Hip-Hop’s Potential in South Africa

I understand that there are some problems with hip-hop, as there are with all phenomena, there is tremendous potential in hip-hop to deliver serious improvements in health in South Africa. With this idea in mind, I am seriously exploring this potential of hip-hop in my Educational Policy Studies 750 seminar course, “African Education: Past, Present, Future,” at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to improve health-related decision making in South Africa. The inspiration behind this idea is the great popularity of hip-hop on the continent of Africa and the significant meaning of songs to Africans. It is my hope that hip-hop can be used in South Africa as a tool of engendering change in health-related decision making.

When I first announced this idea in response to a question on a good friend’s Facebook status, a University of Wisconsin-Madison female student responded that South Africans need more than pamphlets being passed out to them to improve health-related decision making. While I completely understood her desire not to see more literature simply being disseminated to South Africans, this was not my simple intention. My intention is to use the full range of the power and influence of hip-hop to change the culture of health-related decision making. I think she was afraid of my use of “health literacy.” Unfortunately, her understanding of my use of health literacy was egregiously misunderstood. She does not understand that I am promoting an active, living, and meaningful notion of health literacy, one that is just as real as the hip-hop culture South Africans engage with. I do hope, however, that this young lady has not given up on the power of literature to create social change.

In Postmodernism or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, Fredric Jameson, a Marxist theorist and leading cultural critic, contends that one of the most damaging dimensions of the postmodern epoch is a rejection of thinking in terms of totality. If we were willing to think in terms of totality, we would be much more inclined to use whatever means available to us to try to ameliorate our health conditions throughout the world, including South Africa. While hip-hop has not traditionally been associated with health interventions, this should not cause us to not engage it with issues pertaining to health. Since one of the critical problems with health-related decision making in South Africa has to do with how men interact with women sexually, including the raping them, hip-hop artists have an opportunity to start communicating to them through their art about why they should value their women’s bodies better and treat them much better. These messages will certainly have some potential to reach South African boys and men in ways that we have never thought possible: The words of these hip-hop artists can become topics of great interest to them in their everyday lives–simply because hip-hop artists are talking about issues pertaining to health-related decision making.

My study will be completely finished in less than a month, and I plan to publish this study in a scholarly journal. I will make access to this study available on this site after it has been published. I look very forward to concluding my work that will offer South Africans and potentially people across the globe new solutions for improving health-related decision making.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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