He traveled to Congo to teach hip hop and ended up giving a beat-making class on US race relations

Dancers in Goma, DRC

Students at this music workshop in Goma got a lesson in beat making — and a lesson in American race relations.

Earlier this month, University of North Carolina professor and hip hop artist, Pierce Freelon travelled to the Democratic Republic of Congo to teach music workshops with local students.

It was part of the Salaam Kivu International Film Festival.

Freelon was there on behalf of a community organization he founded called ARTVSM.

Pierce Freelon performing in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo.
Pierce Freelon performing in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo.Pierce Freelon

Freelon travelled to Goma with hip hop producer, jazz trombonist/composer and emcee Joshua Vincent and Enongo Lumumba Kasongo, known internationally by the rap moniker Sammus.

Beat making session in Goma with rapper Sammus
Beat making session in Goma with rapper Sammus.Pierce Freelon

While the workshops were happening, the big news in the US was the string of African American churches being set ablaze.

“[Students] were surprised to hear, and we were surprised to hear, that black churches are being burned," Freelon says. "That, in part, helped inform the discussions and the ways were engaging with community there.”


Those discussion led to the creation of the song "Nguvu Ya Weusi" which is "Black Power" in Swahili.

“They wrote the words themselves,” says Freelon. “As soon as we got into this discussion about black power, they took the pen to the pad, and just started birthing super novas. I don’t even know how to describe it. Everybody’s writing and talking about cadence and flow and how long the verses need to be. All of the poetry came from the artists that you see in the video”.

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