‘Blacktivism’ event brings alum to talk research, activism, race, sexuality and gender politics

Laura Lee | Contributing Reporter

Dawn-Elissa Fischer, a Washington University alumna and associate professor of Africana studies at San Francisco State University, spoke about her research into hip-hop and her efforts to improve racial diversity.

Fischer’s speech was the closing event of the Association of Black Students’ Black Arts and Sciences Week, which addressed the experience of being black at Washington University.

Dr. Dawn-Elissa Fischer, an alumnus of Wash.U. and a current professor at San Francisco State University, delivers a keynote speech.  The event marked the end of the annual Black Arts and Sciences Week.Skyler Kessler | Student Life

Dr. Dawn-Elissa Fischer, an alumnus of Wash.U. and a current professor at San Francisco State University, delivers a keynote speech. The event marked the end of the annual Black Arts and Sciences Week.

She discussed her research on hip-hop and encouraged students to find their own communities at Washington University and after graduation.

Instead of holding a traditional lecture, Fischer encouraged participation from all students in order to model the way she holds her classes at San Francisco State University.

Fischer addressed the opposition she faces for her research into hip-hop: Although hip-hop was often thought to be a fad that corrupts youth, Fischer believed that it had the ability to encourage people and address social issues like racism.

After graduation, Fischer taught literature to sixth and eighth graders. When she noticed how they were struggling to understand the texts, she decided to incorporate hip-hop into her literature curriculum.

“So, I decided to introduce hip-hop in the curriculum. I was able to capture their attention with my clean edits of Eminem…And [with the addition of hip-hop into the classroom], I noticed my students’ writing skills and reading comprehension improve,” Fischer said.

Despite the initial doubt and lack of respect, Fischer explained how her perseverance, determination and passion allowed her to publish works and gain prominence in academia.

At one point towards the start of the event, Fischer asked the audience to chant, “The world is ours,” which is a line inspired from hip-hop artist Nas’s song, “The World is Yours.”

Fischer discussed how she hoped to have inspired WU students to persevere and pursue their passions.

“I’m really happy to be here; I really care a lot about all of the students in this room. Being here brought back a lot of memories. I want the students here today to realize this from my talk: ‘Look, I made it through with success; you can too,’” Fischer said.

Freshman Morgan Holloman said that she appreciated how Fischer offered advice to the audience.

“I think the most impactful part of this event was how she actually took the time to give us advice. It wasn’t so much of, ‘I went to Wash. U. and now I’m doing great.’ We need more types of these events and more speakers willing to give us a plan of action,” Holloman said.