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Dr. Muhammad Khalifa, Michigan State University - Hip Hop Culture Identities


As hip hop culture expands, schools are expanding with it.

Dr. Muhammad Khalifa, assistant professor of educational administration at Michigan State University, is studying this trend.

Dr. Muhammad Khalifa is an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Administration at Michigan State University. Having worked as a public school teacher and administrator in Detroit, Dr. Khalifa’s research looks at how urban school leaders enact culturally relevant leadership practices. Dr. Khalifa has recently published in the Urban Review, Educational Administration Quarterly, Race, Ethnicity and Education, the Journal of Negro Education, and the Journal of School Leadership. He is coeditor of the forthcoming books, Exploring Critical Ethnographies in Education (SUNY Press), and Handbook on Urban School Leadership (Rowan and Littlefield). He has contributed to educational reform in multiple international contexts. But primarily, Dr. Khalifa is engaged in school leadership reform in urban contexts, and has been helping US urban schools perform online equity audits to address achievement gaps and discipline gaps in school.

About Dr. Khalifa

Dr. Muhammad Khalifa - Hip Hop Culture

Culturally responsive school leaders are starting to recognize and validate Hip-Hop student identities.  

By using aspects of leadership theory, culturally responsive schooling, and Hip Hop studies, our research answers the following question: How can urban school leaders play a role in forging a space for Hip-Hop identity development in the schools they lead?

Given the tensions and contestations in representations of Hip-Hop music, it also asks: if they should actually forge such a space for such identities; and finally it asks, what are the characteristics of such leadership?

This research recognizes the widely-held premise and prior research finding that some student groups experience hostile school climates, and feel marginalized and thus unwelcome in school. 

Prior research finds that Hip Hop students are a part of this trend.  The work examines how young students negotiate, perform, reinvent and reestablish themselves through Hip-Hop culture, and in particular Hip-Hop identity.

This scholarship situates Hip-Hop pedagogies and student identities as an acceptable identity in school—one that school administrators should learn to accommodate. Though the principal profiled in this study was somewhat removed from the Hip-Hop performative himself, he was able to create a safe space in which these student identities were able to comfortably and safely exist. 

The principal stuck a balance between accepting student identity and behavior modification.  He encouraged and sometimes prevented teachers from marginalizing and exhibiting exclusionary behaviors directed at Black and Latino Hip-Hop-identifying students.

The findings suggest that the principal was best positioned to promote an inclusive school culture, to develop community trust and relationships, and affirming school environments of Hip-Hop students.  Indeed, these collective behaviors led to the success of students who are all so often pushed out of school.

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