November 04, 2009
Members of the hip hop community convened at the Manhattan
campus of St. John’s University for the first ECHO (Empowering
Communities through Hip Hop) summit. Organized by St. John’s
Professor Scyatta Wallace, Ph.D., and Project Director Y. Marcia
Glasgow, MPH, the seminar addressed the health and social issues
that affect the community and the role hip hop plays as a
preventative tool for today’s youth.
believe that hip hop’s reach has transcended music,” says Dr.
Wallace. “It is fused with our social culture and therefore has
far-reaching implications, including effecting positive
While reviewing the research literature, Dr. Wallace discovered the
link between hip hop culture and psychological theories of self
image, HIV risk, violence and poverty. According to her, the
concept of ECHO originated as a tool to counteract the negative
stereotypes surrounding this musical culture and provide education
about its positive aspects across all ethnicities, age-groups and
One Day Can Make a Difference
The one-day conference provided a platform for people to connect
and network with each other in terms of potential community
research projects and volunteer work.
Moderated by Bakari Kitwana, author and former editor of The Source
magazine, a panel that included Ralph McDaniels, creator of Video
Music Box; DJ Beverly Bond, celebrity DJ and founder of Black Girls
Rock, Inc.; Martha Diaz, founder of the Hip Hop Association; and
music artist Rhymefest addressed the positive and negative images
of hip hop.
They discussed how incorporating a hip hop-based mentorship,
educational and entrepreneurship programs, media broadcasting, as
well as dance, art, poetry and positive lyrics as a part of the
content of a prevention program can enhance efforts aimed at
addressing the difficulties facing this generation and the positive
impact on youth development.
The audience of more than 120 attendees represented a mixture of
researchers, educators, community organizers, social service
professionals and students, including those in high school.
“We wanted to portray a diverse group of panelists who are not only
active in the community but have a long-standing history in hip-hop
culture,” explains the Psychology Professor. “In order to express
the positive aspects of the industry, we needed citizens from
different backgrounds ranging from artists and DJ’s to academia and
“Words have a big impact on people, which is why I attend events
such as this one,” adds panelist Ralph McDaniels. “Education
provides knowledge for all of us to transition to a higher level.
We are here today to tackle these concerns and take appropriate
steps to a constructive solution.”
The conference featured Psychologist Dr. Adia Winfrey who developed
and evaluated H.Y.P.E., a hip hop therapy program for use with
delinquent youth. Thembisa Mshaka, author and copy editor at Black
Entertainment Television (BET), provided guests with insight into
becoming successful in the entertainment business. Representatives
from the acclaimed Hip Hop Culture Center in Harlem were also in
Breakout sessions and workshops focused on executing positive
change, illustrating hip hop tools for professionals, team-building
exercises, and role-playing and interaction among the audience to
better understand the impact of peer pressure among youth.
“The conference fits perfectly with St. John’s mission of service
and compassion,” says Dr. Wallace. “The message in positive hip hop
talks of service and encouragement. We want to impact neighborhoods
and the young people who are vulnerable or at-risk and hip hop is a
vehicle to effectively get the message out to society.”