Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis

Study Type

Mixed methods


School for Social Work


Hip hop-Therapeutic use, Social justice, Self-esteem, Oppression (Psychology), Minority youth-Mental health services, Beats Rhymes and Life Inc., Hip hop, Individual agency, Community empowerment, Subverting systemic oppression, Community-based


This mixed method study investigates how the Beats, Rhymes, and Life Academy helps its members subvert systems of oppression. Through a quantitative survey and a qualitative 1.5-hour semi-structured interview, participants assessed their experience with social justice activism while in the BRL Academy. The study outlined three ways subversion of systemic oppression occurs: by developing one’s feeling of individual agency and empowerment to achieve one’s goals, developing a social justice identity, and empowering their community with the use of the first two factors.

The study found that Academy members felt like they had developed their own strength and were more aware of social justice issues within their community due to participating in the Academy. Participants described ways in which they were involved in direct action against systems of oppression. Participants also felt that they could use their own strengths to empower their larger community to resist against systemic oppression.

This study also used aspects of a Community-Based Participatory Research Model in order to have Academy members direct their ideas about how the research should be implemented. A CBPR model was also used to honor the values of Hip Hop, which was created for the purpose of empowering a community rather than silencing it, through dominant structures.




59 pages. M.S.W., Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Ma., 2016. Includes bibliographical references (pages 47-49)

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