth Lagoon’s 17***
I am super happy with how these photos turned out! I am currently working on an intro to the bio’s as Jeff has suggested to me.
Here’s a few shots from my rehearsal last Friday. And here’s my latest draft of the “Spotify commercial” script touting for extreme processed, and then unprocessed food.
“Busy, stressed, and have no time to cook? Why does this make your life so hard? BIG BOX is here to help make your life easier and healthier. Type II Diabetes is the fastest growing health problem in the country and it is now “the norm” to be fat. But don’t worry; try our new and improved BIG BOX microwavable instant meals packed with healthy and natural unknown ingredients from unknown countries. They’re instant, quick, easy, and can even help you lose weight. Sugar-free, fat-free, carb-free, and full of delicious nutrients, fit for someone on the paleo diet, south beach diet, Mediterranean diet, or whatever diet is the next new fad. You’re psychologically licensed to eat it. Subscribe to your first 30 second instant BIG BOX meal today for only $9.99 (plus shipping and handling). We’ll even deliver right to your doorstep.”
“Processed food will make you fat. Processed food will shorten your life. Processed food will kill you. Processed and packaged food, a 1.25 trillion dollar industry, has sneaky chemicals and artificial flavorings. But it supposedly tastes good. Confused on what is the healthy, nutritious thing to eat? Come to your local farm and pick whole fresh food straight from the soil. It’s better for your health and is much more nutritious than packaged food. It’s better for the economy, because it keeps money in the state. Iowa imports almost 90% of it’s food. It’s also better for the community, because it brings people together and makes them more connected to and aware of their food. It’s lastly better for the environment because 20% of our carbon emissions are related to food, a large part of which is transportation.”