Street Lit Writers MUST Be Heard

I rarely post comments on articles, I just read them.  NPR recently posted the story, "Hip-Hop in Print: Brooklyn Publisher Looks to 'Reverse Gentrify' Literature.   The story featured Street Lit. writer, Albert 'Prodigy' Johnson and his drive to publish books that change lives.   He said, "Writing lyrics, I pull from my real life,"  "A lot of negativity that goes on in my world, in my neighborhood, with my friends, negative things I had to deal with — I take that negative energy and instead of doing something bad with it, I put it into my music."  You see, there are similarities between hip hop music and Street Lit, both are creative reflections of what the writers see and experience.

Author/Rapper Prodigy
It's great that writers within the genre are finally getting the press coverage they deserve.  What irks me is the inability or in some cases stupidity of some who comment on these article comment threads.  Yes, there I said I feel better.   I know some of you are saying to yourself, what do you expect K.C.?  Those who commented can comment easily behind a computer....that's true.  I don't know what got into me, but I had to speak my mind too.  Below is the comment I posted earlier this morning.  You may not agree, but the least thing you can do is respect my view.   Heck, NPR may not even post it, but I will here.

*Please note, since I reference the test scores at my school, I penned these comments under my school's blog name, The Audacious Librarian.


Below is the definition of Street Literature:

Contemporary Street Literature can be defined as a literary genre "where the stories, be they fiction or non-fiction, are consistently set in urban, inner-city enclaves. Street Literature of yesteryear and today, by and large, depicts tales about the daily lives of people living in lower income city neighborhoods. This characteristic spans historical timelines, varying cultural identifications, linguistic associations, and various format designations."
  - The Readers' Advisory Guide to Street Literature, by Dr. Vanessa Irvin Morris, 2011, p. 2.

What people tend to forget is all stories have VALUE.  Street Literature writers view life from a different lens which reflect their communities and life experiences. These writers represent of group of people/stories which have historically been ignored by publishing houses. Hence, this is why many of the writers began their careers 'self-publishing'.  I believe the real reason why the discussion has turned negative on this comment thread is that the stories represent inner city America of which many of us escaped from.  Remember, like other writers that pen stories for other genres, writers write what these see and experience.  These stories make some of us uncomfortable and in some cases , many of us cannot relate to what it is like to live in these cities. My question to all of us is, 'Should the voices and stories of those left behind in inner city America be ignored?'  I don't think so.

Public Enemy's Chuck D. said years ago, “Rap is black America's CNN.”  Yes, there are similarities to rap music and Street Literature books.  Serving as a Library Media Specialist in a inner city school
in Chicago, I understand my students love for this genre.  I select books within the genre to meet students social and emotional needs.  Moreover, these stories are life lessons that teach right from wrong and guide students in navigating life's challenges.   For the last ten years, I have used this genre to engage my non-reading students to read consistently.  The genre serves as a starting point out of the gate for these struggling readers.  Once they become interested in reading, I introduce them to other genres with similar themes.  What often happens is my students become avid readers of all genres.  They continue to read Street Literature sometimes for class assignments and often times for their own leisure reading enjoyment.  Reading scores have increased at my school since 2010 and the use of the Street Literature genre is one of the main contributors to this success.

The voice of inner city America as retold by Street Literature writers MUST be heard.

KC Boyd
The Audacious Librarian

"Hip-Hop in Print: Brooklyn Publisher Looks to 'Reverse Gentrify' Literature.
by Baz Dreisinger   

The Readers' Advisory Guide to Street Literature, by Dr. Vanessa Irvin Morris, 2011, p. 2.

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