The Rivers School invited School Yard Rap
founder Brandon “Griot B” Brown to an Upper School assembly this week to help retell Black history through a new lens. Brown, a former teacher, rapped through upbeat lessons and engaging illustrations that mirrored his words. The goal: to reframe Black history by leading students through the long list of outstanding contributions and achievements of minorities—including scientists, mathematicians, innovators, educators, founders, and musicians, among others.
The mission of School Yard Rap, an organization established in 2015, is to “drastically improve the educational experiences of learners of all ages by providing curriculum, content, music, and professional development that uplift the narratives of minorities.”
Brown told the audience during the 60-minute assembly that he hated school when he was growing up but also realized that as a teacher, he taught the way he was taught. The essence of what he remembers in those early school years was “Sit down, be quiet, here’s a worksheet.” One of his students challenged him to make a song, and that moment sparked something new.
For Brown, when it comes to Black history, we “need more than a month” and must broaden our focus beyond slavery, segregation, and oppression. The topics in School Yard Rap’s lessons, such as “Black Made That,” highlighted not only “firsts,” but Black Wall Street, African Americans’ roles in westward expansion, and the work of Black people in building a great nation, including the construction of the White House.
“We invited Mr. Brown to be our keynote speaker for Rivers Stands Up, our DEI theme for the year, because his performance is designed to raise awareness, start conversations, and inspire young people to challenge ignorance and lead with empathy,” said Katie Henderson, interim director of DEI. “His assembly was fun and entertaining, but it was also full of information for our students.”
BRIDGE and Ambitions, a student club dedicated to amplifying POC-owned businesses, hosted two Q&A sessions with Brown later in the day. In those sessions, he answered questions about growing his own business, challenges he's faced, and what it means to educate about race as a Black man in 2023.
School Yard Rap celebrates the diversity of American culture, offering age-appropriate content for each grade level to ensure that each student has an experience that fits their level of readiness and understanding.
“Racism is bred through ignorance and fear… and that combination leads to racism. My job is to alleviate ignorance,” said Brown.