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.



HHEX Founder & Director

Harvard Professor

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.





Remy (they/them) (Arts in Education '21)

 is the 2020-21 HipHopEX Lab Graduate Fellow. They are a community organizer and critical hip-hop dance educator, primarily trained in House and Locking.

Remy’s mission is to co-hold space for liberation within public schools, and to support culturally sustaining street dance educators in all contexts.

They specialize in coalition building, youth leadership development, structural visioning within organizations, and socio-emotional learning. Whenever possible, they spend their regeneration and healing time in the forests of Western Massachusetts.

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April is a writer and filmmaker based in Miami. Her work has been supported by Sundance Institute, Southern Documentary Fund, ITVS, Fork Films, International Documentary Association, and Firelight Media, to name a few. She was a 2017 Sundance Institute Knight Fellow and a recipient of the Firelight Media Documentary Lab Fellowship and Wyncote Filmmaker Fellowship.

Her short films have screened at film festivals across the globe, and her writings and photographs have been published in a number of places, including Miami New Times, Sugarcane Magazine, Cimarron Review, Philadelphia City Paper and Harvard’s Transition magazine. She currently serves as the Director of Prestigious Awards and Fellowships at the University of Miami. She is a graduate student in Harvard’s Arts in Education program.

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Constance is an O.G. HipHop Head from Da Bronx who is passionate about the music and the money. 

HipHop culture has permeated every facet of the world, taking dominant positions within the disciplines of music, couture, pedagogy, dance, art, politics, and more.  Finance is a natural extension from all of these areas, so the people who created and cultivated HipHop should rightfully reap the benefits - and effective money management is a key to long term equity. She fully understands how financial wellness is intertwined with our overall well-being -- today and for generations to come. 

A passionate finance griot, she uses asset-based techniques to both share insights about the history of finance in America and fortify our personal finance ecosystems.  Constance holds a B.Sc. in Computer Science (NYIT), an MBA (Columbia U.) and is a proud member of HGSE Class of ‘21 with a degree in Education Policy & Mgmt.  She is also the brainchild behind Harvard/MIT’s first Black Santa holiday ornaments!



Carmen believes in the power of artistry in education. She incorporates the elements of artistry into her role as the Manager of Professional Learning at the National Geographic Society and as a Master of Education candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Carmen also prioritizes creating inclusive spaces for all learners in education spaces and the workplace. Previously, she led the initiatives to diversify the educator community at National Geographic and supported first-generation and part-time students in higher education.

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Cassie is an aspiring Independent School Developer that values creating equitable learning environments for students with learning disabilities. She is currently working on the Marketing Team at the Harvard Graduate School of Education in the Professional Education Sector, working on promoting professional development opportunities for educators.

This summer, she will begin her Master’s degree in Educational Studies at Tufts University focusing on Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Inclusive Education at Tufts to further explore the lack of female leadership in the Independent Schools space and creating more educational opportunities for students with LDs. She values the arts as a form of education, and is excited to be involved in the annual HHEX conference.