This afternoon, Syracuse University’s Beyond Compliance Coordinating Committee (BCCC) sponsored “Krip-Hop Nation: Disability in the Hip-Hop Mix.” According to their official Myspace page, Krip-Hop Nation is a group of disabled hip-hop artists who aim to “educate the music, media industries and general public about the talents, history, rights and marketability of Hip-Hop artists and other musicians with disabilities.”
At the panel today, Leroy Moore (co-founder of Krip-Hop Nation), Keith Jones (co-founder of Krip-Hop Nation), and Kalyn Heffernan (rapper and member of Wheelchair Sports Group) performed and critically discussed social constructions of disability.
Leroy Moore identifies himself as a poet, an activist, and an organizer. He was born with cerebral palsy, and he is a public lecturer on the intersections of race, disability, gender, and police brutality. During today’s panel, Moore said, “We use krip-hop with a K instead of a C to take back our language in a cultural, activist sort of way.” Moore sees himself as a poet, returning to the days when hip-hop resonated within the slam poetry community. Moore said, “I’m not looking for an MTV contract; I’m looking to change our community.”
Keith Jones, who was also born with cerebral palsy and used his feet to operate his iPad and Garageband during today’s performance, agreed that “the goal, really, about krip-hop, is social justice.” Jones mentioned that when you’re performing on stage, you get to “dictate the discussion” about disability, that through music, krip-hop artists try to show humanity by opening a discussion about dis/ability, race, and social stereotypes.
On Public Outreach & Education:
The panel began with a recording. We heard, “Like the Black Eyed Peas, let’s get retarded. No. Let’s get some disability education.” The organization’s largest aim is public education. Heffernan said, “Disabled people are the biggest minorities out there,” and both Moore and Jones cited shocking statistics about disability unemployment rates (82% unemployment).
Jones said, “In media, and certainly in hip-hop culture, they overlook disability.” Later, he mentioned that you can be black, or you can be a woman, but when you add disability to that mix, everything changes in terms of how you’re perceived. All three speakers stressed the importance of changing this type of thinking, emphasizing that Krip-Hop Nation is not only about bringing awareness to ableism, but also to racism, sexism, and homophobia.
One final discussion from today’s panel was that of disability and sexuality. Often, persons with disabilities are seen by others as asexual beings. On this, Jones said, “People think that when you have a disability, you don’t need an education. You don’t need relationships. You don’t have a sexual identity because you can’t possibly have sexual feelings.” Jones proudly proclaimed that he has two children. He stressed the importance of bringing disability into discussions of sexual education: “When you talk to kids about sexuality, you have to let them know that it’s okay to date someone with a disability.”
Overall, this afternoon’s panel was a great one. Threaded throughout the discussion were important conversations about social constructions of disability, public education, and the importance of solidarity to fight for change. To see some of what Krip-Hop Nation is about, check out Moore’s YouTube channel: KripHopNation. Moore can also be found @kriphop on Twitter.