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    RESPECT: Hip-Hop Style & Wisdom

    By Lyndsey Schlax

    (Editor’s Note: Teacher Lyndsey Schlax of the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts (SOTA) launched the nation’s first on-site high school LGBT course in 2015. She still offers that groundbreaking class but is teaching Ethnic Studies this semester. The two subjects often intersect, so in this column her students share their thoughts about both Ethnic Studies and LGBT-related matters, including their concerns, what they have learned in class and more. Here, two twelfth graders write about the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) exhibit RESPECT: Hip-Hop Style & Wisdom.)

    1. “People hone their skills and find their voices in the energy and flow of the community.” With these warm words, guests were immediately welcomed into RESPECT: Hip-Hop Style and Wisdom. This exhibit at the Oakland Museum asks for an engaging and supporting community, as it invites individuals to share their thoughts and speak their truth. Walking through the maze of history and origin, OMCA made sure to embrace the roots of hip-hop’s culture and the stories that built its foundation.

    From ceiling to floor, from the barbershop to graffiti, the California museum presented portraits of the way that hip-hop culture was expressed into daily activities and events. Graffiti murals covered the walls as fashion displays filled exhibit platforms, each partnered with their upbringing stories. With an open dance floor, videos screened tutorials on dance moves and simple choreographies that remain popular in hip-hop arts.

    Visitors crowded around the DJ spinning infamous, movement-starting tracks, inviting people to the floor, as well as to the open mic. While poetry and spoken word are a key role in expressing one’s feelings, hip-hop incorporated such practices and ideas through the art of rap. OMCA’s special exhibit provided wired microphones for anyone to step up and share a song, line, quote—any piece of mind to merely be a voice in the crowd and to help build community.

    Stepping through the doors of the exhibit, guests walked in with an open mind and walked out with flooding information, pride, fellowship and … respect! We will carry on in solidarity and awareness, sharing the untold stories and histories of the style, culture and wisdom of hip-hop.

    2. Recently, my LGBTQ+/Ethnic Studies class took a trip to OMCA. It consisted of different exhibits that illustrated various aspects of California’s history. The first exhibit that my class and I went to was the main one that described California before it even was California, and the Native American tribes who lived there. Then, as we went further into the museum, their history was gradually revealed—showing when the Europeans took over, including when immigrants arrived for the Gold Rush. That particular part of the museum was basically one large timeline that people could walk through.

    The separate hip-hop exhibit was perhaps my favorite part of the entire museum, because it clearly went into depth about the true meaning of hip-hop and what it means to be Black. Certain parts of this museum made it seem so realistic. I felt a connection with the exhibit and felt empowered. A sense of hope and inspiration were brought among the people walking around.

    For more information about the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts, please visit