Fight the Power

Breakin Down Hip Hop Activism

by Arash Daneshzadeh (Volume editor) Anthony J. Nocella II (Volume editor) Chandra Ward (Volume editor) Ahmad R. Washington (Volume editor)
©2022 Textbook XVIII, 94 Pages
Series: Hip Hop Studies and Activism, Volume 3


Fight the Power: Breakin Down Hip Hop Activism, co-edited by provocative and Fiercely intelligent Hip Hop heads Arash Daneshzadeh, Anthony J. Nocella II, Chandra Ward, and Ahmad Washington, is a fresh thought-provoking book that engages in social justice, Black Lives Matter, Hip Hop, youth culture, and current affairs. This must-read is a timely and powerfully engaging collection of interviews by outstanding, brilliant BIPOC Hip Hop activists from around the United States. Their stories are a poignant testimony for what is happening in the streets against racism, classism, police brutality, prisons, hate groups, and white supremacy. This dope-ass book that screams loud FTP is perfect for any reader at any age.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Advance Praise
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Foreword (Don C. Sawyer III)
  • Preface (Clifton G. Sanders and Nathaniel “N8” Sanders)
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction: The Emergence of the 11th Element of Hip Hop (Arash Daneshzadeh, Anthony J. Nocella II, Chandra Ward, and Ahmad Washington)
  • Chapter One: Interview with Lauren Leigh Kelly (Anthony J. Nocella II)
  • Chapter Two: Interview with Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi (Arash Daneshzadeh)
  • Chapter Three: Interview with “Mic” Crenshaw (Anthony J. Nocella II)
  • Chapter Four: Interview with Reies Romero (Anthony J. Nocella II)
  • Chapter Five: Interview with Katrina Benally (Chandra Ward)
  • Chapter Six: Interview with Selinda Guerrero (Ahmad Washington)
  • Chapter Seven: Interview with Antonio Quintana (Ahmad Washington)
  • Chapter Eight: Interview with Jared A. Ball (Ahmad Washington)
  • Afterword (David Michael)
  • Contributors
  • Index

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Don C. Sawyer III

I was born on Wednesday, August 11, 1976, in Harlem, NYC and I love to tell my students that I share a birthday with Hip Hop. Many Hip Hop historians mark the birth of Hip Hop on August 11, 1973 when DJ Kool Herc threw his now famous party in the recreation room located at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue. I was born to teen parents a few years before the war on drugs and crack started to destroy my neighborhood. Charting out my life from that point until now, many may have seen me in prison, dead, or living some statistical reality shaped by a deficit perspective and controlling images informed by the dominant narratives of Black masculinity. A Black male, born to teen parents, living in the Abraham Lincoln Housing Projects, on welfare, during the height of the crack cocaine epidemic was not supposed to make it to be a tenured sociology professor. Hip Hop saved my life!

During my third-grade school year, my mother started to notice my behavioral shifts. I started to act out in school and my teachers began to send notes of concern home to my parents. When punishment did not seem to be working, my parents took me to a child psychologist. My mother asked if I needed to speak to someone because I would not share what was going on with her nor my father. They decided to take me to see a mental health professional at Harlem Hospital. I remember drawing pictures, answering questions, and interpreting what I saw in inkblot photos. After meeting with my teachers, parents, and me, the team decided that there was nothing “wrong” with me. They informed my parents ←ix | x→that I was experiencing trauma in my neighborhood. Instead of medicating me, they suggested martial arts. My parents signed me up for classes in the Lincoln West Community Center, located on the basement level of our apartment building. I entered as a new member of Harlem GoJu and to my surprise, my Sensei was Master Dave Thomas, also known as Disco Dave, a legendary founding member of Harlem’s famous rap group, The Crash Crew. Again, Hip Hop saved my life!

Sensei Dave was the first Hip Hop activist I ever met. I’m not sure the term was used back then, or if he would describe himself in that way, but that is how I see him. After becoming a Black belt, he opened his dojo in Harlem to benefit youth who could not afford the high prices of martial arts instruction in other sections of Manhattan. He charged between $10–$15 per month and there were times when some of us could not afford that small fee. However, he never kicked anyone out of class. He knew what was happening in the streets and he knew that keeping us training helped us avoid trouble. His activism was not in the form of marches or releasing political rap songs. He saw a need in his community and used the principles of Hip Hop and martial arts to meet those needs.

My experience with Sensei Dave and his dedication to our Harlem community had a profound impact on my life. I am now a community engaged, Hip Hop generation, sociologist and much of what I do is a result of watching Sensei Dave’s selfless service and dedication to uplifting the community. I’ve been fortunate to use sociology and Hip Hop to bring about research-driven social change while working with marginalized youth in urban schools, men in prison, men and women reentering society after serving time in prison, and Dominican and Haitian youth living in poor sections of the Dominican Republic. I use Hip Hop culture to center the experiences of the most marginalized members of our community. I see Hip Hop is as a tool to speak truth and amplify the voices of those who have been victims of attempts to silence.

The work I’ve done throughout my life is similar to the engagement of the activist authors in this book. They use Hip Hop activism to transform lives and social institutions. They see Hip Hop as a tool to deconstruct and reconstruct systems of power and oppression and use the culture to strive for liberation. This book is timely. This book is necessary. Youth culture has always been at the forefront of social change. The work discussed in this text is a shining example of the transformative possibilities of Hip Hop activism.

The masterful selection of these personal stories highlights the many ways Hip Hop and activism blend to bring about social change. The authors’ examples of infusing Hip Hop into art activism, mindful film production, critical pedagogy, feminist methodology, and political strategy serve as roadmaps for those of us looking to be socially active while staying true to Hip Hop culture. I hope this text serves as a catalyst for self-reflection, personal development, and a dedication to using Hip Hop activism while blazing a path towards justice.


ISBN (Hardcover)
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2022 (January)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2022. XVIII, 94 pp.

Biographical notes

Arash Daneshzadeh (Volume editor) Anthony J. Nocella II (Volume editor) Chandra Ward (Volume editor) Ahmad R. Washington (Volume editor)

Arash Daneshzadeh, Ed.D., currently teaches in the Graduate School of Education at the University of San Francisco and as faculty in the Prison University Project at San Quentin State Penitentiary. Dr. Daneshzadeh is Editor-in-Chief of The Transformative Justice Journal, National Chair for Save the Kids from Incarceration, and co-editor of Understanding, Dismantling, and Disrupting the Prison-to-School Pipeline. Anthony J. Nocella II, Ph.D., scholar-activist, is an editor of the Peace Studies Journal and a professor in the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at Salt Lake Community College. He is the co-founder of disability pedagogy, terrorization, and ecoability and has published over one-hundred articles and forty books. Chandra Ward, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Her research focuses on democratizing and leveraging technology to address extant urban issues. Ahmad R. Washington, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor in the Department of Counseling and Human Development at The University of Louisville. He teaches in the School Counseling program, where he works with pre-service school counseling students as they prepare to transition into the profession.


Title: Fight the Power