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Bronx: birthplace of hip-hop

 

Professor Michael Partis, a guest speaker from Borough of Manhattan Community College, talks about the origins of rap and hip-hop in the Bronx at the College of Mount Saint Vincent on Feb. 27.Marisol Dí­az/The Riverdale PressProfessor Michael Partis, a guest speaker from Borough of Manhattan Community College, talks about the origins of rap and hip-hop in the Bronx at the College of Mount Saint Vincent on Feb. 27.

It’s not often that a history lecture can get students snapping and swaying, but that’s exactly what happened on Feb. 27 at the College of Mount Saint Vincent.

Students danced in their seats as Michael Partis, a Borough of Manhattan Community College ethnic studies professor, gave a lecture — and played music — to show how the Bronx’s black roots gave birth to rap and hip-hop.

Students Jasmine Philip and Alexi Benjamin said they didn’t know the borough was home to so many musical innovators.

“I was surprised, I just thought it was from Harlem, from Brooklyn,” said Ms. Philip.

Both freshmen attended the lecture alongside about 30 others because they said it was offered as extra credit for their history course, Witches, Slaves and Rebels: Inequity in Early America.

“It connects because slaves back then had culture and music which traveled with them,” said Ms. Benjamin. “That’s where rap comes from.”

The College of Mount Saint Vincent’s fine arts department, history department, honors program and office of student activities, leadership and commuter life co-sponsored the talk as a way to celebrate Black History Month.

Mr. Partis, a graduate researcher for the Bronx African American History Project, said he  welcomes invitations to discuss his research because the Bronx’s black heritage is often overlooked.

He said people often discuss the Bronx as a prosperous borough that attracted Irish, Italian and Jewish residents during the early 1900s. The construction of the Cross Bronx Expressway from 1948 to 1963 cut through neighborhoods, displacing families and initiating a period of white flight. In the decades since, Mr. Partis said, the Bronx became known as a predominately Latino borough plagued by poverty.

This narrative skips over the 1940s, when the Bronx was home to the eighth largest black community in America, and the 50s and 60s, when an influx of Cuban, Puerto Rican and West Indian immigrants moved in.

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