Can you hear me? Hip Hop Congress of Auburn gives the voices of youth a legitmate venue

Thursday, November 4th, 2010
On Tuesday evening, October 26 I attended a special forum held by the Hip Hop Congress of Auburn, California.

Auburn Hip Hop Congress was formed in July 2009 to turn a subculture into a force for positive change, and to give youth a venue to be heard.

Hip Hop in Auburn? Who knew?

This experience was a revelation for me as a journalist and as a parent who has raised two sons (26 and 19 years old) feeling at times overwhelmed by the disruptive and sometimes corruptive influences of the network culture.

I write for parents, to help them understand how lies are amplified in the network culture and impact youth; and to encourage us to lead our children with confidence. Some of the lies include:

  • Everyone is drinking alcohol and using drugs. It’s the new norm for teenagers.
  • Prescription drugs are safe. Doctors prescribe them.
  • Sexual intercourse is required to be “intimate” and/or accepted.
  • I am invisible unless I have a presence on Facebook.
  • The number of “friends” in MY community is how I measure my importance or worth.

On the surface these lies seem like the same old peer pressure of previous generations. What is not understood by many parents today is the amount of pressure applied through network technology. 

In this environment, youth seek authenticity.

They know when you are faking it, starting when we ignore their voices because they apprear to be so different on the surface.


The aim and plans of this Hip Hop congress validates for me how our youth are truly craving authentic connections with adults and the community at large.

Coordinated by Natalie Pohley, the Auburn Hip Hop Congress board is comprised of a small board of adults who have a passion for Hip Hop. The main chapter was formed in July of 2009; and the youth division, for which this forum was held, was established in February 2010 and engages youth 25 years and younger. According to Pohley, the typical age range of participants is 14 -19 years.

The aim of the Hip Hop Congress is to provide positive activities for young Hip Hop enthusisasts in the Auburn area to express themselves through music and art – and identify leadership opportunities.

We met one-on-one and then in groups to establish a rapport about the importance of community, and how Hip Hop could be represented as a legitimate art where young voices may be expressed in positive ways.

I learned that there are four elements of Hip Hop: DJ, Break Dancing, Emcee and Graffiti.

I came away from this forum with new respect for Hip Hop enthusiasts  who seek a way to express their voices through their art and make new connections within the community at large. For example, they do not advocate or condone the type of ‘grafitti’ that is considered vandalism. The Hip Hop graffiti is an art form to be expressed on canvasses and murals as any artist would do.

O'Dapt (Chris Owens) graduated from Placer Union High School in 2008 and he writes hip hop lyrics about life's lessons.

I met with 20-year-old and Placer Union High School graduate (2008), Chris Owens, known as O’Dapt in his Hip Hop community, who shared the lyrics of one of his routines called “Lessons”. His lyrics reflect the responsibilities of freedom and the realization that self-discipline is where the individual finds liberty – not by relying only on the hand outs from others.

“Music saved my life,” Owens said. He is saving money to re-enroll at Sierra College.


The self-governance demonstrated by the Hip Hop Congress community is the foundation of living secure lives in the network culture.

This assembly wants to break free from the stereotype that Hip Hop is a fringe criminal element. And so the purpose of this congress is to make connections with the larger community and establish legitimate venues for entertainment and expression of their craft.

Listening to the members of this Hip Hop community renewed hope in my heart for the future. These teens were ready and able to connect off-line, in real ways with adults outside their unique community. They are ready to organize and mobilize in order to provide safe and fun entertainment for youth and families and seek relationships with restaurants, city council members, principals and law enforcement.

One of the challenges for parents today is staying connected to youth in ways that allow us to provide guidance and wisdom, largely because the network culture distracts us and disrupts us from actually relating to one another.  Let us shed our preconceived notions and listen to youth. As evidenced in O’Dapt’s lyrics bout life, Lessons, young people have profound and meaningful thoughts.  

Let their genuine voices be heard.

For more inforamtion about the Auburn Hip Hop Congress contact: Natlie Pohley

Related reading:


Photo: Christy Benz

Joanna Jullien

Joanna married her high school sweetheart and over the  past 25 years they have raised two sons in Roseville, CA. She has a degree from UC Berkeley in Social Anthropology (corporate culture) and has over 20 years experience as a professional manager in information technology, manufacturing, energy and environment.

Joanna writes on parenting in the 21st century, as she has observed and personally experienced many strains on the parent-child relationship with the advent of the Internet, mobile phones and popular culture.

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About Joanna Jullien

Joanna Jullien

Joanna ( and her husband have raised two sons in Roseville, CA. She has a degree from U.C. Berkeley in Social Anthropology (corporate culture). Her honors thesis was awarded the Kroeber Prize and funding from National Science Foundation grant. Joanna writes to help parents with the modern-day leadership challenges of raising children. She is a contributing writer for The Granite Bay View, the Press Tribune, the Sacramento Examiner, and editor of Banana Moments.