Emdin, Christopher. "Christopher Emdin SXSWedu 2017 Keynote." SXSWedu Keynote Address. Texas, Austin. 6 Mar. 2017. YouTube. Web. 21 Mar. 2017. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XbBwM1c-6xM>.
The Columbia Teachers College Professor of Science Education and author of For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood-- and the Rest of Y'all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education, Christopher Emdin offers the keynote address at SXSWedu, the conference for educators. His energetic and electrifying speech amplifies his agenda of producing teachers who are willing and able to meet and teach students where they are. More importantly, he wants the educational system, and those individuals in it, to stop doing violence to black and brown bodies by denying culture and reality in the school setting. He exhorts the crowd, who recognizes as friends, enemies, and frenemies, to acknowledge the failures of the US public education system that continue to suppress, repress and oppress student voice.
He states that his friends believe that the idea that education is the civil rights issue of our time and that we must talk about equity and diversity and understanding to reach students.
He names ‘enemies’ as those who out to sell product or technology or their own agenda to schools, or make money off schools as enemies, ‘frenemies’ as those who can quote the big
educational theorists but do not have positive approaches to learning and students. And, he reaches out to the believers and who, despite good intentions, end up being enemies due to their complicity in the institutions that do not value specific groups of people.
Emdin chose the lens of the recent Tribe Called Quest album, titled “We Got it from here… thank you 4 your service” to share his message with the audience, quoting lyrics and inserting his own rhymes, to call upon educators to attempt to understand urban culture, develop teachers from within the urban community, and create curriculum that is integrated and draws from the culture of the students.
I own the Tribe Called Quest album and have long been a fan of their music, so I could certainly relate to the message of the keynote speech. I consider hip-hop to be an accessible genre, and one that connects people regardless of their background, though I guess some would disagree. My thoughts also turned to the ideas around how we communicate and how we relate to the ‘mother tongue’, that is, the language we first learned from our mothers. I think I felt a connection in that regard, too, having been raised by New Yorkers, who sounded very much like Emdin to me.