What is the relationship between the past and the present? Can teaching and learning history in a "nontraditional" way lead to young people changing their state in society? These are the questions that I, a student dedicated to the profession of history but wanting to shed the "archaic" perpection of history, want to explore with young people. However, I want to know from you, HASTAC scholars, how you see history being relevant for the hip hop generation, and what can young people (or us for that matter) learn from history, for example, the work of say, the Society of American Indians in the Progressive Era, and make it relevant to their lives today?
I've got an idea to teach African American youth in Detroit about specific aspects of Detroit's history, and see if this will lead them to transforming problems within their own communities? Detroit is an intriguing site to do work, as demonstrated in a recent Detroit News article where at least two Black males are killed everyweek (http://detnews.com/article/20100902/METRO/9020418/Murders-of-young-black...). It is one thing to get students to read a text, it is another for them to engage in conducting historical research with "civil rights veterans" who found ways to deal with problems in their community. What can students learn from speaking with, for example Grace Lee Boggs? What can students learn from historic sites that are rotting away in Detroit? Can young people learn from Detroit's African American and Native American interaction and learn to coalesce with other peoples? These are questions that I hope to explore and hopefully get young people to find relevant to their lives today.
Another important matter is how to teach relevant history to young people with nontraditional sources. While us in the Academy, particularly in history, treasure primary documents, oral interviews, written sources, and these types of "documents," they may not speak to young people the way that other sources of information can. Indeed, taking one look at the episode on The Boondocks' first season, "Return of the King," one can clearly see the relationship between the past and the present. The Boondocks, as an example, can be an interesting medium of use to teach young people about important aspects of history (if you haven't seen it or haven't seen it in a while, check it out; it's funny as hell and more informative then one might think). In other words, as one may see as a recurring theme, how can history be made to teach the hip hop generation about their peculiar position in the broader scope of, for example, Black history? We need to find a way, and the digital and new media is way to begin.
To reiterate, I want to know from you, HASTAC Scholars, why you think (or perhaps don't think) history is relevant and how can it be taught to young people in a cool, relevant, yet rigorous way? If history is best qualified to reward our research, as Malcolm X poignantly stated, then, what can we do to make sure it rewards our young people with changing their social conditions in a city such as Detroit or on a reservation?
The University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign