The Harlem Shake as Blackface – Panel Discussion at Hamline University

A few weeks ago, I had the incredible pleasure of participating in a panel discussion on The Harlem Shake and the meme that has since run its course.  I was invited to speak after publishing a piece called “Racism, Appropriation, and the Harlem Shake.”  The panel inspired me to write “Shaking Off the ‘Harlem Shake’ Meme: Tools for Resisting Cultural Appropriation,” but the most powerful perspectives on that panel were not mine, so I wanted to make sure my readers had a chance to learn from the incredible knowledge dropped at that event.

First up: Dr. Don C. Sawyer III, Professor at Quinnipiac University and The Harlem Son

“It’s just a dance to you because you don’t go into these places where the students are dealing with underserved schools, lack of music in schools, dealing with gun violence, dealing with the NYPD or the NYPD gang if you want to call them that, so you’re not there dealing with all of this, so that’s why this is not just a dance.”

Second: Dr. Daniel White Hodge, Intellectual, Professor, Author, Hip Hop Scholar

“Who gets to tell the story of Hip Hop?”

Third: Mariah Kenya Cannon, Hamline Student Community Organizer and President of the Hip Hop Collective

“When you say it’s just a dance, you’re taking the meaning from Hip Hop.”

Fourth: DJ Francisco, Hip Hop DJ and pillar of the Hip Hop community in Minneapolis, MN

“It’s good to have dialogue, but I don’t think we’re all gonna leave hear and somehow miraculously things are gonna change.  We have to change them each as an individual and put action.”

Fifth: Ryan Williams-Virden, Award winning Spoken Word artist and high school teacher from the Twin Cities

“This very human need for culture ends up being filled through other people’s culture because capitalism tells us that our culture is consumerism.”

Sixth: Mia Jackman, Hamline University Student Organizer

“Our job is to, you know, if you participated in something like this, recognize it, and don’t shut down. Admit that you’re wrong . . . go research. Stop making excuses for yourself, and educate others.”

Seventh: Antoine Duke, AKA Keno Evol, Spoken Word Artist, Poet, Performer, Educator, Dancer

“If you’re really looking for racism, don’t look in your front lawns, don’t look so much at your job or in your colleges, because 50 years ago, racism was clear. It was a burning cross in someone’s front lawn . . . But now it’s blanketed in America, it’s disguised.”

Eighth: Chris McQuire, Schlepp films, creator of the “Harlem Reacts to Harlem Shake” video

“I had actually originally participated and made my own version of the ‘Harlem Shake’ video, and it was after this at which point I started reading online . . . where I actually learned about the authentic Harlem Shake.”

Ninth: Me – Jamie Utt, Author, Consultant, Activist, and Presenter

“If any White person is not paying attention, we’re probably appropriating.  This is not an isolated event. Appropriation is happening in countless different ways.  When I’m talking about appropriation, I’m specifically talking about people of power and privilege appropriating things from cultures that are not theirs.”

Lastly: The Question and Answer Session


3 thoughts on “The Harlem Shake as Blackface – Panel Discussion at Hamline University

  1. […] check out this panel discussion on The “Harlem Shake” as Blackface that took place at Hamline […]

  2. […] week’s post comes from a powerful poet and teacher that I met while speaking on the “Harlem Shake as Blackface” panel at Hamline […]

  3. […] This piece was shared on multiple other mediums, widening its impact, and it led to me speaking on a panel at Hamline University on the Harlem Shake and cultural appropriation. […]

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