Philly hip-hop artist returns back to school to share the importance of African American studies

Former students and current hip-hop artists talked to teachers about the importance of African American studies.

African American studies teacher Ismael Jimenez hosts ''Rhythms of Resilience: Philly School Alumni on Hip-Hop, Africana Studies, and Self-Discovery.'' (Courtesy of School District of Philadelphia)

African American studies teacher Ismael Jimenez hosts ''Rhythms of Resilience: Philly School Alumni on Hip-Hop, Africana Studies, and Self-Discovery.'' (Courtesy of School District of Philadelphia)

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Hip-hop music is celebrating 50 years, and since its inception the impact it’s had on a generation has been never-ending.

Since it first began, the genre has always been a way to allow young people to speak their minds and express their creativity. It makes an impact on the lives of everyone it touches. From inspiring a generation of rappers, to encouraging youth to speak freely about their lives, circumstances, and experiences.

Hip-hop has also held a special place in the School District of Philadelphia, as many students have graduated and succeeded as major artists in the music industry.

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This past weekend the school district demonstrated how hip-hop and African American studies intertwine.

The district’s Office of Curriculum and Instruction hosted the Africana Studies Lecture and Workshop Series.

The event “Rhythms of Resilience: Philly School Alumni on Hip-Hop, Africana Studies, and Self-Discovery” was held virtually for teachers across the district to attend and ask questions via Zoom.

African American studies teacher Ismael Jimenez hosted the panel that included former students and current hip-hop artists Starr Skii and MTM Flow.

Both attended Kensington Creative & Performing Arts High School and say their hip-hop music careers stemmed from what they learned in Jimenez’s African American studies class.

Flow recalled, “I had a lot of pride coming out of that classroom,” and says he channeled his experiences and pride into his music.

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“It taught me how to have self-respect, confidence, pride; inspiration for me to change the world.”

Philadelphia hip-hop artist MTM Flow. (Courtesy of School District of Philadelphia)

The class gave Skii the confidence to rap and overcome the insecurities she felt in high school.

Skii shared that she often felt that she wasn’t attractive among other minorities at her school.  But that all changed because of her African American History class.

“I feel like I had a lot of pride coming out of that classroom because I was a Black female in that school and just starting to date, and just starting to like people. And certain people … didn’t like me specifically, you know Puerto Ricans, people that’s not African American,” said Skii.

“It made me feel like, ‘Oh wow, I feel like I needed to have longer hair. I needed to look like this in order to be more attractive.’”

Philadelphia hip-hop artist Starr Skii. (Courtesy of School District of Philadelphia)

But Skii found her voice and her confidence through African American studies.

“It’s like no, I was made the way I was supposed to be made,” she said. “So I feel like I definitely walked out of there with a lot more love for myself and a lot more pride.”

For Flow, the class was life changing. He told the audience, including Jimenez, “You helped me change myself so the more I learned from you, being though I came from a bad background, and I always get misjudged by people (because of) how I look, how I carry myself. I don’t pay that no mind,” he said.

The district stated that the purpose of the lecture was to offer a professional development opportunity to support equity and enhance the African American History curriculum.  Next year will mark 25 years since the district made African American History a requirement for students’ graduation.

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