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Students in auditorium in Buffalo, NY, watching presentation about the roots of rap.

Published August 29, 2023


Acclaimed author joins UB’s Center for K–12 Black History and Racial Literacy Education for summer reading event

Award-winning author Carole Boston Weatherford read and discussed her book, “The Roots of Rap: 16 Bars on the Pillars of Hip-Hop,” during a special virtual event held this summer for 90 students from both Parker Academy and First Shiloh STEAM Discovery Camp in Buffalo, N.Y.

The presentation, given on July 24, 2023, was offered by the University at Buffalo Graduate School of Education’s Center for K–12 Black History and Racial Literacy Education in partnership with Say Yes Buffalo’s Summer Camp, which serves students in grades K through six from Buffalo Public Schools.

Carole Boston Weatherford’s book is widely recognized for introducing children to the history of hip-hop, allowing them to explore how it evolved from folktales and poetry to today’s popular musical genre. The book was selected for this event due in part to the current celebrations surrounding the 50th anniversary of hip-hop. These celebrations included the Center for K–12 Black History and Racial Literacy Education’s recent Teaching Black History Conference, which was themed “The Sounds of Blackness, Hip Hop Turns 50.”

"Immersing students in the rhythm and wisdom of hip-hop while providing them with the invaluable opportunity to learn from a prominent African-American author fuels the soul and ignites the mind. Through this enriching experience, they embraced diverse perspectives, amplified their voices and cultivated a profound sense of cultural pride. Such vibrant focus not only supports the academic and social goals of the summer camp but also nurtures the leaders of tomorrow, inspiring them to create positive change in their communities and beyond," said Ruqayyah Simmons, camp coordinator at First Shiloh STEAM Discovery Camp and executive director of Black Boys Read Too.

Wil Green, GSE director of community outreach and engagement, and Christina U. King, PhD, GSE clinical assistant professor of learning and instruction, kicked off the event by introducing Carole Boston Weatherford, and her son Jeffery Boston Weatherford—a rapper and illustrator.

In addition to discussing and reading her book, Carole Boston Weatherford also highlighted her personal background and previous publications, including “Freedom in Congo Square,” “Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement” and “Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom.”

“One of the things that I find rewarding is getting to share my books with children like you, either in person or virtually, and seeing your faces as I share my work,” Carole Boston Weatherford said during the presentation. “Another reward is knowing that children, whose faces I will never see and whose schools I may never visit, are reading my books in places in the world that I may not have ever been before.”

“… I hope that the books are touching those children's lives in some way—and for me, that's rewarding,” she continued. “And another reward—perhaps my greatest reward as a mother—is being able to work on these books with my son, Jeffery.”

Jeffery Boston Weatherford, a rapper and children’s book illustrator, joined his mother at the presentation to discuss his favorite books and background and experiences as an illustrator. He also gave an original rap performance.

“I'm sure you've heard the saying, ‘practice makes perfect,’ right? Practice makes perfect,” Jeffery Boston Weatherford said to the students. “So, anything that you want to accomplish—practice. Those are the bricks that lay the bridge to your dreams.”

Green believes that offering this programming is vital because it provides common ground to relate to youth and expands their knowledge of the roots of hip-hop and how important it is to the cultural landscape. “We were fortunate to have Carole participate, through the sponsorship of UB GSE’s Center for K–12 Black History and Racial Literacy Education, to promote a high-profile author who also looks like many of the students who participated with the hopes of inspiring future authors from our community,” he said.

Students received a copy of the book with a signed bookmark from the author, donated by the Center for K-12 Black History and Racial Literacy Education.

To prepare for the event, students created artistic responses within the four pillars of hip-hop—graffiti, break dancing, rapping/emceeing and DJing, which Carole Boston Weatherford outlines in her book. Some of the younger students crafted microphones to depict the emcee pillar.

“Events like this are important because they provide students with the opportunity to meet and learn about and from authors and illustrators whom they may not be familiar with, especially African-American authors and illustrators,” said King.

Partners for this event included GSE’s Office of Community Engagement; Black Boys Read Too, Inc.; Alice, Ever After Books; Cold Narly Generation LLC; Parker Academy; and First Shiloh Baptist Church.

“I am hopeful that students walked away from the event with new knowledge and appreciation of African-American culture and the work and contributions of African-American authors and illustrators,” said King. “Perhaps, I am most hopeful that some or many of the students will see themselves as future researchers, writers, poets and/or illustrators who create and share stories about themselves and others in their communities—making the culture, contributions and contributors of communities of color more visible and familiar.”

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