About Can't Stop Hip Hop
The Evolution of Hip Hop at HGSE
This year's conference is another important milestone in the ongoing history of Hip Hop at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE).
To be clear, Hip Hop is no stranger to Harvard University-- The Source Magazine was started here, Dr. Marcyliena Morgan runs The Hiphop Archive and Research Institute here, and there are numerous student clubs creating events around the music and dance.
Certified Hip Hop OGs and legends have been guest speakers at HGSE, and every year graduate students come to the school looking for and creating outlets to elevate the power and presence of Hip Hop in education. Yet, with all of that, there has been little documentation. In the 2018-19 schoolyear, HipHopEX Director, Aysha Upchurch, and HHEX Fellow, Ashley Hunker, collaborated to create a documentary to catalog the evidence of Hip Hop at HGSE.
Check out the film to see just how Hip Hop can't stop and won’t stop pushing the boundaries of education.
A Lab to EXperience Hip Hop Education
HipHopEX (HHEX) is the organizer and chief sponsor for the annual Can’t Stop Hip Hop conferences. It sees the annual event as a culmination of yearlong programming and an important gathering for youth and adults to experience the four principles of Hip Hop - peace, love, unity and having fun.
Following Aysha’s passion for Hip Hop and youth-centered spaces, she set out to create an initiative and institutional structure for graduate students with curiosity and/or experiences around Hip Hop education. Launched in the 2018-2019 school year through funding from the Dean’s Office at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, HHEX set out to create a lab experience for high school and graduate school students to meet and learn with and from each other. It is called a lab not because it happens in a controlled space, but because labs invite a spirit of collaboration, inquiry, and innovation -- and isn’t that what Hip Hop is?! Moreover, Hip Hop is inherently intergenerational, so all HHEX programming is intentional about bringing youth and adults together.
In its first year, lab participants gathered bi-weekly to gain deeper EXposure to Hip Hop and EXchange their creative genius through attending sessions that were facilitated by high school and graduate students, interacting with Hip Hop artists and educators from across the country, and co-designing community jams open to the Boston-Cambridge community.
In its second year, HHEX launched True Skool, a yearlong high school elective class for high school students to deepen their own understanding of Hip Hop culture while crafting individualized projects.
Follow us on social media and check out some of our videos.
About Aysha Upchurch
HHEX Founder & Director
The Dancing Diplomat
Aysha Upchurch, the Dancing Diplomat, is an artist and educator who creates, facilitates, and designs for radical change. She is a sought after performer, instructor and education consultant whose work sits at the nexus of youth advocacy, social justice, and transformative education. She has shared her experience and expertise about artfully designing equitable and culturally relevant classrooms, the importance of dance and movement in education, and embracing Hip Hop as a powerful literacy and lens in schooling at national conferences and most recently at TedxUConn. Aysha is currently on faculty at Harvard, where she teaches new courses on Hip Hop pedagogy and embodied learning, and launched HipHopEX - an intergenerational collaborative lab for high school and graduate students to explore Hop Hop arts in education. Whether on the stage or in a classroom, Aysha is an ambassador on how to be D.O.P.E. - dismantling oppression and pushing education.
2020 Can't Stop Hip Hop Committee
HHEX Programming Intern
Miss "I Stay Ready"
Armoni Edwards-Moody, a Southern Belle straight from Atlanta, GA, is a current student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education studying how to bring healing and hope to children of color through dance. She has had the privilege of serving as an intern for HipHopEX Lab this year and is excited to share in this moment of community with folks.
Parastoo Massoumi is a 2nd year PhD student in Education at Harvard University. She served as a Teaching Fellow for Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: Understanding & Embracing Hip Hop Education in Fall 2019 at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She fell in love with hip hop at the age of 4 when she first heard Naughty by Nature's "Hip Hop Hooray" on family trips to see her cousins. Her love for Hip Hop grew throughout her childhood and further cemented in college when she learned about its history, culture, and the sociopolitical issues it engages with and brings to light. As an educator, she has used hip hop as a tool to empower the critical consciousness and voices of her students. She believes that hip hop pedagogy is a powerful tool to empower our youth and to transform our society across many systems of oppression!
Accidental Freestyle Flow Goddess
Naj was born in Freeport, IL. She later moved to California where she completed middle school through college- Go Bruins! Naj is a current student at Harvard Graduate School of Education pursuing licensure in school adjustment counseling. Her greatest desire is to open a health & wellness center that destigmatizes & provides mental health care to families of color. She also enjoys writing, listening to music, analyzing shows & movies, and eating Mexican, Italian & Soul Food.
Keep it Real Specialist
Though Ella Wechsler-Matthaei is her given name, she goes by Ms Ella, and trust you can't limit this being to one discipline. As a dancer and choreographer, she has trained since the age of five and has professionally performed with various Soca artists, which led her to found Soca Fusion LLC. Ms Ella has also put time into her musical gift, debuting "My Time" in 2019 and releasing her debut EP "3•3•3" in 2020, which is available on all platforms. While one may think that her plate is full, Ms Ella has also dedicated many years to teaching a self-curated Hip Hop performing arts curriculum to youth of the Cambridge and Boston areas. All in all, Ms Ella is living out her dreams, passions, and truths, while doing her best to provide space for youth and adults to claim their inner knowing and light, so we can all shine bright in this life!
Head Nod Champ
Originally from Jiangxi, China, I am currently enrolled in the Prevention Science and Practice program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. I fell in love with HipHop in high school and have been trying to write songs expressing myself. As an amateur songwriter, I uploaded them both in SoundCloud and a Chinese music streaming platform called Netcase Music. I really love HipHop and I’m super honored to be a part of this year’s HipHop Education Conference. Looking forward to all the online conversation series!
Low Key Hi Key Dope MC
Hailing from Hawaii, Azmera Hammouri-Davis, aka the poetic theorist, is a spiritual practitioner, artist and organizer concerned with matters of the heart. She is the founder of Break The Boxes, an Arts education organization that builds cultural competency through Capoeira and Poetry as tools for youth and community development. She is also on teaching instruction with the Blackyard Elementary School in Cambridge, and a 2nd year Masters of Theological Studies candidate at Harvard University.