The Student Connection
The Student Connection

The Student Connection

Faculty Spotlight - Idonia Barrett

Assistant Professor Idonia Barrett

Assistant Professor Idonia Barrett

Hampton University Sociology Assistant Professor Idonia Barrett coordinated the first ever Hip Hop Conference at the University entitled "The Art of Hip Hop: Do You Still Love H.E.R.?" The February event featured panel discussions and events about the intricacies of Hip-Hop music. Frederick "Freedom" Williams, former leader of the group C&C Music Factory and who attended HU in the late 80's, was chosen as the conference honoree. Barrett said she was moved to create the conference as a result of a University course on the subject and the conversations that arose within. In this Student Connection Q&A, read more about the impetus behind the event and plans for a follow up conference.

What gave you the urgency and need to create the HU Hip-Hop Conference?
Teaching a course during the summer entitled "Sociology of Hip Hop," for the past four years has brought about great conversations amongst the students. I enjoyed the lively conversations and how each year with similar topics I got different perspectives. Two years ago I had a student who was interested in further studying the social implications of the Hip Hop culture and suggested that I should have a conference that the whole school could attend. Last year, I sought out faculty members and students with similar interests and it took off from there.

What do you think students, staff, and the community gained the most from this year's conference?
I believe this year brought about a whole new light and conversation about the culture. I will be honest, I have come across some faculty members and even students who felt the topic was not worthwhile and could not be viewed under the scope of academia. This year I feel we were able to dispel a lot of myths and open the minds of people to the many facets of hip-hop and not just the rap/lyrical side. People were exposed to artwork, spoken word, the business side, media (print and broadcast), and the political implications as well.

Why is hip-hop an important and relevant issue to discuss, especially on a college campus?
The conversation is important to have on a college campus because the environment is setup in order to think outside the box. Or at least I hope the student body seeks to do so. The students are at the point in their lives where they are receiving a great deal of information that they are sifting through, and seeking what they can apply to their everyday lives. Moreover, this college generation is considered the new leaders -- they will be out in the world shortly, making decisions that will highly impact the next generation. They are in need of the tools to make the changes. Hip-Hop deserves the respect and attention it once had, and there is the need to hold those participants of the culture accountable for its condition.

What are your hopes for future hip-hop conferences at HU?
My hopes are for them to continue to grow and impact more and more people. People have relayed to me their appreciation for this past event and how it was knowledgeable yet entertaining and felt a part of the conversation. The planning for next year is already on the way. This year I have met a great deal of people that are excited for next year and seek to help in the future. I want this conference to get to the magnitude where people from all parts of the country and world will seek to attend.

What impact do colleges have on hip-hop culture and lyrics, and how do you want to make an impact with this annual conference?
As previously stated, colleges have a greater responsibility and influence on the culture as it is the arena where the conversations are had formally and informally. Just like any other art form, hip-hop, too, can and is studied at major universities (usually PWIs) yet we rarely as HBCUs have a long-standing conversation. Yes, there are summits, symposiums, and conferences, but those are usually once a year if at all. This is something that needs to be talked about not just when it is controversial. It is a part of one's culture even if they feel they do not listen or care for hip-hop. If people were to understand its history and its purpose, there would be a greater appreciation.

Gianina Thompson