Race, Hip-Hop, and Academe: David Green, Khirsten L. Scott, and Dennis L. Winston in Conversation
This roundtable discussion evolved out of a few discussions about hip-hop as a form of African American discourse, and an ongoing reconsideration of each professor’s personal experiences with race and racism that animates their thinking about antiracist work and their work as educators. The three participants in this dialogue each highlight perspectives on working in academe as Black professors, as well as differing approaches to interpreting and enacting critical dispositions toward the current struggles for social change. Part of this collective’s interest in hip-hop as a rich area of dialogue stems from the view that equitable university communities can be fostered and reimagined through shifting the boundaries within academe that often separate personal experience from intellectual work.
DENNIS L. WINSTON: We find ourselves in a truly remarkable period in the very long history of racism in America, and universities in the US are swirling with excitement and talk around and about issues of inclusion, accessibility, and justice. These aren’t new concerns in the university space, to be sure, but they are certainly more palpable today than they have been, arguably since the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s, or the movement in the ’90s to include Black Studies programs or departments at many major universities. As scholars and teachers of Black discourse studies and the African American rhetorical tradition today, how does the work you do respond to this moment? What is Black discourse, and how might it be useful for universities and for the people there hoping to achieve an antiracist future?
DAVID GREEN: An often-overlooked entryway into conversations about antiracism, for me, is hip-hop. As a type of African American discourse, hip-hop provides a way, for me, of organizing and arranging these strands of conversations about critical Black writing, community work, as well as responses to oppression.
I see hip-hop as an offspring of Black discourse, and I know it to be linked to many of the pathways that Black people use to reflect on social change, powerful language, and institutional change, and I see it as a way we might imagine race and differences differently.
I define Black discourse — an admittedly broad term — as the writings, social practices, ways of reading, and media clips produced by Black people that capture the different ways that Black and non-Black speakers talk about race and Black culture within public and private spheres. Black discourse organizes how I think about Black language traditions, and what becomes viewed as essential knowledge for understanding attitudes and beliefs of Black people. Such an understanding becomes important if we are to help others think differently about what the university is and its value to marginalized groups over the world. Specifically, I am always interested in the ways that Black vernacular speech practices might help us reimagine particular gatekeeping mechanisms within the university. How might we influence who is granted immediate access to the university, and how we might reimagine how the university caters to the “outsider” — that is, students or community participants genuinely invested in the production of knowledge, but unfamiliar with the etiquette and culture of university spaces.
KHIRSTEN L. SCOTT: I agree, David, on the idea of Black discourse reflecting a range of communication possibilities. Regarding Black people and Black culture, that range is beautifully expansive. For me, Black discourse also connects the ways that language and communication shape society and how society shapes language and communication. For instance, hip-hop artists who identify as Black womxn, femmes, and/or queer remain widely under-celebrated and studied within hip-hop culture, yet they continue to raise consciousness on matters of equity in experiences related to gender, sexuality, and freedom. Their commitments to representing their realities and perspectives is a subversive response to society’s marginalization. In turn, they endeavor to reshape society’s engagement with their worlds — if society dares to listen. This makes me think of what Toni Morrison, in Playing in the Dark, describes as unaccountable beauty and response-ability. What do we do with an invitation or occasion to respond? What unaccountable beauty might result? Response, then, is central to Black discourse. That’s what makes Blackness and, in this case, Black discourse so enduring.
I see hip-hop feminism as a tool for fighting systemic oppression in the ways that Aisha Durham, Brittney Cooper, and Susana M. Morris describe in their work. When thinking about the ways that hip-hop has and can radically disrupt the status quo and dismantle oppressive systems, the following questions come to mind: Who do we listen to? What do we do with the information shared? How do we move our solutions beyond what needs to be done to who will do their part? These questions are intended to move beyond the rhetorical gesture of antiracism with intentions set on disrupting power and calling folx to relinquish power. Ultimately, Black discourse prompts me to resist assumption and finite solutions and instead lean into interactions that position Blackness as infinitely useful across time and space.
DW: Right, I agree, to employ a Black language phrase, we have been doing this work already, and it seems to me that departments are asking for even more, especially from Black faculty, in the hopes of fostering inclusive and equitable university communities, for students, faculty, and staff. But it feels like, for me, there’s a disconnect between the research that I do and what is being asked of me. Many of us Black scholars and researchers in these positions are already thinking deeply about these problems, and engaging in work that responds to these conditions, but now we’re asked to bring that expertise into committees, learning groups, and other university spaces where, for some of us, it feels like our intellectual work is finally being seen and respected by our colleagues. But in turn we take on more labor, to inform not only our students as we have been, but now our colleagues, or administrators, some of whom are just now beginning to reflect on this important critical work. Some of my colleagues and I, we’ve been having these conversations, to your point that in order for antiracist projects to work, it requires people in power to relinquish some of that power. And I don’t think that is really happening in the kinds of ways that we need to see. The real antiracist work is about relinquishing power. The connection between power and white supremacy became a recurring theme in an antiracism workshop I took part in this year. We were reading and discussing work by people of all races who were engaged in these questions, and many of them were coming to the same conclusion, that the transgressive forces of white supremacy, of racism in America, are very powerful and sometimes feel inescapable.
KLS: It’s not very often that I invoke Kanye West these days, but there’s a lyric that comes to mind here: “Do you have the power to let power go?” Within university spaces, the practice of making space has unfortunately been shaped by those who have mastered taking space. The rehearsed imbalances of power made visible through empty language and initiatives of multiculturalism, diversity, inclusion, equity, and now antiracism leave much to be desired. We’ve got to start asking different questions of administrators, of colleagues, of communities, and of our students. Questions that lead to both intentional and visibly sustainable impact.
DW: One of the things I always ask my students when we talk about African American Literature is, “What are the major differences between the texts we are examining? Who do the characters represent, and who are the writers speaking to those representations?” Two works I always pair together in my courses on Black literature and Black masculinity are Richard Wright’s novel Native Son and The Notorious B.I.G.’s debut album, Ready to Die. We often discuss things like, you know, the time period and how that informs different acts of violence that occur in the two works, that sort of thing. But it is frequently up to me to reveal to my students what I believe is the most significant difference between the two works, which is that white people don’t appear in Ready to Die; they just don’t show up at all. But the album is still clearly a commentary on race in America, in the particular ways in which inequality and injustice dictates nearly every aspect of the lives of Black people. So here we come to what I believe is a fundamental question in African American literature, art, and culture, which is: Even when we create spaces, whether real or imaginative, how and why does white supremacy remain such a central part of the conversation? Does this mean that everything we produce as Black people is always and already antiracist because our experiences are so tied to white supremacy in this country? I think these questions and others are really important to how Black people talk about race, and hip-hop, I think, provides us with these different kinds of parameters or approaches to the conversation.
DG: I love that you noted how the Notorious B.I.G’s view of the audience focused on the Black community. I come from northern New Jersey, I’m the son of two teachers, and my interest in hip-hop culture is often sparked by its criticism of the way social conditions produce certain responses to anxiety, surveillance, and brutality that animate my intellectual approach to examining race critically. Even the ways hip-hop has failed in its criticism of sexism and patriarchy has been useful in thinking about the work of educational spaces.
My response to hip-hop music, like you Dennis, is often to think through how the music’s penchant for social criticism moves us forward in ways that are beneficial to changing attitudes about the way the world works. What does the music provide to the different perspectives on the institution and how it feels and works for people with different bodies? Our collective practices don’t always acknowledge the differences in university types or in the student bodies that attend them.
As a Black man who loves hip-hop and is 6’3”, I often feel the surveillance I draw in public spaces. Attending and working at an HBCU has been helpful with this anxiety because in many instances, my Blackness becomes an asset in these spaces because of how these spaces attend to the Black experience in America. But you do have institutional practices at every university that creep in and shape our experiences in ways we don’t often acknowledge. The hyper-surveillance of students or the questioning of whether or not someone’s homework reflects someone’s assumptions about their backgrounds are just a few examples.
One concept I’ve been grappling with comes from Awad Ibrahim, and it is the term differential treatment, which focuses on practices or decisions that use authority to limit the choices of others. Differential treatment hits home for me, because it evolves from a desire to be seen, to be heard, on one’s own terms. The lack of transparency regarding the way an administrator or manager can wield authority in a way that limits the choices of the highly qualified without consistency is troubling. These kinds of maneuvers are subtle but can play a large part in how different bodies are asked to perform differently in institutional spaces.
KLS: When I think about Ready to Die, the title alone puts white people in the conversation for me. As if they’re always lurking in the background or sometimes right in your face, so you must always be ready to die. While death is certainly inevitable, Biggie was making clear that he was prepared. This makes me think of the ways in which the university as we know it will never be prepared to do the antiracist work to which it aspires. To do so would require a radical reckoning with land and life, with history and culture. You see Biggie and other hip-hop artists were willing to do the radical work of sharing their story, of getting to the root to talk about life and death and possibility. In doing so, they guided listeners and observers through various ends of Black life. This willingness to lean into critical vulnerability is one that institutions rooted in and shaped by whiteness willingly refuse.
Let me try to say this a different way: Not only have Black people been living through particular realities, but they have also been giving the world access to their imaginings of realities otherwise, as they rap and rhyme over beats and within ciphers, as they spray graffiti tags, as they give us the fashion, the culture. Hip-hop gives us access, an invitation, if you will, to see what artists see — and do with it what we choose. It’s that part, the access, the invitation, the choice. Within these institutional interpretations of antiracism (and any other container they co-opt — diversity, inclusion, equity, multiculturalism), there is limited access, if any, to the guides and materials needed to address the levels of racism we already know and then redress them for more equitable futures. The redress requires an appeal to embrace humane understandings of wellness and community and turn away from power, a pivot unfathomable for many.
DW: I mean, in hip-hop you can have Arrested Development and at the same time that you have Outkast, TLC, Kris Kross, all groups coming out of Atlanta talking about their experiences as Black people, and subsequently engaged with the question of race and racial oppression whether wittingly or unwittingly. I mean, to a hip-hop head, they’re all talking about the same thing, just on different frequencies, different lanes, or on different waves as the new saying goes.
KLS: Yeah, those different frequencies and lanes really do help us see both the diversity and continuity in our experience. For me, growing up in Memphis and being raised, through my educational journey, across Jackson, Mississippi; Tuscaloosa, Alabama; and Louisville, Kentucky — those frequencies showed me that the South did really always have something to say and made clear who was willing to listen. Hip-hop has consistently given me the language and the embrace I needed in isolating and hostile environments, the bop I needed in joyous moments, and the space I needed to breathe in heavy moments. Just like Blackness, hip-hop is infinitely useful, so I bring it with me everywhere I go. When I can bring hip-hop into my pedagogical practice, I do so. Specifically, moving through higher education as a graduate student and now faculty, hip-hop became a survival rhetoric for me. It’s connected to the differential treatment you mentioned, David — an ongoing exploration and revision aimed at being seen, heard, and understood on my own terms.
When I teach Gil-Scott Heron’s “Comment #1,” Audre Lorde’s “A Litany for Survival,” and The Last Poets as an introduction to the commercial hip-hop most familiar to my students, I’m attempting to frame hip-hop as a combination of rhetorical moves and situations rooted in and intended to promote survival. Positioning the question “Who will survive in America?” alongside the realization that “it is better to speak remembering that we were never meant to survive,” has given me license to use Blackness and in this case hip-hop as subject, method, and mode. The infinite utility and possibility of both (Blackness and hip-hop) and the intersections therein allow me to find myself in the US university classroom and to challenge students to locate themselves as well. I feel it’s my response-ability.
DW: I know that I struggled in raising my own kids with that knowledge in terms of how my parents raised me. My father grew up in the segregated Jim Crow South. My mother, after moving from South Carolina, grew up in a largely Black community in Norwalk, Connecticut, in the ’60s and ’70s. So, for my parents, their whole idea of preparing me and my brother for life in a racist society was to put us in as close proximity as possible to white institutional spaces, especially in terms of education, because you know, they grew up in the era of integration so their idea of success in this country has had anything and everything to do with the access to the kind of quality resources that seem only available in historically white spaces. And they were not wrong, nor were they the only Black parents thinking this way. A lot of Black people from the Civil Rights era share some version of this thinking. The irony, however, was that my parents were also telling me that, in the midst of all this whiteness, to be extremely cautious about the vulnerability of my body, and how at any moment my Blackness might be perceived as a threat. Looking back, my parents’ decision to place me in these predominantly white spaces was some peculiar thinking on their part, to drop their kids off in the lion’s den. And they were right. I had reason to fear. I was a threat because I was young, Black, smart, and I didn’t fit the stereotypes. And for that, I was punished, reprimanded, and even expelled from these white educational spaces for reasons that had more to do with my accusers’ feelings about my being there, rather than with any behavior on my part. But I survived it. My parents, for better or worse, taught me how to survive racism in America. That is the very definition of tough love.
KLS: No doubt. The layers of survival here are fascinating. It makes me think of questions that have been circling around my work for a while now: when did survival enter the lexicon of Black folx, and were we ever given the chance to be? The answers remain unknown and infinite, but what is most visible is the complexities of our survival. The double, triple, and sometimes quadruple consciousness we have to navigate just to make it. I’m thinking here about W. E. B. Du Bois’s and Kevin Quashie’s work to think about both interior and exterior realities of consciousness and the relationship with survival.
For me, the answer to the question of lexicon and being moves us to the edge, beyond the margins, to explore the two or more spaces where Black folx are making sense of their worlds. Sharing their stories. Getting to the root of their realities, the joyous and the perilous. I find pedagogical value in most everything: the land is pedagogy, names are pedagogy, geographies are pedagogy, languages are pedagogy, cultures are pedagogy.
DG: You are making me think about the hip-hop cipher as one of these spaces with pedagogical value. One of the vernacular phrases I always link to the cipher is the hip-hop Top Five list. In hip-hop, the primary goal in constructing a Top Five list is to engage in the creative process of revealing distinction without becoming gatekeepers. The interest in the vernacular activity is to build an understanding of how people consume and understand the discourse and the various artifacts within it. By this I mean, there are often ciphers within Black discourse where participants are constructing their Top Five lists for everything. Who is in your Top Five rap artists? Basketball players? Mafia movies? Of all time? These debate-driven ciphers are designed to go back and forth. It’s not about one version of the Top Five being better than the other. It’s about the dialogue, it’s about the discussion and about why one picks the writers, artists, thinkers that they do, whether it is because they are role models or they are resources for our inspiration. There’s a level of critical activity that comes out of this process that I think is useful for how one might push back together against invisible exclusionary tactics.
This discussion about vernacular forms like the Top Five also reminds me of the hip-hop mixtape. The mixtape highlights the dubbing and distribution of music outside of formal music labels and distribution networks. In many ways, mixtapes are the currency of the underground spaces within hip-hop culture. The mixtape as a rhetorical practice becomes a way of challenging troubling social norms, through the circulation of products that represent accepted communal exchanges. In hip-hop, this can include music that is recorded and shared through unofficial channels. In Black discourse, I often think about the Black women who sold plates of food out of their homes to catered events through their personal kitchens. Or I think about some of the Muslim brothers I knew growing up who sold oils and shea butter out of duffel bags at basketball games. Many understood that this form of circulation was an independent entrepreneurial approach that builds community through direct and local exchanges of goods that deviate from accepted norms or brick-and-mortar stores or restaurants.
DW: It always comes back to the antiracist work we do, the constant decolonization of our students and ourselves. It speaks to your point about Black folks existing in two spaces, this work that we’re doing within our own community is fractured, too. The activist component of my work is about challenging the African American literary canon. Hip-hop provides us with an entirely new rationale for the African American literary tradition. Someone like Paul Laurence Dunbar becomes an early member of the hip-hop community, if not the first emcee, outright. I mean there is this story Keith Gilyard tells in “Literacy, Identity, Imagination, Flight” of Dunbar having written the first hip-hop bar. He was friends with the Wright Brothers, if you can believe it. They published some of his earliest work in their independent publishing house that doubled as a bike shop. Anyway, the story goes that on a whim Dunbar wrote this bar on the bike shop wall that read, “Orville Wright is outta sight!” Between that bar, his novel The Sport of the Gods, and his poetry, Dunbar is in place for hip-hop scholars to start talking about a tradition that reaches all the way back to that moment in the Wright Brothers’ bike shop. That’s dope to me.
So, when I think about this question, about Black discourse and where or how did I enter into that space, my answer is that I showed up, not in hope for solving the problems of white supremacy and racism in America, but as a way to affirm my deepest feelings about the joys of being Black and surviving and thriving in the midst of it all. It’s about not limiting our view of what we as Black people are capable of doing and what is possible, and about the beautiful ways in which we are able to communicate with one another.
KLS: I’m definitely with you on that. It makes me reconsider what language or discourses become associated with Blackness or disassociated from it? And how?
Currently, I’m thinking around the context of higher education histories — specifically HBCUs. When I mentioned earlier about Black discourse being understood through the sociality of language, HBCUs can be understood similarly. The ways that we have come to talk about and engage HBCUs is situated within histories of exclusion and narratives of survival and pride. I attended Tougaloo College. My time there changed everything about how I think about Black higher education and motivates my commitment to understand the intellectual histories of individual HBCUs and connections across institutions.
DW: I wanted to ask you both about this point you left off about being connected to HBCUs. The three of us are in an interesting space, graduates of historically Black colleges. Mine is North Carolina A&T State University. And we all have very rich experiences that reaffirm so much of our cultural experiences and our voices.
Khirsten, you said having that HBCU experience helped gear you up for graduate school work, things that you learned along the way, which helped inform your research and study there.
My question is that you work at two different universities. David, you’re at Howard University. Khirsten, you’re at a predominantly white university. How does this work on Black discourse differ between you two? You’ve had conversations, but what does it look like in these university spaces?
DG: I think there are values that precede us at any university, so that once we get to a university space, we’re organized and characterized in ways that can make our experiences across universities feel confining, if we are not attuned to the different assumptions that shape the mission of that space.
To your question, Dennis, the space of Howard University has been largely transformative for me. Khirsten mentions the work of liberation at the university level. Part of Howard’s mission and the thought process from many of colleagues about the work we do within the university is how do we help students to get free? By that I mean, how do we aid the critical thinking of students in such a way that they are able to navigate the university or any other institution in ways that allow them to make choices that move beyond the individual accumulation of wealth and consider their impact on communities and the experiences of others. It’s something that permeates itself in the very questions that students ask about their self-worth and their unique vocations. It permeates itself through the culture of the university in different ways.
Part of our work is to continue to reimagine the expectations specific to our spaces with a view of the range of students we will encounter. I am intrigued by the possibilities of a commitment to thinking differently about who belongs and how that belonging may look based on our evolving understanding of Black culture and social differences.
KLS: The work of engaging Black discourse at historically white institutions is a challenge. I often find myself walking a tightrope while thinking about teaching topics connected to Black life and culture within spaces largely filled largely with white students. In turn, I find myself turning to community spaces for connection and sustenance. Whether facilitating workshops in Pittsburgh’s Homewood neighborhood (some might have been introduced to this space through John Edgar Wideman’s short stories), through HYPE Media (Homewood Youth-Powered and Engaged Media) — cultivating space for Black girls to design content that disrupts racist and limiting perceptions of themselves and their communities — or leading literacy engagement in elementary schools in Pittsburgh’s Hill District neighborhood (some might have been introduced to this space through August Wilson’s plays), I find more intentional and impactful ways to engage and extend conversations connected to Black discourse. This seeking community beyond the university has been essential to my survival and frankly has been a key self-initiated retention practice.
My work within and around HBCUs remains a central project for me. No institutional affiliation will change that. There’s never a room where an HBCU conversation is not relevant. To talk about HBCUs is to talk about histories of the US and US higher education. Everyone needs to know about them. My commitment to working within these institutions, specifically my alma mater, is motivated by a need to document intellectual histories that help us engage with these valuable institutions. I’m thinking right now about a recent series of workshops I facilitated virtually with six or seven school districts across the Greater Pittsburgh area. I was reminded of the necessity of this work when students and staff alike weren’t aware that they lived in the same state, merely hours away, from the oldest HBCUs, Cheyney University and Lincoln University. There’s a need for work on what I’m imagining as Critical HBCU Studies, which I’m hoping to forward alongside folx like Drs. Greg Carr, Jelani Favors, Crystal deGregory, Joshua Myers, T. Elon Dancy, Steven D. Mobley Jr., Derrick White, Joy Williamson-Lott.
DW: That brings us to the last question in our conversation, which is what do we do to sustain this moment? Because clearly this is a moment, and I don’t want to be cynical about it, you know, rehashing the same old history, reusing the same old civil rights strategies of passive resistance, like marches and meetings with the NAACP or Rainbow Coalition, or Action Network. The same old tropes to try to get ourselves free, to help one another get free. But this is a moment in which I recognize. We all have coalesced around the lynching of George Floyd, similarly to how Emmett Till’s murder galvanized antiracists more than a generation ago. This is the first time in my lifetime where there seems to be a real earnest effort at the institutional level to try to, at least, signal the need for significant and meaningful change. But, and this is again the work of my parents, I remain cautious. I ask myself, “Will the push for antiracist projects last if it no longer continues to be profitable?” Because let’s be clear, antiracist projects are making money for everyone from Nike to NYU. But we’ve been in this place before, we’ve been in this situation, especially as Black people in academia. We have had these same conversations before, in the ’60s and then again in the ’90s. And we are having them again, today. So, what do we do to sustain this work in this particular space and time? How do we not slip back into complacency with white supremacy? How do we reject the allure of the privilege it offers some of us, even some of us Black intellectuals who are making a good living in these very clearly racist spaces?
DG: For me, the question of what we do to sustain this moment returns to this idea of Black memory I’ve been ruminating on. In the current struggles against police brutality, against the under-resourcing of education for Black and brown kids, and against the other various forms of racial oppression, I am enamored with Toni Morrison’s concept of rememory — that is the idea that we must go beyond historical analysis of racial oppression and begin to include an imaginative understanding of the interior values, goals, and beliefs of a people, in order to understand their perspectives.
I guess to respond to your concerns about complacency, Dennis, I think we need a more intentional, deeper kind of listening. We need to develop our auditory literacies, or our ability to not just hear what people are saying, but to cultivate a deep understanding of their disappointment or critique. We need an acknowledgment and critical engagement with the full histories of a people and a community. What we really need is an antiracist mixtape [laughing], you know that’s my metaphor for everything. But too often anything that’s outside of the current accepted order of things is understood as anarchy, and that’s simply not the case. I must give a shout-out to Cedric Robinson’s The Terms of Order for helping me accept that, but he’s right, in a highly competitive capitalist culture, there is an unspoken concern about limited amounts of resources. The idea that if we acquiesce to this group’s complaints, that someone else has to lose out. But to me, sustaining this current movement extends beyond profits earned from responding to the concerns of Black and brown people, and begins with a deep remembering facilitated through our critical writings and willingness to listen critically.
KLS: I appreciate these questions. We could probably organize a second conversation to address them. That considered, I think it’s fitting to leave our readers with these questions as an effort to solidify commitments and continue the conversation.
My take on them would begin with thoughts on complacency and its relationship with survival. I’m confident that there’s never been a universal complacency within white supremacy. We can locate evidence of resistance and organizing back several centuries. But, even in our resistance these questions of survival continue to resurface for me. What can be sacrificed and by whom? Who should give up power and what should be replaced? What does it mean to take on the never-ceasing goal of liberation and activate freedom dreams? Your question — where do we go from here? — I think we go toward more radical truth. We continue to include more stories. We continue to challenge histories. I’m very interested in the work of challenging our point of origin in our shared histories and narratives. Think about how different a hip-hop classroom would be starting with Richard Wright, as you mentioned. But, also the different learning experiences possible if we consistently and unapologetically prioritize and engaged women, femmes, trans women, and queer artists within hip-hop and beyond US-centered perspectives.
What do we do to sustain this moment? We have to end anti-Blackness, period. We cannot continue to rehearse the same solutions, so we must abolish our current systems. Dreaming and building the world anew is our response-ability.
David Green is director of the Writing Program and associate professor of English at Howard University. Dr. Green is also the editor of Visions and Cyphers, a writing studies textbook composed with an emphasis on culture and language research in composition studies.
Daughter of the US South, Dr. Khirsten L. Scott is a community-driven educator who centers and embodies liberatory Black feminist and womanist practice. Khirsten is currently working on her first book which explores HBCUs and their survival within US Higher Education. Within the city of Pittsburgh, she is lead organizer and facilitator of HYPE Media (Homewood Youth-Powered and Engaged Media), a critical literacies program focused on youth-led story-making possibilities that respond to stigmatized narratives of Black girls, Black women, and Black communities.
Dennis L. Winston is a teacher, writer, and scholar of English and African American literature. His poetry appears in Callaloo and his research is featured in Street Lit: Representing the Urban Landscape (The Scarecrow Press, 2014). Dr. Winston also works with independent hip-hop artists and producers in the greater Washington, DC, area for his live performance series called “Hip Hop is Lit!” He is a senior lecturer of English at the University of Maryland, and the current editor-in-chief of Words Beats & Life: The Global Journal of Hip-Hop Culture.
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