NBWC: The Impact of Hip Hop and Popular Culture on the Literature of Black Writers

Moderator: Karen Hunter
Panel: Steven C. Fullwood, Felicia Pride, Touré, James Peterson
National Black Writers’ Conference
Saturday, March 27th, first panel session

I love this discussion.  It’s lively, open, funny, confrontational (in a healthy, safe way*), and the audience is totally engaged.   Professor Hunter is an excellent moderator, not just sitting back and letting people ramble, not letting glib comments go unpacked, not letting loaded statements pass without further exploration.  The panelists are strong individuals, and they play off of one another really well.  I haven’t heard of Felicia Pride before today, but I’ve clearly been missing someone special by that lack.  I need to look up her work, and check out her YA novel as something I might use in my class.  And I think I might be falling in love with Fullwood and Peterson.  They are wonderful, intelligent speakers who have a lot to say that I want to hear.   (And, picking up on something I said yesterday, Fullwood clearly also likes a moment to process.  He was hit with the first question, and passed so he could think.  He actually pulled out a pen and started jotting down notes for his answer — love him!)

One surprise lack for me is Jay.  Jay should absolutely be on this panel.  I know this is about literature and Jay isn’t officially a writer or publisher or literature professor, but his voice is such a powerful one, it should be here, too (yes, and this has NOTHING to do with the fact that I’m mad for Jay.  Nothing at all …).

I’ve particularly enjoyed the conversation about “street lit” and it’s place.   This debate has been going on, as Felicia pointed out so well, for so long between the street lit writers and the literary writers and really, what’s the point?  There are things the street writers can teach the literary writers (about the viability and self-sustainability of self-publishing) and things the literary writers can teach the street writers (about the value of crafting stories and developing characters).  Professor Peterson said something I loved: “I’m not the audience for street lit.  That doesn’t mean it’s not good writing.  I’m not the audience for Shakespeare or Chaucer, either.  That doesn’t mean it’s not good writing.”  That resonated like a punch in the chest for me.

There’s a crowd of young people here — I think a couple of classes have come here for a weekend field trip — and it’s been exciting to see the interaction between them and the panel.  When Touré talked about southern hip-hop, when the famous “Isn’t hip-hop dead?” question came up, when the question of whether street lit elevates the culture came up.  I’m glad they’re here.  I hope they’ll get up during the Q&A.

“Books are teaching moments.” Steven Fullwood.  Punto.


*   I’m a little distressed and insulted that there’s a police presence here when there wasn’t one in any of the panels yesterday.  Are folks that afraid of hip-hop, so certain a discussion of it has to lead to violence?


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