Quinnipiac University

New book examines how hip-hop is dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline

November 19, 2020

Sawyer sitting in a comfy chair for a headshot

Don C. Sawyer III, vice president for equity and inclusion and associate professor of sociology at Quinnipiac, has co-edited a new book, “Hip-Hop and Dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline.”

The book was written for K–12 students to find strategies for creating communities where members compose liberating frameworks that effectively define the school-to-prison pipeline and identify the nefarious ways it adversely affects their lives. This project calls for educators, activists, community organizers, teachers, scholars, politicians and administrators to join the fight to challenge the preconceived notion that hip-hop has no redeemable value.

The authors and editors argue against the understanding of hip-hop studies as primarily an academic endeavor situated solely in the academy. They understand that people on streets, blocks and other community spaces have lived and theorized about hip-hop since its inception. This book is an examination of the ingenious and inventive ways people who have an allegiance to hip-hop work tirelessly, in various capacities, to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline.

“Educators often discuss the importance of connecting with students.  From the work I have done with youth in K-12 schools, hip-hop has been used as a tool to build rapport with youth,” Sawyer said. “Those who want to connect with these students have to understand hip-hop culture and its place in their lives.  Demonizing their culture eliminates any opportunity of having a genuine connection.  This project is one of many that situates hip-hop participants as experts of their own reality and as scholars who have a sophisticated ability to articulate what is needed on a path to liberation.”

Sawyer co-edited the book, which is available at Amazon, with Daniel White Hodge, a professor of intercultural communications at North Park University in Chicago; Anthony J. Nocella II, an assistant professor in the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology in the Institute of Public Safety at Salt Lake Community College; and Ahmad R. Washington, assistant professor in the Department of Counseling and Human Development at the University of Louisville.

At Quinnipiac, Sawyer is responsible for leading efforts to advance diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives to support the university’s strategic plan. A member of the Quinnipiac community since 2012, he has more than 20 years of higher education experience. Sawyer is a certified diversity trainer and conflict mediator who has held positions in residential life, admissions, multicultural affairs, fraternity and sorority affairs, student activities, experiential learning, student leadership and STEM retention.

Sawyer, a native of Harlem, New York, earned his doctorate as well as a master’s degree in sociology and a master’s degree in cultural foundations of education from Syracuse University. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Hartwick College.

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