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In this week’s edition of Rap Sessions, NewsOne contributor Bakari Kitwana speaks with Dr. William Patterson about a new hip-hop and civic studies project modeled after the early 1900s Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver’s Jessup Agricultural Wagon. Whereas Washington and Carver brought Tuskegee University via a horse-drawn wagon to sharecroppers in the South, Patterson’s In Search of Hip-Hop Express brings civic studies from the University of Illinois Urban Champaign to Black youth around the US through a mobile airstream trailer retro-fitted with the latest technology.

Hip-hop Express teaches Black youth civic engagement and community-building while investigating and archiving the Black experience from a hip-hop perspective.  Patterson emphasizes here that his focus is to engage descendents of the sharecroppers: “Booker T Washington believed if sharecroppers were better educated about finance and the science and technology of agriculture then it would improve their quality of life.”

“Sharecroppers often worked seven days a week and had little free time—so Washington believed Tuskegee should go to them,” Patterson says, “One of the ways universities can engage urban youth today is to use technology and other educational tools, along with aesthetics of the city and hip-hop to be the engaging point to inspire community transformation. Our new crop that we have to cultivate is actually the young people in our community. If we provide the right science and appropriate media and technology they then become the stewards of the Black experience and contribute to that legacy.”

The creator of In Search of Hip-Hop Express, William Patterson is the founder and co-director of Youth Media Workshop. He teaches educational policy at the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign.

Bakari Kitwana is CEO of Rap Sessions, Editor at Large of Newsone.com and author of the forthcoming Hip-Hop Activism in the Obama Era. (Third World Press, 2011)

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