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Guest Post: Intern Applies Insights to Houston Hip Hop

Exhibits, Guest Posts, Houston Hip Hop

Janai Smith, today’s guest writer, was the first Special Collections intern in a new partnership with African American Studies. Throughout the Fall semester she worked on the exhibit DJ Screw and the Rise of Houston Hip Hop as well as contributing to other projects related to Houston Hip Hop. Janai will graduate from the University of Houston in 2012. 

For the past four months I have spent at least one day a week in the Special Collections department of the library. It has been an experience to say the least.  This internship is not a mere paper pushing job, as some may assume, but a chance to be a part of the process of collecting and disseminating the beauty of history and all it has to offer.  In the world of online searches and “remote controlled research”, the importance of the tangible parts of history often get overlooked and sometimes lost.

African American Studies intern Janai Smith spent the fall semester working on the upcoming exhibit, DJ Screw and the Rise of Houston Hip Hop.

One may read this and say to themselves that I am being “dramatic” or even just nostalgic but the truth is that DJ Screw was a major contributor to the hip hop culture of Houston, Texas. Historically, the contributions of African Americans to the “American” culture have been minimized to increases in crime rates, dangerous drug usage fads (i.e. sipping syrup), and other negative aspects that have been unfoundedly correlated with the hip hop culture. But this internship has allowed me to examine the hip hop culture, not only from the stand point of a fan but from an academic view.

As a psychology major I have learned that what appears on the outside is not necessarily a reflection of what is being felt on the inside and that a person’s life is affected by environment as much as it is by innate factors. Through this internship I have gotten a chance to get a more in-depth view of the lives of people who have influenced my life and the lives of my friends through their musical and lyrical expressions and will continue to do so for years to come; not just the commercialized part of their life that was formatted to be on display but also some of the private aspects that made them human.

This has been an enjoyable experience working with the staff of Special Collections as well as being able to be a contributing party to the preservation of a piece of my own culture and in a way being a part of the telling of my culture’s story.

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