Event Title

The Revolution Starts at Home: B-girling, Ana Rokafella García, and Empowering Urban Youth

Presenter Information

Donnay Edmund, Oberlin College

Location

Science Center A154

Start Date

9-26-2014 3:30 PM

End Date

9-26-2014 5:00 PM

Abstract

Ana ‘Rokafella’ Garcia, a Harlem-born Puerto Rican woman, was one of the first women breakers to enter and gain credibility in the b-boy/b-girl scene in New York City. I center Rokafella in this research to include the often erased contributors to and nurturers of change—women—as those who collect and deposit knowledge to younger generations. I utilize a case study of Rokafella to discuss how art can incite revolutionary consciousness, which enacts a deep-rooted change of oneself in order to change radically systems of oppression. A revolutionary consciousness means understanding both one’s own trauma and the state apparatuses that act upon individuals every day, and using that understanding to enable fundamental change. My research also centers the revolutionary struggle of urban youth of color and show how revolutionary struggle can inform artistic expressions found in hip hop. This research draws from fields that include Africana Studies, Ethnic Studies, American Studies, Performance Studies, Dance, Politics, and Sociology. The reason that b-girling is the focus of this research is twofold: 1) b-boying/b-girling is considered the original dance of hip hop, and 2) the dance form has elements of acrobatics and a fighting posture. Many link the dance to other martial arts/dance forms such as Capoeira from Brazil, which was developed as both a dance and a means to train for battle. The physical and mental capabilities it requires prove useful for self defense. Recognizing the conditions that have produced Capoeira, as well as the dance forms that are similar, reveals a strong connection to revolutionary consciousness. Hiphop, like any other cultural production can be used for any interest. The decimated and neglected Bronx gave birth to hip hop in the 1970s. Hip hop has been a way to tell stories and challenge conditions created by state-sanctioned violence. Hip hop invoked a mass of oppressed people to speak their stories, to challenge, live, laugh, and survive. The urban youth who formed what would be coined hip hop in the 1970s, were taking control of the ways they wanted to construe their present, history, and future. This presentation explores how ‘break dance’ or bgirling can be used to encourage revolutionary consciousness. B-boying/b-girling were strongly influenced by the black power music of James Brown, by funk, and by innovative communities coming together to create through the deindustrialized, poverty-stricken South Bronx. The Civil Rights movement and the resurgent struggles of people of color such as Native American, Asian Americans, and Latin@s shook the years of the 1960s and 70s. The research I am conducting builds upon the revolutionary spirit of the original dance tradition of hip hop.

Notes

Session II, Panel 3 - Reclaiming Communities: Radical Activist Legacies

Award

Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow (MMUF)

Project Mentor(s)

Pam Brooks, Africana Studies

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Sep 26th, 3:30 PM Sep 26th, 5:00 PM

The Revolution Starts at Home: B-girling, Ana Rokafella García, and Empowering Urban Youth

Science Center A154

Ana ‘Rokafella’ Garcia, a Harlem-born Puerto Rican woman, was one of the first women breakers to enter and gain credibility in the b-boy/b-girl scene in New York City. I center Rokafella in this research to include the often erased contributors to and nurturers of change—women—as those who collect and deposit knowledge to younger generations. I utilize a case study of Rokafella to discuss how art can incite revolutionary consciousness, which enacts a deep-rooted change of oneself in order to change radically systems of oppression. A revolutionary consciousness means understanding both one’s own trauma and the state apparatuses that act upon individuals every day, and using that understanding to enable fundamental change. My research also centers the revolutionary struggle of urban youth of color and show how revolutionary struggle can inform artistic expressions found in hip hop. This research draws from fields that include Africana Studies, Ethnic Studies, American Studies, Performance Studies, Dance, Politics, and Sociology. The reason that b-girling is the focus of this research is twofold: 1) b-boying/b-girling is considered the original dance of hip hop, and 2) the dance form has elements of acrobatics and a fighting posture. Many link the dance to other martial arts/dance forms such as Capoeira from Brazil, which was developed as both a dance and a means to train for battle. The physical and mental capabilities it requires prove useful for self defense. Recognizing the conditions that have produced Capoeira, as well as the dance forms that are similar, reveals a strong connection to revolutionary consciousness. Hiphop, like any other cultural production can be used for any interest. The decimated and neglected Bronx gave birth to hip hop in the 1970s. Hip hop has been a way to tell stories and challenge conditions created by state-sanctioned violence. Hip hop invoked a mass of oppressed people to speak their stories, to challenge, live, laugh, and survive. The urban youth who formed what would be coined hip hop in the 1970s, were taking control of the ways they wanted to construe their present, history, and future. This presentation explores how ‘break dance’ or bgirling can be used to encourage revolutionary consciousness. B-boying/b-girling were strongly influenced by the black power music of James Brown, by funk, and by innovative communities coming together to create through the deindustrialized, poverty-stricken South Bronx. The Civil Rights movement and the resurgent struggles of people of color such as Native American, Asian Americans, and Latin@s shook the years of the 1960s and 70s. The research I am conducting builds upon the revolutionary spirit of the original dance tradition of hip hop.