Using the Knowledge of Breaking to Transform Self and Society Article 4

Chapter 4. Your Crew

We all need to have people in our lives who call us higher, who speak truth to us, and challenge us to be better than we know how to be on our own.

Inheriting this understanding from the Civil Rights Movement, Hiphop has always uniquely demonstrated the power that comes from the unity and challenge of the cipher. As mentioned in the previous articles, Hiphop became the common ground allowing many  youth from diverse backgrounds to come together for the first time to express themselves creatively. This expressive dialogue, using art as the medium, became a powerful communication tool for youth to share their ideas with each and express their grievances. Despite the oppressive realities of racism, classism, and other “isms” hiphop was a vehicle that allowed them to channel this aggression into something productive through a new creative dialogue. This dialogue allowed for the an explosive evolution of art forms to emerge, which are known now as the elements of hiphop (Djing, Mcing, Graffitit, and Breaking). These elements emerged out of creative narratives shared within the context of community embodying both diversity and unity.  No where is this more powerfully demonstrated than through the evolution of breaking.

Breaking which is a dance form that originates on the streets of the burrows of New York, has now found itself on international stages of some of the world’s top venues. It is a dynamic form of movement that samples from many different styles and traditions. Channeling the energy from former gang bangers, this explosive art form has the power to build and even tear down. The basic framework that makes these call and response transactions take place is through the context of the cipher.

The cipher is the circle where people share their truth, and tell their stories creatively. The energy is always flowing back and forth like a really good dialogue. Someone comes into the middle of the circle and shares their truth, and another comes in and comments to it and adds their own phrase and so on. This dynamic process can allow for some serious impartation of skill, style, and authenticity. Similar to watching a Jazz band, each member does their own solo sharing their own uniqueness while simultaneously also contributing to the vibe of the collective whole.

To maximize this experience each dancer will practice on their own at home, and then will eventually share their new creations with the group. This process of entering into a creative solitude is one that not only determines the ever-evolving skills of the individual but also to the whole community. This synergy between solitude and community is a powerful relationship that allows for the creative redefinition of self and community. It is a productive process that challenges the status quo and brings about new possibility and growth. Fueled by the breaks being played by the deejay, dancers create moves that challenge limitations by demonstrating creative imagination that stretch possibility and redefine the tradition.

Like the Civil Rights movement, Breaking embodies the knowledge that collectively we can bring our unique strengths together in a way that can challenge the status quo. We can literally battle negative realities that threaten to hold us down and make us move to the back of societies bus. The truth is that armed with our own unique voices, a common understanding, and a strategy for battle we can take down any oppressive force that seeks to battle us. This is the knowledge of Hip-hop that has fueled this element to reaching youth all over the world and given them hope that a “Change is gonna come”.


About goodlifealliance

This blog is dedicated to the engagement, empowerment, and equipping of young adults who are using the arts to create change in both themselves and the world. It is connected to a global network of cultural change agents that are using the arts, primarily hiphop, to name the world and in doing so also changing it. Key topics include Hiphop Culture, Liberation Education, Social and Emotional Learning, Social Justice, Hiphop as a movement, and Spirituality. It is authored by Roberto Rivera, Hiphop artist, educator, and author of educational curricula such as Good Life and Fulfill The Dream. Roberto speaks publicly around the nation on issues covered in this blog.
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