Students Use Hip Hop to Take on Police and Gang Violence

By Kenrya Rankin Jun 04, 2015

Students in a Chicago school are using hip-hop to speak their truth about police violence. For the second year, English teacher Daphne Whitington challenged her students at Julian High School to create music videos focused on an ongoing issue that impacts their community. Over the last seven weeks, 18 groups of seniors wrote music and lyrics, produced videos and publicized them, too. Nearly every one of the finished songs revolved around the issues of police brutality or gang violence. 

“I’ve used hip-hop as a teaching tool a lot in classes, and I’ve found that it can really be a hook for them to look at larger issues," Whitington told “In regular English classes kids can tend to be really apathetic, but with this project we saw so many of them jump out of their shells and discover some hidden talents.”

The videos debuted to a crowd of hundreds last month at youth empowerment nonprofit Mikva Challenge’s Action Civics Showcase. One teen, Jeremy Tang, rapped about his frequent harassment at the hands of local police. “My brothers and I are all around the same size, and a lot of times we’ll be walking home from practice or something and police will stop us and throw us around, cuff us and say, ‘Where’s the weed?’ stuff like that,” Tang said. “We’ve already gotta watch our backs with all the gun and gang violence, and the police around here are just like an extra thing we have to be scared of.” Check out his group’s video, “’cuz I’m only 18.

*Post has been updated to reflect the correct location of Julian High School: It is in Chicago, not New York City.