Hip Hop in the Heartland Training Institute is July 5-11

The 11th Annual Hip Hop in the Heartland Educator and Community Leader Training will be held on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus July 5-11.

Each summer, UW-Madison’s Office of Multicultural Arts Initiatives (OMAI) teams up with Urban Word NYC to offer educators and community leaders a week-long program to learn the best practices in hip hop and spoken word pedagogy. The Institute brings together the leading educators, professors, emcees and activists utilizing the media of spoken word, hip hop, and urban arts as relevant, dynamic and necessary educational tools to engage students across multi-disciplinary curricula. Day-long sessions follow themes to strengthen participants’ knowledge and provide the tools to engage the 21stcentury classroom. Each day wraps up with Write, Reflect and Build sessions where participants interact with the lesson planning process and build their own curricula that engage literacy, critical thinking and creative writing.

Hip Hop in the Heartland draws from educational theories such as socio-cultural theory, culturally relevant pedagogy, critical race theory, and hip hop and social justice pedagogies, to help educators and community leaders connect hip hop as both an art form and an instructional tool to improve the academic success of students who remain marginalized in our schools.

Participants learn proven, hands-on techniques to develop lesson plans and strengthen their course study, as well as create a platform from which they will understand the scope of hip hop history, culture and politics. Evening programming consists of an all-star cast who will synthesize the day trainings with effective strategies and cutting-edge multicultural educational approaches.

Hip Hop in the Heartland is specifically designed for classroom teachers, administrators, guidance counselors, school personnel, community educators, college educators, community leaders, education students, hip hop and spoken word educators and practitioners, and anyone committed to social justice and urban education. Participants will gain a better understanding of the scope of hip-hop history, culture, and politics. Plan to:

• Discover the best practices in hip hop and spoken word pedagogy;
• Learn skills to better reach and mentor your students;
• Improve academic achievement, reduce behavior issues and energize your classroom;
• Get practical strategies for increasing participation and building community;
• Meet new colleagues and enjoy UW-Madison’s beautiful campus.

Click the link below for a detailed schedule including workshop description: 2016 ​HHH Schedule and Workshop Descriptions

There will be a number of rooms available at the Lowell Center (located a few blocks away from the event site).  Rooms can be reserved online by using the following link: HHH Room Reservations Rooms can also be reserved by calling the Lowell Center at (608) 256-2621 and using the group code “Hip Hop.” The standard room rate is $98 per night. Public school employees may qualify for a reduced rate. When you call to reserve your room, ask the person taking your reservation if any “state rate” rooms are available.

Individual Registration: $400

Group Registration (5-9): $350

Group Registration (10+): $325

This year’s 5-day institute will include the following educators:

Michael Cirelli Michael Cirelli, an accomplished poet and the Executive Director of Urban word NYC, a grassroots non-profit organization that provides free writing and performance opportunities to NYC teens. The organization has really expanded since 2004, when Michael first joined it. It now works in over 100 schools and serves 15,000 youth a year. Cirelli is an writer, educator and arts administrator. He is the author of four acclaimed collections of poetry, two award-winning curricula, and his work and writings have been featured on a range of both local and national media news outlets, including HBO, CNN, and elsewhere. Michael is the co-founder of Street Smart Press, and teaches courses on critical literacy and hip-hop education at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Education. As the Executive Director of Urban Word NYC, Michael manages the organization’s financial development and strategic growth.

Toni Blackmon Toni Blackman,  an international champion of hip-hop culture, known for the irresistible, contagious energy of her performances and for her alluring female presence. An award-winning artist, her steadfast work and commitment to hip-hop led the U.S. Department of State to select her to work as the first ever hip-hop artist to work as an American Cultural Specialist. She has already served in Senegal, Ghana, Botswana, and Swaziland where her residencies include performance, workshops, and lectures on hip hop music and culture. Her first book, Inner-Course was released in 2003 (Villard/Random House).  Highly respected as the founder and director of Freestyle Union, a cipher workshop that uses free styling as a tool to encourage social responsibility, Blackman’s work has held great influence in the world of hip hop activism.

This former Echoing Green Fellow has also been a fellow with the Open Society Institute. Toni most recent efforts involved the Freestyle Union initiative I Rhyme Like A Girl which is run in partnership with the New School University’s Institute for Urban Education. Toni has done an extensive amount of work with the Girl Scouts of America and was instrumental in launching “The Girls Hip Hop Project” at the Center for Cultural Exchange in Portland, Maine (a program that provides workshops for teen girls from the Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea and many other places). Her latest efforts are as a teaching artist at Brooklyn Communication Arts & Media High School (BCAM) where she teaches “The Art of Emceeing”.

Blackman is a member of the Spoken Word Committee of the New York Chapter of the Recording Academy (a.k.a. The Grammy’s). Also, AOL BlackVoices named Toni as one of the top ten African-American Next Generation Leaders to watch. Toni is a Creative Consultant for Sesame Workshop’s “The New Electric Company” and is recording new music for her debut album.

Thee_Eagle_Nebula_1_1236207484 Born and raised in Inglewood, California, Eagle Nebula claims the planet as her stomping grounds. Currently residing in Brooklyn, NY, she has performed throughout France, Ghana, West Africa, and the United States. Those who have experienced her energy live, or on recording can attest to fact that she is pure Cosmic Power! Described on Okayplayer.com as “spaced out and down to earth,” Eagle Nebula is a force of nature headed for the heart of Hip-Hop. In the fall of 2008, she released her critically acclaimed debut album “Cosmic Headphones” on the Epistrophik Peach Sound/Groove Attack label. She has shared the stage with Pharoah Monch, Dead Prez, Brand Nubian,Smiff and Wesson, Styles P, Black Thought, Bahamadia, Ursula Rucker, Pete Rock, J-Live and many more.

Better Bettina Love Bettina L. Love is an award-winning author and Associate Professor of Educational Theory & Practice at the University of Georgia. Her research focuses on the ways in which urban youth negotiate Hip Hop music and culture to form social, cultural, and political identities to create new and sustaining ways of thinking about urban education and social justice. She also concentrates on transforming urban classrooms through the use of non-traditional educational curricula and classroom structures. Recently, Dr. Love was named the Nasir Jones Fellow at the W. E. B. Du Bois Research Center at Harvard University. She will begin her fellowship at Harvard in the Spring of 2016, where she will develop a multimedia Hip Hop civics curriculum for middle to high school students. She is one of the field’s most esteemed educational researchers in the area of Hip Hop education for elementary aged students. She is the founder of Real Talk: Hip Hop Education for Social Justice, an after school initiative aimed at teaching elementary students the history and elements of Hip Hop for social justice aligned with core subjects through project-based learning.

Finally, she is the author of Hip Hop’s Li’l Sistas Speak: Negotiating Hip Hop Identities and Politics in the New South. Her work has appeared in numerous books and journals, including the English Journal, Urban Education, The Urban Review, and Journal of LGBT Youth. She is currently editing a special issue of the Journal of Lesbian Studies focused on the identities, gender performances, and pedagogical practices of Black and Brown lesbian educators.

Donald Sawyer Donald Sawyer is a faculty member in the Department of Sociology at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conneticut, where he teaches courses on sociology, race, the sociology of education, and sociology of hip-hop culture. His research includes urban education, visual sociology, youth culture, hip-hop culture, qualitative methods, and youth critical media literacy.

Born and raised in New York City, he grew up in Harlem in the Abraham Lincoln Housing Projects.  “Growing up in the projects had its ups and downs, but if I had a chance to start all over, I wouldn’t change a thing! If it wasn’t for the support of my Harlem community, I would not be where I am today.” A first generation college student, Sawyer asks the following question of himself and others: “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?”

As an educator, he strives  to create an atmosphere that engages, excites, and inspires students where knowledge is co-produced through facilitation and finding ways for students to become motivated about understanding the complexities of the social world. Sawyer’s Crossroads Collective was developed using hip-hop culture to (re)engage Black and Latino males with school.

mdiaz Martha Diaz is a community organizer, educator, media producer, archivist and social entrepreneur. She has been dedicated to advancing social justice, cultivating leaders and artists, and mentoring youth for over 15 years. She was a production assistant for the late Ted Demme, the TV and film producer/director behind Yo! MTV Raps (1988), Life (1999), Blow (2001) and A Decade Under the Influence (2003). In 1999, Diaz produced and directed, H2O [Hip-Hop Odyssey], a short documentary on the evolution and global impact of Hip-Hop culture. In 2002, Diaz formed the H2O International Film Festival and subsequently developed the Hip-Hop Association [H2A]. For seven years, Diaz served as president and executive director of the H2A; she is currently its chair. Diaz launched H2ONewsreel, the first Hip-Hop media distribution label dedicated to the education field, in collaboration with Third World Newsreel. Diaz co-created and edited the Hip-Hop Education Guidebook Series with Marcella Runell Hall. In 2008, she launched the Womanhood Learning Projectas an intervention strategy to empower women in Hip-Hop, and she is the editor of the forthcoming book, Fresh, Bold and So Def: Women In Hip-Hop Changing The Game, with Dr. Irma McClaurin and Dr. Rachel Raimist. As a resident of NJPAC’s Alternate Routes Residency Program, Diaz developed the Ladies First Fund, the first micro-grant for women social entrepreneurs. As a 2008 NYU Gallatin Graduate student and a Catherine B. Reynolds Fellow, she founded the Hip-Hop Education Center for Research, Evaluation and Training, in partnership with Dr. Pedro Noguera of the Metropolitan Center for Urban Education at NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Behavior.

Brian Mooney Brian Mooney is an educator, scholar, and poet from New Jersey. He explores the intersections of hip-hop, spoken word, literacy, and urban education. Brian holds a bachelor’s degree in English Education from New York University and is currently studying in a graduate program at Teachers College, Columbia University.
His research examines the identities of young writers who participate in high school poetry slams and considers the effects of hip-hop culture on teaching and learning. In 2013 and 2014, Brian was invited to present his work at the Preemptive Education Conference in New York City. He is the founder of Word Up, a high school poetry slam that champions the voices of youth poets and MCs in Hudson County. The event has featured guest poets and teaching artists from across the country, including Andrea Gibson, Sarah Kay, Jon Sands, Angel Nafis, Shira Erlichman, Ken Arkind, and Rudy Francisco.

Schedule and Workshop Descriptions


Building the Cypher: Reimagining Community & Pedagogy

8-9 am Registration
9-10:30 am Hip-Hop, Youth Development and Institute Welcome with Michael Cirelli
11 am – 1 pm The Power of Freestyle with Toni Blackman
2 – 3:30 pm The DIY Superhero – Creating Personal Myth with Eagle Nebula James
(Cohort – Urban Word); and Imagining Matters: Hip Hop Civics Ed, Intersectionality & Black Joy
(Cohort – First Wave)
4 – 5:30 pm DIY Superhero (Cohort – First Wave); Hip Hop Civics Ed (Cohort – Urban Word)


Building a Framework for Critical Literacy & Hip-Hop Education

10 am – 12 pm The Cypher, the Circle and its Wisdom with Toni Blackman
1 – 3:00 pm Mind Movies: Writing with Imagery and Metaphor with Eagle Nebula James
3:30 – 5:30 pm Difficult Knowledge: When a Black Feminist Educator Was Too Afraid to #SayHerName with
Dr. Bettina Love (Cohort – Urban Word); and What Do You Mean When You Say I’m Rebelious?
Developing a Hip-Hop Program to Reach Black and Latino Males on the Verge of Dropping Out
with Dr. Donald C. Sawyer (Cohort – First Wave)
7 pm Institute Social Mixer


Social Justice & Radical Storytelling, and Developing Responsive Hip-Hop Curricula
9:30 –11:30 am Difficult Knowledge (Cohort – First Wave); Say I’m Rebellious? (Cohort – Urban Word)
12:30 -2:30 pm Pimping Butterflies & Teaching Stars: From Toni Morrison to Kendrick Lamar with Brian Mooney
3:00 -5 pm Step Your Game Up: Teaching Sociology (and other subjects) through the Art of the Hip-Hop
Rap Battle with Dr. Donald C. Sawyer


Radical Pedagogies and Possibilities
10 – 12:00 pm Hip-Hop Trails: A Replicable Digital Humanities Model with Martha Diaz (Cohort – Urban Word);
and Breakbeat Pedagogy: Hip-Hop and Spoken Word Beyond the Classroom Walls with
Brian Mooney (Cohort – First Wave)
1 – 3 pm Hip-Hop Trails (Cohort – First Wave); and Breakbeat Pedagogy (Cohort – Urban Word)
3 – 5 pm Hip-Hop Communiversity: A 21st Century Teaching, Learning and Management System
with Martha Diaz
7 pm Institute Open Mic


Unearthing the Narratives and w/Rap Up!
10 – 11:30 am Moving Past Metaphors: Curriculum, Resources and the History of Hip-Hop Ed with Michael Cirelli
12 – 1 pm Institute W/Rap Up & Closing Cypher