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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

The Dancing Diplomat

Aysha Upchurch, the Dancing Diplomat, is an artist and educator who creates, facilitates, and designs for radical change. She has shared her experience about artfully designing equitable and culturally relevant classrooms, the importance of dance and movement in education, and embracing Hip Hop pedagogy as a consultant and speaker at national conferences, TedxUConn, and overseas as State Department Cultural Ambassador. She has been on faculty at George Mason University, Salem University, and Harvard University, and recently joined UT Austin as a Lecturer. Named one of the nine women who shaped Hip Hop education by Upscale magazine, Aysha is committed to creating spaces to champion Hip Hop as essential to transformative education. She founded and directs HipHopEX, an intergenerational programming lab and research initiative, housed at Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.  Her commitment to living a passion-filled life in service to others via her gifts was a featured episode in the critically acclaimed docuseries, The Spark. Whether on stage or in a classroom, Aysha is making moves and demonstrating how to be D.O.P.E. - dismantling oppression and pushing education.

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