Who are Jay ARE?
Educators and hip-hop kids turned musical maestros are just two of the roles multi- hyphenates Dr. Jason Rawls (bka J Rawls) and John Robinson play, yet they are the essential roles in their formation of Jay ARE. Although their paths crossed in the music industry for decades, it was during their second collaboration that Rawls and Robinson were inspired to merge their message and music into more than entertainment. That merger birthed Youth Culture Power — equal parts ear candy and a lead-in to their philosophy on education: Youth Culture Pedagogy (YCP). Further still, co- composing this project sparked the question, “What if we not only used the album to introduce, define and categorize our theoretical perspectives, but also wrote a book which could be used by educators worldwide?” The answer—multiple ways to get on board.
Welcome to the Revolution
Many principles of teaching claim to be child-centered and culturally responsive, but to what culture are they referring? While cultural competence is fundamental when communicating with multicultural students and families, translating that awareness into instruction can pull a teacher and a classroom in several directions. What if one culture existed that spoke to all youth, regardless of racial, ethnic or socioeconomic status? Our Youth Culture Pedagogy (YCP) functions on the premise that we can reach all youth in the classroom by tapping into and collaborating with their unique culture—Youth Culture. A closer look and listen at the fundamentals of YCP, Youth Culture Power exemplifies that the heart of this culture is hip-hop.
Hip-hop is more than a genre of music; it’s a lifestyle. Today, combined with pop culture and social media, that lifestyle speaks to and for several generations around the globe. It’s no coincidence that the innovators of this lifestyle and music continue to be our young people. What better way to reach them, than through something they inherently understand? As students of the culture and the music, we both recall learning timeless lessons about our history and the state of the world as we lived in it, through song. Correspondingly, we believe that YCP will maximize students’ full potential for success and promote lifelong engagement in learning. So how do we use this universal form of communication in the classroom? The first step is listening.
Building on the pillars of Marc Lamont Hill’s Hip-Hop Based Education (HHBE); Dr. Christopher Emdin’s Reality Pedagogy; and seminal thought-leader of culturally relevant teaching Dr. Gloria Ladson - Billings’ Culturally Responsive Pedagogy, Dr. Jason Rawls and John Robinson’s Youth Culture Pedagogy (YCP) will add a pivotal, unexplored element to the ongoing revolution of education in urban schools. Their use of proven methods like integrating student-centered points of instruction and strengthening educators’ cultural competence is galvanized by their reframing and expanding of students’ cultural toolkits.