The Street’s Ivory Tower: Carlos “Mare139” Rodriguez, Iona Rozeal Brown and Martha Diaz

Mare139 WU The Street’s Ivory Tower: Carlos “Mare139” Rodriguez, Iona Rozeal Brown and Martha Diaz
Carlos “Mare139” Rodriguez, WU/StyleWriter, an illegal public sculpture in Wuppertal Germany.

One of the hardest working women in New York City is Martha Diaz. Dedicated to community empowerment through institution building for over a decade, her most recent project, The Hip-Hop Education Center for Research, Evaluation, and Training [H2ED Center], finds her in partnership with New York University. Launched in June 2010 at New York University’s Metropolitan Center for Urban Education [Metro Center] in the Steinhardt School for Culture, Education, and Human Behavior, The H2ED Center is the premiere institute formed to explore and advocate the potential of Hip-Hop education.

The institute launched an extensive Fellows program, which includes two premiere artist Scholars-in-Residence for the 2010-2011 cycle: Iona Rozeal Brown and Carlos “Mare139” Rodriguez. Both artists negotiate terrain that confronts ideas and experiences of art that transcend the marketplace, but nevertheless co-exist with the machinations of an art world and culture that determines value based on a specific set of markers. Similar to the evolution of the culture of Hip-Hop as a whole, issues of ownership, documentation of the historical record, the creation of value, and the uses of the artistic branches of culture as tools for profit, education, personal transformation, and artistic creation, are central to the visual arts arm of Hip-Hop culture, and the refined aesthetics of Brown and Rodriguez.

At the residency, Mare139, sculptor and renowned writer says, “”There are a few critical issues I’d like to pursue while in residency. The initial project is ‘Arts for ALL (Advocacy, Literacy, & Legacy) creates Transformation’. An agenda I wish to discuss at length, and begin to construct as a framework, to show how this is a necessary starting point to launch any initiative for learning and cultivating cultural programming.”

Diaz’s leadership provides an inside lane to the ivory tower that travels north, south, east and west, ensuring a ‘”grass roots” or “authentic” interpretation of Hip-Hop culture and its potential for curriculum development and education, in conversation with academia. Forming a symbiotic relationship with New York University has the potential to help concretize the empowering global reach (not seen on ordinary TV networks) of the creative language of Hip-Hop as a tool for national and international education reform.

IRBrown The Street’s Ivory Tower: Carlos “Mare139” Rodriguez, Iona Rozeal Brown and Martha Diaz

Iona Rozeal Brown, “my e.a.s.y. (for Octavia)”, 2010, acrylic on wood panel,48″ x 60″.

Current initiatives at the institute include: a Hip-Hop-based approach to raising student achievement on the NY State Regents exam; a yearlong investigation on how Hip-Hop is being used to teach about health in South Africa, Uganda, and Brazil; using Hip-Hop for debate; developing a social entrepreneurial music production model; using Hip-Hop with social media for education and social change; and, a national census on Hip-Hop-based education courses and programs, with the goal of creating a centralized data repository to be leveraged to inform administrators, policymakers and funders. This latter initiative is funded in part by the Nathan Cummings Foundation, adding another resource to this vital conversation, incubator and platform, at a critical juncture in global transformation.

-Diana McClure

More on Wu/Stylewriter and Carlos “Mare139” Rodriguez:

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