Theodore Miller

Independent Scholar

Biography

2010-2011: Hiphop Archive Fellow

Deconstructing the Beggar’s Edifice: the Failure of Civil Rights and the Battle for Place in Hiphop America

Project Description

Deconstructing the Beggar’s Edifice: the Failure of Civil Rights and the Battle for Place in Hiphop America

“True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring….”
–Martin Luther King, Jr., April 4, 1967

Utilizing the prophetic framework of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s April 1967 conception in his “Vietnam No More” speech of what I term the “beggar’s edifice” and with particular emphasis on the lived and built environment in urban America, we examine what legal and hiphop scholars have characterized as a failed legacy of the Civil Rights Movement. Adolescents living in America’s urban core today are statistically more likely to die prematurely, on parole, without pension and with a negative net worth than their predecessor generations notwithstanding the legal gains of the Movement. Why is the neighborhood so “poor”? Or is it? And how does hiphop reframe our conception of this pervasive “place”?

Through the case studies of urban developers interested in social entrepreneurship, hiphop collectives focused on community (re)development and multiple hiphop “battles” for space and place, we look at personal “cribs” and familial and communal dimensions of space and place in “hiphop America” through the eyes of practitioners. Highlighting problems and opportunities in a “winner-take all” society in which hiphop is often heard but disregarded, we hope this conversation might contribute to more socially useful and innovative models of social change and (re)development in the urban core.

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