William M. Patterson and Sharon Irish
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Remixing the university and co-designing futures with Black youth in the United States
The Hip Hop Xpress Double Dutch Boom Bus (the Xpress) travels across the United States to parks, schools, universities, and parking lots to connect generations, highlight Black cultural legacies, and invite young people to try new activities all inspired by Hip Hop and its antecedents. Dr Will Patterson uses the Xpress as a rolling laboratory to bring academic disciplines and methods to the street, wherever people gather. Often the Xpress delivers hands-on engagement via Dr Patterson’s Street College. In that context, Dr Patterson calls on young people to think about the Street Inquiry Design Cycle, human-centred design and inquiry from a Hip Hop perspective. The cycle has six phases—authenticate, investigate, ideate, illuminate, prototype, and evaluate. One Street College session features building boom boxes. Working in teams, the youth initiate their own research by first authenticating and investigating a challenge by studying and taking apart boom boxes. Following authentication and investigation, the youth ideate: brainstorming together and individually in their journals and orally. The students then use the design cycle to assemble boom box kits, try out different ways of solving problems, and evaluate the results.
The Xpress, a 21st-century Jesup Wagon, links academic research to historically excluded communities while also aiming to alter research trajectories with compelling questions and solutions from those outside the academy. The Xpress is not only an intervention in higher education but also, more broadly, nourishment for collective designs and improvisational responses to systemic social oppressions. Key features of the Xpress are its mobility, its internet connectivity, its links to Black cultural wealth, and its ‘wow factor,’ the stunning visual wrap that serves as an algorithm that moves crowds.
The Xpress team has remixed parts of the current land grant university where we are based, the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, with local young people, along with other institutions, organisations, businesses, and artists. We aim to redesign the academy to nurture Black youth. Systems of academic whitewashing have perpetuated disengagement and disbelief on the part of Black youth. The Xpress team works with these youth to co-design ways and means to create knowledge, increase opportunities, and transform higher education. This case study focuses on Street College, the Xpress bus and its design development in the context of systems of oppression in the United States.
KEYWORDS: hip hop, street college, street inquiry design cycle, black cultural wealth, alternative pedagogies