Fall 2015: The Power of Hip-Hop

Af Lucas Nielsen & Mia Beyer

This Fall has yet again been a very busy time for RAPOLITICS. Read this blog to get some insider information about our activities and projects in Denmark, Bolivia and Egypt!

Rapping Against Discrimination

In Denmark, we are conducting rap workshops about discrimination and hate crimes in schools and high schools this Fall. According to a survey from 2013, 63 of young people aged 18-29 years old experienced discrimination that year! A majority of them were discriminated in cafes, bars and nightclubs or when seekings jobs. However, despite that relatively many have experienced being discriminated against, it is not many who complained about it (only 14 according to another study). It is therefore difficult to know the extent of the actual discrimination taking place.

There is no doubt that discrimination is a major challenge in Denmark. We are therefore thrilled to participate – for the second year in a row – in the campaign Stemplet from the Municipality of Copenhagen that focus on the fight against discrimination and hate crime. We have trained our rap coaches and they are currently conducting rap workshops for adolescents and youth in educational institutions around Copenhagen. We are glad to be contributing to the education of young people, so their understanding of discrimination is deepened. Yes, rap can be used to prevent discrimination! Rap is a powerful weapon against narrow-mindedness, prejudice and ignorance if followed by a constructive and educational approach that fosters dialogue and reflection!

Refugees of Syria, Refugees of Rap

The war in Syria is raging for the fifth year in a row, and the terrorist movement Islamic State has invaded the northern part of the country. The war has destroyed homes and cities with immense brutality that seems to have no end. Syria is bleeding. More than 250,000 Syrians have died and 2.5 million have fled the country. The future seems very bleak. This Summer, Europe was forced to face and deal with the flow of people challenging treasonous oceans and uncertain futures. With the support of the Danish Center for Culture and Development, we addressed this issue by inviting the Syrian-Palestinian rap group Refugees of Rap, currently exiled in France, to Denmark. They were here September and October where they conducted a series of rap workshops and performed at various venues. The purpose of their visit was to address the issue of censorship, explain how hip hop can be used to push for social change and show Danish youth a different side of – and a personal story from – the Syrian refugees than the one the media presents them for.

Erik Grønfeldt, educational consultat at a school that Refugees of Rap visited, says:

"Prejudices are based on ignorance. When young people come face to face with people from countries they have only heard about in the media, they adjust their perceptions. And it is extremely urgent and relevant that we focus on Syria and the refugees."

Mohammed Jamous from Refugees of Rap says:

"The revolution started as a peaceful attempt to do away with censorship and establish democracy in Syria. Through rap music, we continue our fight without weapons and we will continue to remind people that they should believe in peace."

Hip Hop Home for Indigenous Youth

We continue to pursue the idea of establishing a Hip Hop Home for marginalized Indigenous youth in El Alto, Bolivia. We have worked for two years on developing this idea and finally we had the chance to go to Bolivia for a trip in order to work with the whole sustainability of the project. Camilla and Lucas met with our local partner organization Khana Aru Imanthata for 12 days and had a series of workshops and meetings with the municipality, the youth council, local NGOs and other potential partners. It was great! Our vision is to establish a cultural center, which is not only going to be a place with activities from the four elements of hip hop, but it will also be a place for political and economic empowerment of adolescents and youth in El Alto. The city of El Alto has high cultural diversity:

"54% of residents self-identify with an indigenous nation and 63% of its population is under 30 years of age. Nevertheless, adolescents and youth are kept from decision-making organs and lack a strong political voice. Also, culture itself is under-prioritized in El Alto with the municipality lacking funds and will to support cultural projects and youth spaces. There really is a need for a place like Hip Hop Home in El Alto!"

Our hope is to start the project in March/April next year, so we are immersed in work until December, where we have the first fundraising deadline. Hip Hope Home has the potential to be a game changer for youth empowerment in El Alto – and we will not rest until we have secured the necessary funding for the project!

Revolutionary Studio

This Fall we also continued our cooperation with Egyptian “Revolution Records” and Vallekilde Folk High School in Denmark. We have just got back from a working trip to Alexandria with our project BOOST. Since the beginning of 2015 we have established a partnership with Vallekilde and our long-term partners and raptivist-friends Revolution Records in Egypt.

For this trip we decided to work with Revolution Records’ slogan – The Voice of the Voiceless – especially because the parliament election was taking place when we were there. Egypt has a very low voting rate and most of the young people feel disillusioned after the revolution. Therefore, we found it interesting to bring attention to the fight that Revolution Records are fighting to represent the voice of their people and to try and create change from below. In the days leading up to the election we created street art happenings with balloons, spray cans, glow sticks and chalk and made a bigger happening at Revolution Records studio. Moreover, we build the outdoor environment of the studio and a film is right now being edited.

This is our second trip to Egypt with students from Vallekilde and we can only say that trips like these with focus on youth-to-youth exchange, work collaboration and co-creations make so much sense on so many levels. Relations are build and we are creating social change together. The studio is getting better and better and we cannot wait to plan more creative fundraising activities such as concerts and designing merchandise to secure an even better future for Revolution Records studio.

The Power of Hip-Hop

We always have a busy Fall in RAPOLITICS. It is just a part of our life cycle. Common to all the projects mentioned above is our determination to use hip hop as a way of empowering young people – no matter if they are Danish students, refugees from Syria, marginalized indigenous youth from Bolivia or Egyptian hip-hoppers. We truly believe in the power of hip-hop!

This blog entry was written by Lucas Nielsen and Mia Beyer, both are board members in RAPOLITICS.