Hip Hop in the Heartland

Hip Hop in the Heartland is specifically designed for:

Classroom teachers, administrators, guidance counselors, school personnel, community educators, college educators, community leaders, education students, hip hop and spoken word educators and practitioners, and anyone committed to social justice and urban education.

Gain a better understanding of the scope of hip hop history, culture, and politics, deepen your practice as a spoken word and hip hop educator, and engage in best practice approaches to student-centered liberatory education models.

• Discover the best practices in hip hop and spoken word pedagogy
• Learn skills to better reach and mentor your students
• Improve academic achievement, reduce behavior issues and energize your classroom
• Get practical strategies for increasing participation and building community
• Meet new colleagues and enjoy UW-Madison’s beautiful campus!

Spring 1-Day Seminar

April 8, 2019

Memorial Union, Madison, WI

Individual: $50
Groups of 5+$35


Summer 4-Day Institute 

July 2019

Madison, WI

Registration: $300 (groups of 10+)
$350 (groups of 5-9)
$400 (individual)

Registration opening soon!

Each spring and summer, UW-Madison’s Division of Diversity, Equity & Educational Achievement and School of Education team up with Urban Word NYC to offer educators and community leaders an opportunity to connect hip hop as both an art form and an instructional tool to improve the academic success of students who remain marginalized in our schools. Hip Hop in the Heartland draws from educational theories such as socio-cultural theory, culturally relevant pedagogy, critical race theory, and hip hop and social justice pedagogies.

Participants learn proven, hands-on techniques to develop lesson plans and strengthen their course study, as well as create a platform from which they will understand the scope of hip hop history, culture and politics.

Who is presenting?

Check out the lineup of this spring’s presenters! Click below to see detailed workshop descriptions along with presenter bios.

  • Lauren Leigh Kelly: Exploring History, Geography, and Culture through Hip Hop Lit Circles

    Lauren Leigh Kelly

    Lauren Leigh Kelly is an Assistant Professor of Urban Education in the Urban Social Justice Teacher Education program at Rutgers University’s Graduate School of Education. She is also the founder of the annual Hip Hop Youth Summit at Teachers College, Columbia University. Kelly taught high school English for ten years in New York where she also developed courses in Hip Hop Literature and Culture, Spoken Word poetry, and Theatre Arts.

    Her workshop, Exploring History, Geography, and Culture through Hip Hop Lit Circles, supports the development of Hip Hop literacies as well as sociohistorical understandings of cultures and communities through the examination of Hip Hop narratives in rap lyrics. Participants will work in groups to read diverse Hip Hop narratives rooted in particular times geographic locations. Using internet resources, each group will research the locations referenced in the songs and discuss the social, historical, and lyrical significance of this place both within and outside of Hip Hop culture, including local knowledge. We will also explore the relationship between time and these locations. Through research, geographic mapping, critical reading, and discussion, participants will work collaboratively to contextualize the authors and narratives of these Hip Hop texts through understandings of the histories, cultures, people, and locations that are embedded in them.


  • Rob Dz: The Projects: Creating Project Based Learning Programs Centered Around Hip Hop

    Rob Dz

    Rob Franklin, also known as Rob Dz, is the Media Projects Bubblerarian for the Madison Public Library. His session, The Projects: Creating Project Based Learning Programs Centered Around Hip Hop, focuses on helping students create Hip Hop projects in different areas of learning.

    As a Kennedy Center certified teaching artist for the Making Justice program his primary residency focus is on Hip Hop, Personal Branding and Spoken Word as a positive form of self-expression. Rob has held residencies with Madison youth in elementary, middle, and high schools, community centers, the Dane County Juvenile Detention Center and Juvenile Shelter Home, Neighborhood Intervention Program, Madison Jazz Consortium and with The Black Star Drum Line. As a musician, he has performed with the likes of Nas, Eminem, Common, Talib Kweli, Dead Prez and others. In 2017, he was inducted to both the American Folklife Center at the Library Of Congress and The National Museum of African American History and Culture as a member of The Story Corps program.


  • ShaH Evans and Karen Reece: Academic Rap Up
    Academic Rap Up brings local artists into grade school classrooms to create a unique, culturally-responsive learning experience. This session will focus on how the project is designed to narrow the achievement gap by increasing academic engagement, encouraging innovation, and connecting students with community role models.

    ShaH Evans 

    ShaH comes to us from Maywood, IL by way of Richland Center and is the co-founder and Vice President of Urban Community Arts Network. ShaH eats, sleeps and breathes Hip-Hop, and has been booking local and national acts for years. He is the owner of music blog, Get Your Buzz Up.com and ME Management and Consulting. ShaH also speaks about positive life choices with youth and young adults in Madison and surrounding areas.

    Karen Reece

    Dr. Karen Reece is a founding member and serves as President of Urban Community Arts Network. Karen develops programming, writes grants and curriculum, and facilitates community organizing in the Hip-Hop community. Karen served as chair of the City of Madison’s Task Force on Equity in Music and Entertainment.

  • Sofia Snow

    Sofia Snow

    Sofía Snow is a Boston-raised multimedia artist, educator, and organizer. Her work has been featured in a range of publications, television, and theater, as well as in The Boston Globe, Cosmopolitan Magazine, American Girl, WWE Network, The Public Theater, and elsewhere. Prior to her arrival in New York, Sofía was the Education & Outreach Coordinator for the University of Wisconsin’s pioneering First Wave program, the world’s first and only full-tuition scholarship program for hip-hop and urban arts, of which she is also an alumna. Sofía is currently the Executive Director of Urban Word NYC, overseeing all of  day-to-day operations, including key program development, staffing, and organizational growth & strategy.

What is the schedule for the day?

A final schedule will be posted in March. In the meantime, click the links below for the 2018 programs.

2018 HHH Spring Seminar

2018 HHH Summer Institute

Where can I stay?

Please contact Matthew Freid at freid@wisc.edu for information about housing.

Can I get Professional Advancement Credits (PACs)?

MMSD teachers who attend a Hip Hop in the Heartland event may be able to use their participation towards PAC credits.

For detailed information on how to obtain PAC credits for participation in Hip Hop in the Heartland, visit https://pd.madison.k12.wi.us/pdinformation and click the “PD Credits & PACs” tab.

Are scholarships available?

Please contact Matthew Freid at freid@wisc.edu for information about scholarships.

Past Hip Hip in the Heartland Presenters

  • Michael Cirelli
    Executive Director
    Urban Word NYC
  • Gloria-Ladson Billings
    Professor Emerita and former Kellner Family Distinguished Professor in Urban Education in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Alan Sitomer
    California Teacher of the Year Award Winner Author of Homeboyz, The Hoopster, and other YA novels
  • Bettina Love
    Assistant Professor
    Department of Educational Theory & Practice
    University of Georgia
  • Mahogany Browne
    Writer, educator, activist, mentor, and curator
  • Toni Blackman
    Rapper, actress, writer
    U.S. State Department Musical Ambassador