Brown Bag - Kashi Johnson, Associate Professor, Department of Theatre

Thursday, April 16, 2015 - 12:00pm
Maginnes Hall, Room 113

A joint William R. Scott Brown Bag Talk, Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies and Africana Studies

Bring your own lunch. Dessert and beverages will be provided.

ACT LIKE YOU KNOW: Employing Hip Hop Theater to Create a Safe Space for Protest and Self Expression

With the advent of social media, the imperceptible struggles of underrepresented students at predominantly white colleges and universities are more transparent than ever. The “Being Black at University of Michigan” Twitter hashtag #BBUM, the “I, Too, Am Harvard” Tumblr blog have spawned similar movements at other schools nationally and abroad - including Lehigh University. These campaigns underscore the need for a consistent, productive pedagogical space where students can release their frustrations, speak up and celebrate their identity. 

Kashi Johnson, an alumna and tenured professor in the Department of Theatre, was keenly aware of marginalized student struggles, having shared many of the same criticisms as a student 20 years earlier; so she responded by creating the course, “Act Like You Know.” 

Johnson's unique and contemporary pedagogical approach to improving the campus climate while providing students a space to not only critically think about such issues, but also, affectively embody and feel such concerns, has been a tremendous success. This course is a direct reflection of what hip hop, the arts and performance, are able to accomplish in society and spaces of higher education. “Act Like You Know” has become a beacon for marginalized students in search of finding a place to belong and be heard on a college campus where they often feel ignored. 

KASHI JOHNSON is an actress, director, poet and tenured Associate Professor in the Department of Theatre at Lehigh University, where she teaches courses in acting, African American drama, Hip Hop theater, spoken word performance and directs plays. With the creation of her nationally recognized college theater course ‘Act Like You Know’ Professor Johnson has been an innovator in the area of Hip Hop theater and education. In this course, Hip Hop is the ‘Trojan horse’ that ushers students into the world of performance, identity exploration and truth telling. Students are challenged to engage social justice issues critical to the Hip Hop generation, and challenged to find ways to incorporate these concerns into their performances. Her pioneering, culturally responsive, approach to teaching performance has been critically acclaimed for its ability to give voice to issues of diversity and inclusion. Professor Johnson has given recorded talks for TEDx and season 3 of BlackademicsTV about the story and success of ‘Act Like You Know.’ A member of Actor’s Equity Association, she received her B.A. in Theatre from Lehigh University, and her M.F.A. in Acting from the University of Pittsburgh.