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Hart House’s “Humanz of Hip Hop” syncs passion with practicality

Three professionals on career building, networking, overcoming challenges
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This virtual conference featured industry professionals who spoke about career cultivation with a musical twist. COURTESY OF HART HOUSE
This virtual conference featured industry professionals who spoke about career cultivation with a musical twist. COURTESY OF HART HOUSE

“Humanz of Hip Hop,” facilitated by Hart House, is a program built to provide a look into the world of hip hop and career fields that intersect with hip-hop music and culture. 

It offers students a rare opportunity to meet with people who are active members of the Canadian hip-hop community, and recognizes that hip hop is built of a connective spirit that has been able to give space to marginalized communities’ voices and function as an educational tool. 

The program was held online on November 4 and 5, with the first day focusing on “Voices of Revolution” and the second on “Career Stories.” The second day, in particular, had an interesting conversation surrounding passions, plans, and career paths relating to hip hop. 

The three speakers, Nadine Brown, Del Cowie, and Michael Prosserman, each brought noteworthy perspectives on finding a way to incorporate passion into a career field. 

Brown, a sneaker industry expert, comes from a retail background that she incorporated with her international business degree. She went into the world of styling, further pushing her toward the sneaker industry as she was looking to try something new. 

Cowie, a music journalist and editor, worked at a bank for many years but always had a deep love and appreciation for journalism. He was able to use this in his transition into the hip-hop world. 

Lastly, Prosserman, an author and university instructor, was initially introduced to the hip-hop community through ‘breaking,’ also known as breakdancing or b-boying. He used his love of breaking with his crew and his passion for helping others with mental health issues to found Unity Charity, which he built and grew for 15 years before moving away into the world of social enterprising. He now seeks to support non-profit leaders to breathe life into their own ideas. 

All three speakers were wonderful and knowledgeable, and I was struck by how all were able to leave a similar message that would resonate with any student going through a postsecondary program. Each of them showed that there was no clear path, no direct road to the perfect career. 

Although some may find a clear-cut path to their own version of success, it is essential for students to understand that for them to truly incorporate their talents and passions into a career path, they will have to make difficult and unnerving choices. 

As all three pointed out, each person must look at their own strengths and weaknesses and cultivate a strategy for success that is not based on someone else’s. For career cultivation, your feet will not fit into another’s shoes. 

You also have to make sacrifices. As the head of a non-profit community, Prosserman was candid, saying that he was only able to pay himself fairly after nearly 10 years of building his organization. 

In his case, there was a financial sacrifice to be made to pursue his passions, but the greater point is that each person, in order to find fulfillment in their career, may come across a time when they have to make a sacrifice to follow their passion. 

Another essential aspect brought up was always keeping an open mind and not blocking yourself off from opportunities. Del, coming from a completely different background in banking, was able to use the skills from that experience and apply them to his journalistic endeavours. 

Cowie noted that, for him, attention to detail was something from his five years in banking that he was able to carry over into a new field.

The last, but certainly not least, topic that Brown was able to touch on was the idea that we allow fear, difficulty, and sometimes ourselves to stand in the way of our own success. For her, entering the styling industry provided some challenges, particularly because of how tight-knit that world is. 

Without networking, it may be hard to enter certain industries. “Sometimes it’s… about who you know, not necessarily what you know,” Brown said.  

Networking helped her find her place in styling for the television industry. It is important to remember that building connections, even if you are scared to talk to others, is extremely important in getting your profile and work out into the world. 

Brown also noted that although she is not a huge fan of talking, she is starting to push herself to do more of this thing that scares her. She mentioned that if she had not let fear limit her, she may have had a slightly different career path.

“Humanz of Hip Hop” was a wonderful opportunity to learn about career building, not only in the hip-hop world, but in general. The questions and answers were applicable to any field of study and were able to penetrate any sort of divide between the world of hip hop and other ‘normal’ jobs, such as running a business, working at the bank, or retail. 

Whereas a lot of students have it ingrained in their heads that there is a sort of direct process to building a career, this program was able to switch the narrative and educate students in an honest and candid conversation to expose the realities of career planning and building.