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Beyond Prisons — Episode 15: Hip Hop Scholarship feat. Devyn Springer (Part 2)

Artist, writer, and organizer Devyn Springer joins the Beyond Prisons podcast for a special two-part episode.

In part two, Devyn speaks with hosts Kim Wilson and Brian Sonenstein about hip hop scholarship and pedagogy as liberatory approaches to education. We also discuss his photography, writing, and poetry.

Devyn explains his scholarship focuses on hip hop as a means of resistance. He talks about how, as one of most influential art forms of the past century, hip hop has always been about race, class, and gender, and that it tells stories and histories. He discusses the importance of having students see themselves in the material he teaches, explaining how the work of Walter Rodney has influenced his own practice.

We also discuss Devyn’s photography and writing, including a piece he wrote about the Pulse Nightclub shooting. He sees his art as a way to combat the normalization of oppression and  the idea that oppression is an essential part of human existence and human nature.

We explore a piece Devyn wrote on writers block as a socioeconomic condition. He talks about the struggle to create art that exists for beauty itself when he’s only given a platform to discuss his identity and trauma. He explains how marginalized artists and writers are only called upon to appease someone else’s diversity quota, and how white artists are primarily the only ones permitted to create art simply for its beauty, while artists of color must make a statement about their identity in order to be given a platform. He raises the class aspect of this dynamic, explaining that staff writing positions are rarely available and that when opportunities are available, they are low paying and exclusively for him to write from the perspective of his identity as someone who is Black, Muslim and queer. The anxiety this creates hinders the writing process itself.

Finally, we discuss the concept of self-care with Devyn, which he sees as “being an adult” and “doing what you need to do to secure your livelihood.” He argues self-care should be done to “alleviate your conditions temporarily so you can continue doing your organizing and your work.”

Devyn Springer is an Atlanta-based artist, writer, organizer, and educator with a background in African & African Diaspora studies and a concentration in Art History. He has worked with various organizing groups in Atlanta such as Rise UP, It’s Bigger Than You, Black Lives Matter, and is a member of Workers World Party. He is the assistant editor of two peer-reviewed academic journals, South and ATL. His first book of poetry & art is titled “Grayish-Black,” and you can follow him on Twitter @HalfAtlanta, and see some of his visual art at Urbansoulatlanta.com


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Music & Production: Jared Ware

Soap box. Photo by lastonein on Flickr.
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Brian Sonenstein & Kim Wilson

Brian Sonenstein & Kim Wilson