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Celebrating Twenty Years of Black Girlhood

The Lauryn Hill Reader


Edited By M. Billye Sankofa Waters, Venus E. Evans-Winters and Bettina L. Love

The album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill sold over 420,000 copies in its first week, received ten Grammy nominations (winning five). Celebrating Twenty Years of Black Girlhood: The Lauryn Hill Reader critically engages the work of Ms. Hill, highlighting the interdisciplinary nature of the album. Beyond the album’s commercial success, Ms. Hill’s radical self-consciousness and exuberance for life led listeners through her Black girl journey of love, motherhood, admonition, redemption, spirituality, sexuality, politics, and nostalgia that affirmed the power of creativity, resistance, and the tradition of African storytelling. Ms. Hill’s album provides inspirational energies that serve as a foundational text for Black girlhood. In many ways it is the definitive work of Black girlhood for the Hip Hop generation and beyond because it opened our eyes to a holistic narrative of woman and mother. Twenty years after the release of the album, we pay tribute to this work by adding to the quilt of Black girls’ stories with the threads of feminist consciousness, which are particularly imperative in this space where we declare: Black girls matter.

Celebrating Twenty Years of Black Girlhood is the first book to academically engage the work of the incomparable Ms. Hill. It intellectually wrestles with the interdisciplinary nature of Ms. Hill’s album, centering the connection between the music of Ms. Hill and the lives of Black girls. The essays in this collection utilize personal narratives and professional pedagogies and invite students, scholars, and readers to reflect on how Ms. Hill’s album influenced their past, present, and future.

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Track 24 The Hill from Whence My Help Comes: Black Women Rapping and Preaching Activism and Liberation (Conā S. M. Marshall)


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The Hill FROM Whence My Help Comes

Black Women Rapping and Preaching Activism and Liberation



Sexist violence is being committed in the name of Christianity and Hip Hop; more notably, men dominate rhetoric of Black preaching and MCing. Both rhetorical mediums serve as vehicles for Black consciousness. Lauryn Hill’s womanist Hip Hop lyrics aid understanding Black women preachers’ navigation of the constellating systems of racism, sexism, and heterosexism. Her declarative statement made in the song entitled “Ready or Not” by the Fugees (the group Lauryn Hill was a part of prior to the release of her solo album), articulates an episteme of activism for Black women (1996). Within this 14-word closing bar, Ms. Hill speaks to two varying subjectivities and three entries of power. Al Capone represents a figurehead that captures identities of “gangster”, “maleness”, and “whiteness” while Nina Simone embodies identities of “Blackness”, “womanhood” and “artist-activist”. Hill is speaking within the context of a Hip Hop culture shifting its gaze to emulate such a persona in Al Capone while simultaneously declaring that she would rather be radically subjective, and institute womanist ethics by emulating Nina Simone, a Black woman activist who utilized her platform as a singer to educate and unite Black people (Floyd-Thomas, 2006). Lauryn Hill (1998) went on to do just what she declared when she released her solo album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.

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