Jennifer "JLove" Calderón, Elisha "E-Fierce" Miranda, Sofía "Black Artemis" Quintero, and Marcella Runell Hall.Tired of hearing the mainstream media whine about all the things wrong with hip-hop? Weary of misogynistic lyrics, the glamorization of street life, and half naked gyrating girls in each video? I know you — faithful readers of — know hip-hop is much bigger than what is pushed out in videos and on radio stations. So how do we change the stereotyped perceptions? How do we make sure the younger generation has access to the wisdom and wealth of our culture?

The good news: other outlets are easier to access now than ever. No longer are we at the whim of giant conglomerates greedy to make money off of our dysfunctions, or radio program directors telling us “where hip-hop lives,” but who really could care less about hip-hop and the young people who digest it daily.

When you don’t hear it, say it. When you don’t read it, write it. When you don’t see it, create it! We are at a powerful time in our technological age, where creation is at our fingertips! The indie hip-hop do-it-yourself-movement is taking no shorts! From films and music videos to books and CDs, Gen Now is screaming with vision and brilliance, proving that we are as creative as ever when it comes to creatin’ somethin’ out of nothin’, just like our forefathers and foremothers of hip-hop did! Big up Kool Herc!

And sh** is jumpin’ off in the realms of education and activism, too. As educators, activists, and authors, we are always looking for new ways to ignite the young people we work with. Teaching hip-hop activism and political education to high school students, I was constantly searching for relevant, hard hitting hip-hop artists to bring into the classroom. I was tired of the dichotomy of conscious vs. unconscious; of making sure that the materials brought the realness demanded by young people but didn’t get me kicked out of the school or make me shudder to hear the content. Lemme confess something: I was slowly becoming one of those complainin’ panelists you’d hear at conferences blaming the game, the media, and the industry for all the ridiculousness happening. Well, the game is changin’ and I felt the need to change, too.

New Model Engages Youth Thru hip-hop Fiction

So what had happened was… No, really. What had happened was I hollered at my sistas, Black Artemis and E-Fierce, to see if they wanted to shake some sh** up. Turns out they had been dreamstormin’ for quite some time about makin’ some new kinda change. Synergistically, we were passionate about supporting teachers with innovative curriculum and engaging students in a unique way. Being self-identified hip-hop junkies (old skool that we are) and hip-hop novelists, we believed the subversive and consciousness-raising themes in the books could be pulled out and expanded upon with young folks. Over one late night phone call, Conscious Women Rock the Page! was born. We teamed up with a dope educator and hip-hop head, Marcella Runell Hall, and eight months later we were holding our brand spankin’ new curriculum guide in our hands!

Artists & Activists Team Up to Publish Curriculum that Uses hip-hop Fiction to Explore Social Issues and Promote Political Action

WHAT: In order to support educators who wish to use hip-hop fiction in their classrooms to explore social issues and to promote activism among their students, four women have teamed up to publish a curriculum entitled Conscious Women Rock the Page: Using hip-hop fiction to incite social change (CWRP).

CWRP is based on three hip-hop novels praised for their treatment of substantive issues, ranging from race relations to dating violence, in a genre often criticized for perpetuating stereotypes and glorifying street life. The curriculum contains over thirty lessons which are appropriate for use in middle school classrooms through university campuses. The novels upon which CWRP is based are:

That White Girl, the debut novel of JLove, inspired by her own coming-of-age as a young White woman in Denver in the 80s, which included becoming a graffiti artist and joining the local Crips.

The Sista Hood: On The Mic, by E-Fierce, is the first in a four-part series about four girls of color at a San Francisco high school who bond across their differences in race, class, and sexual orientation through hip-hop.

Picture Me Rollin’, the second of three novels by Black Artemis, brings a feminist twist to the “felon-come-home” tale as it follows a young Latina who is obsessed with Tupac Shakur in her uphill battle to rebuild her life.

CWRP contains lessons on multiple subjects and disciplines including English, social studies, ethnic studies, race relations, women’s studies, criminal justice, and health and sexuality to name just a few.

WHO: CWRP is a collaboration between four women known in socially conscious hip-hop circles: Jennifer “JLove” Calderón, author of That White Girl; Elisha “E-Fierce” Miranda, author of The Sista Hood; Sofía “Black Artemis” Quintero, author of Picture Me Rollin’; and Marcella Runell Hall, co-editor of The Hip-Hop Education Guidebook. They have also enlisted a diverse team of activist educators to design lessons. The activities in CWRP spark discussions on issues, such as race, gender, class, sexual orientation, and more.

WHY: Committed educators are always searching for ways to strike the balance between meeting students where they are and bringing them to a higher level — academically, socially, and even emotionally. As a result, many are incorporating hip-hop in their lessons, from using rap songs to teach metaphors and similes to looking at the recording industry to impart lessons in economics.

Street lit — often called “hip-hop fiction” — is immensely popular and credited for getting reluctant students to read. However, conscientious educators hesitate to use it as it frequently glorifies street life and perpetuates negative stereotypes. Whether used by middle and high school teachers, after-school program facilitators, community activists at grassroots organizations, or college professors, CWRP is a curriculum for educators who want to introduce popular media in their learning environments to engage students on meaningful social and political issues, facilitate their empowerment, and inspire them to take action.

That White Girl, The Sista Hood, and Picture Me Rollin’ each possess a commercial sensibility that will appeal to students of all backgrounds while raising substantive issues in a non-didactic manner, making these novels ideal for classroom use. CWRP shows educators exactly how.

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JLove, the author of this guest column, is dedicated to Truth, Love, and Freedom. Check her at