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Impact of Art on Social Change and Immigration Courses Explore Hip Hop

On Friday November 23 the Impact of Art on Social Change and Current Topics in Advocacy & Political Leadership classes combined for a presentation by Reagan and Amy Lee (cohort 15). Reagan Lee, a.k.a. Fayslis (Faceless) BooDah is an active member of the MN Funkstyles dance crew ALL DAY and a member of the Twin Cities chapter of the Zulu Nation, an international Hip Hop organization whose mission is to preserve the Hip Hop culture. Fayslis performs and battles in competitions throughout the Midwest, and this past spring he hosted his own event, Revive the Funk, which is to date the largest Funkstyles battle in Minnesota. In helping preserve Hip Hop culture Fayslis has been on Hip Hop forums and has taught dance workshops in the Twin Cities and Duluth.

Reagan’s sister Amy Lee is a MAPL graduate from cohort 15. She became involved in the Hip Hop community when her brothers started dancing and continued to be involved by organizing rather than dancing. Amy networked in the community and worked with Funk Soul Patrol in order to make a Hip Hop education week with events that taught dance for free to anyone interested. Currently, Amy works as a Community Engagement Coordinator at Lincoln Park Fair Food Access and as a Development Relations Specialist for Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota.

In their presentation Reagan and Amy addressed the history of Hip Hop, the activities it involves, and issues related to immigration and art. Minnesota has the largest Hmong population in the United States and as such, Hip Hop is a large scene within the Twin Cities. When the Hmong people immigrated from South East Asia to America they had difficulty keeping certain aspects of their culture alive. According to Reagan, Hip Hop was something that the people could cling to, be proud of and call their own. Instead of going into gangs, they could join crews, which were just as accepting and protective except without the violence. Family is important to the Hmong and Hip Hop keeps this part of their culture alive by creating a close-knit community.

A large part of what Reagan and Amy do is get out in the community and find ways to show Hip Hop in a positive light, for example, by volunteering in elementary schools and selecting positive dance themes such as philosohpy and religion. However, hip hop has had problems gaining legitimacy as an art form making it hard for people to invest money in programs, so largely hip hop remains on the streets.

In addition to discussing the history and culture of Hip Hop, Amy preformed a few spoken work pieces about social movements and Reagan demonstrated some of his “popping” moves. By the end of the class,
he had everyone learning how to pop!