The Black Student Union and The NAACP College chapter at Millersville University hosted the Annual “Soulful Expressions” with an ex-diva, on Wednesday October 3rd in the newly renovated the Winter VPAC. Formerly known as “Amanda Diva”, Amanda Seales, hip-hop culture buff, Renaissance woman, pure lover of the arts, and comedian by nature, came all the way from The Big Apple to talk poetically and intelligently about “Hip-Hop in Academia” and why it is important to approach discussion, evolution, and continuity of Hip-hop from an academic perspective.
Her whole mission for the evening was to intertwine hip-hop and intellectualism so that the audience understood how important the culture is, where it came from, how far it came, and where it should be headed. Feeling more comfortable working the floor instead of babysitting the podium on The VPAC’s Clare Auditorium stage, Seales like a true artist, was one with her audience, and left her heart with Millersville as her knowledge resounded in the room. Seales mentioned that her favorite aspect of rap music was the literary element, and stressed the need for hip-hop to be looked at through social, cultural, and literary lenses to be furthered and to help keep the knowledge of why it exists. An extension of slave narrative that rose out of the cocaine and poverty ridden Bronx borough of New York City in the 70’s, hip-hop encompassed four elements, which were DJ-ing, Fashion, Break dancing, and Rapping, and became a phenomenon and growing culture that would soon reach way beyond it’s place of origin. “Hip-Hop allowed you to create your own version of the American Dream”, said the speaker.
Seales received her Master’s degree in African American Studies from Columbia University and studied Hip-hop Culture and shared a part of her thesis with the audience to demonstrate hip-hops’ transformation and longevity, as audience member’s recognized older poems and hip hop songs and sung along at Seales’ cues. Seales exhibited a passion, an eternal affair with hip-hop as she spoke, and the audience seemed to be stimulated and engaged in what the young woman had to say. Seales emphasized how important it was to realize the cultural relevance that hip-hop has for the African American community in particular. “Where hip-hop has gone today” was a popular topic that audience members chimed in on when it came to discussing materialism, masculinity, the objectification of women, monetary wealth, and being true to one’s self above all else as a “hip-hop artist”.
Even further, she talked about what it means to be a woman in the world of hip-hop. “As a woman you are presented with a ‘choice’ if you want to move ahead in the hip-hop industry”, Seales stated. Seales noted that she refused to compromise herself to get ahead and instilled that “your integrity has the highest worth of anything you own” in her audience. Sharing two original poems, Amanda Seales left her audience entertained and enlightened, and in the eyes of many who have seen Soulful Expressions speakers come and go, did something that former Soulful Expressions speakers did not do.
Sophomore, Public Relations Major, and Executive Board Member of BSU, Laylaa Ahmad who was one of two point people for this event said “I thought Amanda Seales was more real. I thought she was personable, and I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into (as point person) but I liked her more than I liked MC Lyte at last years’ Soulful Expressions.”
“People like you, with academic minds, are the ones who will preserve this music. If we don’t put an academic mind to it, it will no longer exist,” said Seales as she addressed the audience one final time for opening the floor for questions. From MTV, VH1, Radio, CNN, talking about music and those influencing the African American culture the most directly, to creating visual art, acting, and running her own company, “Diva Works Inc.”