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Connecting hip-hop to culturally relevant pedagogy – 2021

Chicago, IL
Dates May 10 - July 2
Program Focus

Using hip-hop culture, literacy, and audio engineering as pedagogical approaches to developing and engaging urban youth as educated agents in their communities.

Dates subject to change

Program Leaders
Program Themes
  • Arts
  • Education
  • Race

Participants in the Chicago program will have the option to live on campus during the majority of the program. Please note while DukeEngage will not pay for housing, students may use their award money to cover the cost.


Hip-hop is the language of many of today’s youth. It speaks to their hopes, dreams, struggles, and realities. The DukeEngage-Chicago program seeks to support community organizations in their efforts to retain marginalized students through alternative, culture rich programming.

Chicago’s South and West sides are richly diverse neighborhoods whose residents have been acutely affected by shifts in both financial and political economies. Local grassroots organizations are working each day to solve problems such as food deserts, job training, access to quality public education and health care, in order to provide authentic avenues to address grievances. Music and the arts have always been a means of expression as they often mirror the reality of life in these communities.

Participants will gain an understanding, awareness and application of culturally relevant pedagogy through the lenses of critical race theory, intercultural competence, sociology, psychology, public policy, and education. They will be placed in one of several youth-serving organizations within the Chicagoland area that use language arts, hip-hop based audio engineering, and hip-hop culture (self-reflection and movement) as a pedagogical approach to teaching and developing youth and community empowerment.

The majority of participants’ time will be spent developing and implementing culturally relevant pedagogy and researching how it impacts youth and communities. They will receive hands-on experience in how music and culture influence a student’s identity, self-confidence in learning, and interpretation of the socio-political landscape around them. These experiences will develop and strengthen Duke students’ abilities to:

  • analyze and address complicated social issues;
  • connect and apply knowledge from the DukeEngage experience to their area of study, using it to comprehend, analyze, and/or challenge existing theories and frameworks.

Partnership Opportunities (Virtual)

Solidarity Studios, one of the first community managed arts spaces in the Southside of Chicago, begins with a simple premise: giving people the tools and resources they need to tell their story and galvanize their communities around the issues that affect them the most.

DukeEngage students will be engaged in activities such as leading workshops/tutoring sessions, assisting with curriculum development, shadowing community activists and educators, participating in planning processes, mentoring, assisting with music production and engineering, community researching (interviewing, data collection, sample evaluation, etc.), youth organizing, and action research training. Activities may take place in a variety of environments (virtual, office/school setting, or outdoors), and the day-to-day work of the program may require that students interface with adults and youth (ages 10-18).

Potential community groups include:

  • Arab American Action Network — Chicago’s oldest Arab-American community group that aids the community in issues of immigration, local adjustment, education, and political advocacy.
  • Circles & Ciphers — A support group and leadership development program for youth who have had encounters with the criminal justice system. Circles & Ciphers employs hip-hop to amplify their voices and interrupt intergenerational patterns of violence.
  • Inner City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) — IMAN infuses education, healthcare services, advocacy work, and arts festivals regularly to engage a broad swath of the south side Chicago community in meaningful improvement of their neighborhood and livelihoods.
  • Young Chicago Authors (YCA) — Encourages young people to document their daily lives in their own words. In the spirit of hip-hop, YCA adheres to the idea that everyone has a story to tell

Keep in mind when applying that Chicago is one hour behind Eastern Time, and that some program commitments will be aligned accordingly.


Program Requirements


The following additional courses are helpful to have but not required. The program also seeks to engage students who are interested and/or have an affinity for the Arts (visual and performance).

  • EDUC 101: Historical and Philosophical Foundations in Education, EDUC 243: Children Schools and Society, EDUC 240: Educational Psychology, and EDUC 285S: The Critical Pedagogy of Hip-Hop
  • PUBPOL 206S: Engaged Citizens/Social Change, PUBPOL 256: Social Innovation
  • AAAS 335: The History of Hip-Hop, AAAS 336: Michael Jackson and Performance of Blackness, AAAS 338: Popular Representations of Black Masculinity, AAAS 334: Sampling Soul, AAAS 324S: Social Facts and Narrative Representations, AAAS 310: African-American Women and History

Skills: Interested participants should note and highlight any of the following technical skills:

  • Event planning
  • Fundraising
  • Data collection and evaluation
  • Website construction
  • I-Movie or other movie making software platform
  • Garage Band or other music software platform
  • Podcasting/Sound Cloud

Personal Qualities:

  • Flexibility: Your ability to focus, refocus, and adapt to changing situations.
  • Communication (auditory, oral, and written): Your ability to hear what people say and reflect on it.
  • Self-Motivation: Your ability to self-start, seek solutions to perceived challenges, and take a course of action.
  • Diplomacy: Your ability to share power, collaboratively make decisions, and ultimately be willing to accept the outcomes.
  • Creativity: Your ability to make something – ANYTHING (rather than break something down). When something is truly “creative,” it envisions an alternative and conjures an image of how things might be!
  • Intercultural Competence: Your ability to effectively manage the diversity around you, the diverse backgrounds, sensitivities and thoughts of others.