Abstract: Write Your Life: Hip Hop and Resilience (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

Write Your Life: Hip Hop and Resilience

Sunday, January 19, 2020
Marquis BR Salon 7, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Hydeen Beverly, MSW, Doctoral Student, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX
Background and Purpose

Write Your Life is a performance-based workshop that uses hip hop narrative to understand resilience. The workshop uses creative and performance-based activities to encourage youth to develop in areas that support spirituality and wellness; life-long learning; identity development; understanding of culture and community building; and promote education attainment. 

Participants of the workshop gain an understanding of the struggles and barriers that youth face as they navigate and overcome challenges in life. The workshop is grounded in the lived experience of resilience in urban environments where familial and communal violence and substance use impacts life course outcomes. The presenter uses hip hop and spoken word narrative as an intervention to engage in dialogue with educators and mental health practitioners.

The presentation will focus on the workshop as an intervention and the themes derived from participants of the workshops. The purpose of the workshop is to provide an example of an intervention that is culturally relevant and connected to youths’ contextual and environmental experience.


A systematic search was conducted to explore the prevalence of research studies that focused on using hip hop and poetry in treatment programs. Several studies have been conducted that suggest that expressive arts (i.e. hip hop, poetry) are effective tools to encourage and promote youth development and resilience. Studies have explored qualitative data in the form of poetry to interpret youth experiences for transformation and social change. These studies suggest that research must continue to explore the impact of expressive arts on academics, social competence and diversity attitudes. Other studies explored the use of hip hop, poetry and other expressive arts to encourage youth to pursue successful pathways for life.

A participatory research project with African American boys suggested that practitioners would learn nothing about youth and their lived experience if they did not listen to their music. Based on these findings, workshops were conducted to determine the effectiveness of expressive arts as a therapeutic intervention.


Participants of the workshop (a) identified innovative strategies to promote youth resiliency and identity development, (b) gained understanding of environmental influences that impact youth culture and development, and (c) learned skills to engage youth in a manner that is relevant and connected to their life experiences.


As an emerging scholarship and therapeutic intervention, hip hop narratives are powerful examples that highlight strategies that promote youth development and resilience. By engaging in workshops that are culturally relevant, mental health providers and educators better understand environmental and contextual influences that impact youths' social and emotional development.