The Fifth Element: A Two-Day Global Symposium and Think Tank

by Casey Philip Wong, in collaboration with H. Samy Alim and Jeff Chang


On November 8th and 9th, Stanford University’s Institute for Diversity in the Arts (IDA) will host an international community of scholars, artists, and educators for a ground-breaking symposium, “The 5th Element: The Future and Promise of Hip Hop Pedagogy.” The free and public two-day global symposium and think tank takes place at the Graduate School of Business Common. Attendees will collectively engage in intellectual inquiry to discuss the future and promise of Hip Hop pedagogy as a growing academic field, and as a social justice-based, global educational movement.

Flier for The Fifth Element Hip Hop Pedagogy Symposium and Think Tank

The symposium begins with UCLA Professor H. Samy Alim and IDA Executive Director Jeff Chang, who will frame the breadth and importance of Hip Hop pedagogy in this current political and educational moment. Dr. Alim will theorize Hip Hop in relation to Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy and host a screening and dialogue of the critically-acclaimed, South African Hip Hop documentary Afrikaaps, along with a featured performer in the film, the legendary Hip Hop artist and educator, Emile YX? of Black Noise and Heal the Hood in Cape Town, South Africa.

The Keynote Panel will offer a discussion with world-renowned Hip Hop feminists: Joan Morgan, Brittney Cooper, Treva Lindsey and Kaila Story. They will discuss how Hip Hop feminism is rigorously pushing Hip Hop toward liberation—pedagogically, epistemologically, and ethically—in ways that offer implications for how we teach young women and girls, specifically, and future directions for Hip Hop educators and scholars, more generally.

Student participants at hip hop pedagogy symposium

The first day will also feature four simultaneous workshops with leading Hip Hop artists, educators and scholars to share their scholarship and dynamic teaching practices with youth. A featured panel, “Exploring the Past, Present and Future of Indigenous Hip Hop Pedagogy,” facilitated by Tim San Pedro, will highlight the groundbreaking indigenous educators and artists of the Dream Warriors (Tanaya Winder, Tall Paul, Frank Waln and Mic Jordan) whose work bears testament to how Hip Hop pedagogy is transforming the lives of indigenous youth. Other featured workshops will be offered by the co-founders of the award-winning Hip Hop organization operating out of Chicago, Kuumba Lynx; Bay Area teaching artist Itoco Garcia-Davenport and elementary school principal Elliot Gann; and Keith Cross, a freestyle lyricist, scholar and teaching artist, who will feature an innovative, interactive presentation of expert freestyle lyricists’ neurological processing of rhyme.

Classroom image of hip hop pedagogy symposium

While thinking globally, the symposium will also highlight how scholars and organizers are acting locally. The IDA Arts and Education Project, presented by Casey Philip Wong, Measha Ferguson Smith, Adorie Howard and Reagan Ross, will share their research findings on the Hip Hop arts ecosystem in East Palo Alto, California and offer a new frame for understanding the impact of Hip Hop pedagogy by exploring the work of an exemplary community-based Hip Hop organization led by Executive Director Tefferi Mogus Brook, the Music Mural and Arts Project (MMAP), and a performing arts program within a public charter high school, East Palo Alto Academy (EPAA), led by teacher Andy Robinson. The presentation will feature performances, scholarly debate, and open dialogue with audience members.

Day two offers a rare opportunity for debate and discussion among educators, artists and scholars making use of Hip Hop pedagogy to teach youth. The gathering will center practitioners and praxis. Co-presented with the Hip Hop Education Center, the “Think Tank IV: It’s Yours! Sustaining and Reimagining Our Movement” will open with networking and youth performances before launching into two hours of facilitated conversations led by Youth Speaks’ Michelle Lee. Gabriel “Asheru” Benn, Adia Winfrey, Martha Diaz, Melina Jones, Allegra Gilfenbaum, Rahman Jamaal and Sam Seidel will engage in critical exchanges around the best practices and needs of teaching artists. The conversation will present the Hip Hop Education Center Platform, a digital interface developed to support and sustain the collaboration of Hip Hop teaching artists from around the world.

To register: diversityarts.stanford.edu/5ESymposium

*IDA would like to acknowledge the Surdna Foundation, whose generous support has allowed us to explore Hip Hop pedagogies over the last four years and to host this convening.


Casey Philip Wong is a PhD Candidate in the Race, Inequality, and Language in Education Program at Stanford University and Assistant Investigator for the IDA Arts and Education Project. He is also Founding Director of the TRIUMPH After-School Program, which utilizes critical feminisms, hip-hop and martial arts to mentor, inspire and empower youth.

H. Samy Alim is the David O. Sears Presidential Endowed Chair in the Social Sciences at UCLA and Jeff Chang is Executive Director of IDA at Stanford University. They are the series editors for UC Press’ new Hip Hop Studies Series.