Alum Max Stern and His Ninth Graders Rap about Imperial Rule

Students Perform February 16 On Protests Throughout History

Monica Sager, Scarlet Staff

Max Stern and his group of ninth graders from University Park Campus School (UPCS) are performing their Revolution And Protests that Fight Against Imperial Rule (R.A.P. F.A.I.R) on Feb. 16 in the Grind.

Stern graduated from Clark in 2012 with a degree in American History and a minor in Theater Arts. He also did the Master Art and Teaching (MAT) program, graduating in 2013. He currently teaches high school history at UPCS, where he has been working with a hip-hop education curriculum.

“Throughout my teaching experience, I’ve been consistent with many aspects of my teaching philosophy: establishing trust with students; capitalizing on student interests through culturally relevant methods; and teaching history to make students better individuals, intellectuals, and members of society,” Stern’s website said.

While at Clark, Stern was a dancer and choreographer in Hip Hop Collabo, in which he performed and also taught dance to kids in the Worcester community. He said that the current project has almost followed suit, in that it bridges literacy, spoken word, rapping, and rhyming together.

“I feel like it’s important to recognize this culture,” Stern said. “It allows the kids to see me in a different light.”

Stern continued that this assignment establishes culture and comfort. It’s also a different outlet for kids who don’t excel in tests.

The World History students will present their rap or slam poems in front of a panel of judges that includes Raphael Rogers, a Clark professor in the Department of Education; Shaun Holt, Assistant Director of Admissions for marketing and communications at Clark (who actually had a short-lived college rap career); Thu Ngyuen, who is part of Youth Outreach Worcester; and two to three students who won the competition last year.

“The R.A.P. F.A.I.R. is a display of student work on the histories of people that have fought against oppression, exploitation, and imperialism for independence and self-rule,” an email about the event said.

Stern started this project with his students four years ago, but he got the idea before that.

“This idea originated when I was in MAT,” he explained. “It allows the kids to dig into the material more.”

Over these four years, the assignment has become more competitive, with more countries represented and greater access to resources for the students.

This year, the competition is more competitive as well, thanks to the Jacob Hiatt Center for Urban Education, which “supports youth and educators, along with members of the community and Clark University, in developing spaces for youth to engage the world, inquire into possibilities, and become creators of new realities,” according to their handout.

The Hiatt Center has made it possible for first, second, and third prizes to be handed out to the teams of students. For first place, each student per group (usually two or three) will receive a $50 visa gift card and a two minute interview with Worcester Magazine. The second place winners receive a $20 gift certificate to Acoustic Java, and third place students get $10 at Dippin Donuts. Small prizes will also be awarded to remarkable acts, such as best solo rap and the “Hype Master.”

There are plans to make this a city-wide event in the future. Stern said this will make learning go beyond a grade, and hopefully others will recognize it too.

The students “have studied the way European countries and the United States have taken advantage of other people by extracting natural resources and imposing their cultural values,” the email stated.

They have studied multiple aspects of the fight against imperial rule, such as the Partition of Africa, French colonialism of Indochina, and United States imperialism of Latin America. Many of the topics can hit close to home, as well. Stern spoke of a student who escaped Kongo who is now learning about how the war started there.

Stern and his students are putting their performance on in hopes of showing that “the native and indigenous people of all these places…were not silent and passive about the injustice and oppression they faced.”

“It’s not the solution,” Stern said, but it’s a way to “bridge the gap between students and teachers, students and culture.”

Local b-boy group, 4 Elements, is set to perform at the R.A.P. F.A.I.R. The 4 Elements is a youth program in Worcester. They use hip-hop, as their Facebook page states, to help kids achieve “greater self-confidence, leadership development, and community empowerment. There will also be radical printmaking with the League of Just US, which prints in the streets for social movements, according to their Facebook page. Food will be provided by Nu Cafe.