Hip-hop dance becomes a lesson for daughters


POSTED: Monday, June 08, 2009

On May 18, my 12-year-old daughter came home from school excited about a dance she was practicing for the sixth-grade class graduation hoolaulea at Keonepoko Elementary School, in Pahoa.

My daughter gives me a form that tells what song and dance the kids will perform. After reading, I realized the kids were going to perform to a hip-hop song, which was noted as the “;tootsie roll”; by 69Boys. Obviously I became perturbed at the notion for a few sound reasons, which I ended up voicing to school administrators the next morning.

First, my wife and I told my daughter that she would not be performing that song and dance. I proceeded to explain to my initially upset daughter why I (as her father and a man of African lineage) could not allow her to participate in that particular activity as it stood.

I then explained to her that the song was full of explicit connotations about sex and that it presented an image of young black and Latino women as sexual objects for young black and Latino males. We printed the actual lyrics of the song to read with her (she had not actually listened to all the lyrics), and pulled up the video for the song. I then explained line by line the meaning of the lyrics while we observed the video.

By this time my oldest daughter had come into the room and was listening too. So I continued to explain to my girls why the images were degrading to women and a perversion of real hip-hop. I told them that large corporations produce songs and videos that create images of blacks and Latinos and present it as hip-hop so that ignorant people will see those images as cool and try to emulate them.

I also explained (as I have done concerning our African-American culture and history) that hip-hop is a living thing, a movement of people, a culture of endurance, struggle and triumph. Hip-hop is the voice of the oppressed against the oppressors, the voice of those crushed into poverty and violence, the voice of those who's cultures and heritage have been stolen away, perverted and destroyed.

Hip-hop is the means by which Afro-Latino people have reached out to each other in every corner of the globe, and affected the cultures of other peoples in the process, which is why even some struggling middle-class and poor white people, Hawaiians, Asians and other peoples relate to hip-hop; why we relate to each other.

Apparently some teachers at the school who are teaching the dance do not agree with me and have let the other children know that a parent complained and the dance could be canceled, which we never requested, but has now put some pressure on my youngest daughter from her classmates. How compassionate of the teachers. But I am very proud our daughter for holding her own and standing up to the status quo at her age.

I love my children, but my concern is not just for my children. Like I said, hip-hop is about community, and that means all the community, because we are all in this struggle together for justice and equality. Without justice and equality there is no peace. Without peace there is no victory.

Talk to your children, and listen to them, because they are like meters and you can gauge the motion of society and the direction of culture by them. But don't be afraid to draw the line even if you have to buck the status quo to keep them on the balanced path.


Nick Osborne lives with his family in Keaau, Hawaii.