If I had to use songs to teach a lesson, I would use Kendrick Lamar’s new album “To Pimp A Butterfly.” This album can probably be compared to the influence of Lauryn Hill’s “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” without much criticism or hate. To be honest, I am still breaking down this album so I’m not quite sure what my lesson plan would entail beyond the current socioeconomic and political condition of the black community from the perspective of a young black man. Lets be honest, the perspective alone is enough reason to teach. Kendrick is from Compton, CA and has a very interesting way of criticizing the governments role in the oppression of black people and black people role “in their own demise.” I’m not saying I completely agree with all of his opinions and his stance, but I think the complexities of his songs and viewpoints would call for very intriguing conversations. This album would also be a great tool to compare “hip hop then and now.” A lot of people criticized hip hop for “dying off” but there are a particular group of rappers of this “younger generation” (maybe 4 to 5 tops) who argue that hip hop is very much alive. I will not list these artists because I am not interested in debating anyone about who belongs and who doesn’t. 🙂 It is however, interesting that Kendrick is often listed in this top 5 rappers and he does not consider himself a rapper. Kendrick is a complex artist and he creates impeccable and intriguing music and I think this 16 track album would be great to use as a text book.
Walter Fisher is a professor of Communication Arts and Sciences at the University of South Carolina and author of Human Communication as Narration. Within this text, Fisher explains that “narration” means the words used and actions taken by individuals that are symbols that are given meaning by those who interpret them. He believes that everyone, by nature, is a story teller, and their individual stories all contribute to the larger story of mankind. Fisher created the “Narrative Paradigm,” which is a theory that utilizes his belief that everyone is a storyteller and claims that all significant communication is a form of storytelling. The Narrative Paradigm has five main components: nature, belief and behavior, culture, rationality, and choice. Through these five factors of the Narrative Paradigm, Fisher concludes that people communicate for good reason, and that all people communicate in narrative. The Walter Fisher Narrative Paradigm is applicable to individuals and is evident in different aspects of our history that utilizes social communication for social change. The remainder of this blog will explain how Fisher’s Narrative Paradigm is related to slavery, the civil rights movement, hip hop, and social media.
According to Fisher, everyone is a storyteller by nature, so therefore stories were being told since the first person walked the planes of Africa (considering that is where the oldest human remains were found). Learning early African history, I learned of griots, or historians that educated people and kept traditions by telling elaborate stories. The griots would tell tales of cultural traditions, moral lessons, historical figures and more. Often times these stories would be embellished for entertainment purposes and left up to the listener to discern the lessons. Dance, song and cultural artifacts were also used as methods to tell stories of a people prior to, during and after enslavement. Enslaved African women would wear shells or beaded jewelry that would trace their journey back to their homeland. Enslaved people would use drum cadence to communicate with each other in the presence of plantation owners and would utilize a style of fighting disguised as dance to teach each other self-defense. Simply surviving the horrid conditions of slavery and consistently asserting their humanity and redefining their identity, enslaved people embodied the nature aspect of the Narrative Paradigm.
The second component to the Walter Fisher Narrative Paradigm is beliefs and behaviors. The Civil Rights movement is probably the best sector of our history that perpetuates this aspect of Fisher’s theory. This portion of Fisher’s theory is a little ambiguous because he says that beliefs and behaviors are based on good reason, and his definition of good reason is circular. What is “good” or not is subjective. Even though now people can look back on the Civil Rights Movement and see that it was a “good” thing, during the moment there were many who would disagree. It was illegal for the people that we now consider to be heroes, to stand against their government and demand that they be recognized as citizens.
Fisher says that culture and rationality, two other components of the Narrative Paradigm, are the basis for “good reason.” He recognizes that culture and rationality varies by individual and therefore “good reason” is subjective. Culture is a collective of art, beliefs, history, morals, knowledge and much more that is a major aspect of what it means to be human. Considering the knowledge that black people during the 1950s knew about their history, it can be said that although illegal, they acted in “good reason” to fight for their civil liberties. These actions not only created a story during that time period, but has contributed to the story of this nation.
Culture combined with rationality are very evident in hip hop. Hip hop is a black art form that is based on storytelling. Graffiti, break dancing, DJing, and emceeing are the four performance aspects of hip hop and are definitely all forms of narration. Hip Hop was birthed out of the struggle for civil rights. It provided a voice and platform for an oppressed people to tell their stories and share their experiences. The rationality aspect of Walter Fisher’s Narrative Paradigm means that the narratives, or stories, must “ring true.” Because Hip Hop was born as a way for black people to discuss their current life conditions. Hip hop is sad to be one of the only politically conscious genres of music. Unfortunately, in recent history some Hip Hop artists have received criticism because their narratives have not be “ringing true.” Some people are guilty of perpetuating and image and narrative that is not their reality as a means of being accepted by and profiting from the culture.
The final aspect of the Walter Fisher Narrative Paradigm is choice. By choice, Fisher means that it is up to people to determine whether or not they accept a story as trust worthy, so participates in the Hip Hop culture, which is in fact, black culture, have every right to reject “false prophets.” This aspect of choice also relates to social media because we are able to discern who we wish to be connected with and whose narratives we wish to be exposed to, believe and accept. With the horrible representation of black people via mainstream media, the black Twitter community has flourished as a platform for black people’s narratives to be told. This is probably my most active form of storytelling. Twitter and other social media networks allow individuals to immediately produce their narratives and interact easily with other people’s narratives simultaneously.
I relate to Walter Fisher’s Narrative Paradigm for many reasons. I, for one, am a human capable of communication, therefore I am a story teller by nature. I am an aspiring scholar that learns the stories of those who have come before me and am actively replicating their stories. I interact with history, interpret history and take action in my present to evoke change in the future. What I believe and how I behave is linked to my love of my culture and the knowledge that I have of my ancestors. I discern the information that I am presented with, and decide for myself what I willing to accept as true. As I create my story via my own art or social media, I remain true to myself so that my story will “ring true” to those who interact with it. Walter Fisher’s Narrative Paradigm is applicable to individuals and larger social movements that utilized social communication for change.
I think it’s interesting when people can’t imagine a world, or an America, without social media. When I think of what the world would be like without social media, I automatically go to my childhood. I grew up in the 90s. I remember the first time I used a computer. It was a desktop apple computer with a green screen and used floppy disks. I remember dial up internet and not being able to use the house phone (landline) and the internet at the same time. I even remember rotary phones. I’ve lived through the evolution of music. My grandparents had a record player. I personally had a cassette player, a cd player, a mp3 player, an iPod and now all my music is on my iPhone. I remember when media consisted of television shows, news networks, and printed media such as newspapers and magazines. Life without Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the plethora of other social media sites is not hard for me to imagine. I think it is interesting that people find it hard to fathom a social life without the aid and hindrance of the internet.
The criticisms of Hip Hop in the name of feminism frustrates me. I think “the degradation of women” is probably the most popular critique that Hip Hop receives. The degradation of any person, no matter how they identify is a problem and it should be addressed properly. People speak on Hip Hop as if the artists were the people who created the words “bitch,” “hoe,” etc. Women have been called derogatory terms way before Hip Hop was ever invented. It just frustrates me when society blames blackness for so many of the negative issues in the world when in fact, majority of the world’s problems spawned from whiteness and white supremacy. I’m not saying that blackness or Hip Hop is above criticism, I’m just saying that the criticism cannot start nor end there. Hip Hop is a genre of music that was created as a way for black people to speak on their everyday life. If within their everyday life women, particularly black women, are being degraded, hyper sexualized and etc, then artists are staying true to themselves when they speak in the same manner. I think that the degradation of black women has become normalized. Maybe Hip Hop can create better examples by going against the norm and uplifting black women in their music (as some artists already do) but I don’t think that it would have a huge impact on the larger society. The discussion of feminism has always been a challenging one for me because there are so many different forms of feminism and I am still trying to figure out which one I ascribe to. I am still trying to accept the fact that my blackness and my womanhood are not separate entities.
Why riot? Why loot? Why violence?
When I first heard the topic of this blog post I was upset, and to be honest I am still not too fond of it. I feel as if this blog topic is asking the wrong questions. Why not ask instead: “Why oppress? Why brutalize? Why state sanctioned violence?” I think this blog post, just like main stream media in times of protest, are focusing on the wrong things. Why is it that when a black teenager was murdered by a police officer in Ferguson and his body was allowed to lay out in the sun for four hours, main stream media decides it’s more important to focus on the community’s reaction versus the loss of life? Why is it that the burning buildings, or stolen products get more media coverage and are grieved for more than a black teenager? This reaction to an unjust act is trivial in my opinion. Material things can be replaced but that mother will never have her son again. I think that there is a reason why media focuses on property over black life and why a community in rage may choose to burn down buildings. Historically, black people have been defined as and viewed as property in America. Blackness is objectified and not seen as human. If you live in a society that has always compared you to property, and you feel as if your life is not valued as a human life, then why not destroy the property that is seen as valuable when your life’s value is being overlooked? I am in no way condoning theft, and I do believe that there were some people who simply took advantage of the situation, however the fact remains that media preferred to discuss “looting” rather than the murder of an unarmed black teenager. I think media and society as a whole would rather paint the image of out of control and criminal black people instead of an emotional reaction by an outraged community to continued oppression, brutalization and state sanctioned violence.
“My world it moves so fast today
The past it seems so far away
And life squeezes so tight that I can’t breathe
And every time I try to be, what someone else has thought of me
So caught up, I wasn’t able to achieve
But deep in my heart, the answer it was in me
And I made up my mind to define my own destiny
I look at my environment
And wonder where the fire went
What happened to everything we used to be
I hear so many cry for help
Searching outside of themselves
Now I know his strength is within me
And deep in my heart, the answer it was in me
And I made up my mind to define my own destiny”
The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill – Lauryn Hill
I interpret “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” from Lauryn Hill’s album of the same title as a spiritual journey of self-discovery and realization. It is about examining oneself and coming to the conclusion that you may have been living life according to others standards and recognizing that your definition of self may have come from someone else. It is about self-empowerment and being the creator of your own destiny. These are the lessons that I’ve learned from this song. I believe that self-definition is the key to self-empowerment. A word with no definition is non-existent so giving someone or something else the power to define who you are is essentially giving them/that the power over your existence. I don’t wish to give anyone or anything that much power over me, anymore. This song and these lessons are relevant to my experiences at UVA because I came to these realizations while sitting in on my first AAS course. I realized that I didn’t really know who I was, or my history. AAS has given me cultural confidence, historical knowledge, and the ability to define who I am.
I’m tired. Im not the type to romanticize struggle so when I say “this is not what I want to be doing,” please believe me. This is not fun. This is not enjoyable. This is necessary. I feel like I am fighting for my life because I see a larger picture. I recognize the many intersections of race, class and gender of the “incident” that occurred on The Corner a week ago. I see how the current culture of UVa is simply a reflection of the toxic society that we are all a part of. I know that my fight is beyond UVa, but I know that UVa is an institution that needs someone to fight against it. I’m not sure if UVa is worth my energy but I am positive that the people that marched, protested, planned alongside me since all of this began, is definitely worth my energy. I’m not sure what will come out of this particular struggle, but seeing Black people at UVa come together and mobilize for a cause has touched me in a very special way. At the beginning of this semester my biggest critique of this university was a lack of Black community. I’m a Black Woman. I am accustomed to combating or simply surviving in a racist environment. I am not accustomed to fighting for survival without the support of other Black people. I was prepared to leave this place because I did not think I had anything to stay and fight for. Now that I can walk these grounds and see Black people engage in conversation, smile and wave at each other, acknowledge each other consistently…now that I can see a Black community here, i feel as if I have something to stay for. So, to my fellow Black students, no matter the negative experiences you still may have here, no matter the outcome of this particular fight, know that you have accomplished something to be proud of. You have forged a community and grown closer and stronger during a time that could have broken you. Be proud.
Examine the film as a work of art and political expression
“This is England” is a work of art because it is a film. The storyline follows the life of a little boy, Shaun as he engages with different friend groups and learns to cope with the death of his father. Throughout the film there are different songs that play that really capture the emotions of the scenes. In the beginning and the end of the film there are clips of what seem to be “real life” footage of certain events. Every aspect of the film is a work of art which is why I think film is probably the most complex form of art. It combines storytelling/narration with visual representation and musical soundtrack to allow the viewer to become invested in the life of the characters.
This film is a political expression for multiple reasons. I think all art is political because to simply exist is to make some statement and political stance. Beyond simply being art, the film is political because of its content surrounding the Falkland War. Shaun’s father was a soldier who died in the war. Shaun befriends a “skinhead” Combo who is very anti-war and identifies himself as a “nationalist.” Issues regarding the war, immigration, race relations and socio-economics are discussed during the film, although the primary focus was on Shaun’s journey.
How Does Film / TV Differ From Reality
Films and Television shows can bring a sense of realism to its viewers. In fact, they can literally be shot ‘live’ technically deeming the production ‘reality’. However, most films and TV shows are reenactments of someone’s ideas, or of past events. Even when productions are historically based, they usually add more dramatic elements and ‘spice up’ the story to increase play time and bring the viewers a screenplay thats enjoyable.
Since the film ‘This Is England’ is based off the childhood of writer and director, Shane Meadows, you would assume that most events placed in the film are accurate. However, you have no sure way of knowing for sure. In fact, there are a few scene I have speculation to be false. For example, the scenes in which he dates a woman seemingly twice his age, is unbelievable. Even though this is my clear opinion, the reality aspect is, if those actions are true, they would be illegal in America. This concept of a minor dating an adult is not traditional in my culture. The movie takes place in England, and I am unfamiliar with those traditions.
Another way films and TV differ from reality is the fact that it is all scripted and life is not. When you can tell whats going to happen next in a production, that is less likely in reality. The best productions are the ones that keep you guessing.
When asked how I can expand my network, I immediately ask “Which one?” Personal, social, professional and social-media networking are very different for me. On a personal level, I am not the type to try and extend that network very much. I am very selective on who I spend majority of my time with and who I build intimate relationships with. I am a guarded person, in a sense, and I am very protective of my energy and space.
I am a lot more lenient in social networking, as in community or engaging in social settings. I think feeling a sense of community is important. I am naturally an introvert and recluse, so I “force” myself to attend more social settings in order to build a stronger and larger social network. I say “force” because it is not second nature for me to desire the company of others, but I know it is important and I always enjoy it when I do. Getting involved in organizations, starting your own organizations, seeking out events to attend are all ways that I think can help build and grow social networks.
Professional networking is a tad bit different for me. Currently I don’t even feel as if this network exists for me, and if it does, it is combined with the social-media network. I am unemployed for the first time in years and I am enjoying it. (Lol) I am completely content with the state of this network. But, if other unemployed people are interested in building there professional network, they can join professional sites like LinkedIn. There are also professional/academic organizations that a person could join to expand this network.
Social-media networking is probably the first type of network that people think of when the question of expanding networks is asked. How many followers do you have? I hate the concept, but I enjoy social-media. I have a Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and just started running two blogs on WordPress. I have a love hate relationship with social-media though. I am currently contemplating deactivating my Facebook. I do this every year or so. Sometimes I feel overly exposed on and engaged in social-media and just want to unplug. But to build a stronger social-media network the first thing I did was brand myself. All of my social-media handles are the same. This makes it easier for “followers” on different outlets to find you easier. I also pay attention to what my “followers” “like” most from my interaction with them. For instance, a lot of my Twitter followers like when I go on “rants” so I decided to make a blog. They’ve seemed to enjoy it so far. I’m still trying to figure out the social-media networking and I hope to one day make this a form of my professional network.
If I could render any advice to people on building their networks, I’d suggest they separate the different types of networks and figure out their goals for each one. See where they may overlap, which networks actually need to be stronger and then allocate their energy accordingly. As a person who enjoys spending time by myself, all aspects of networking is a little forced, but I’m growing to enjoy expanding my “bubble.”