Jason Nichols on the Keeping It Civil Podcast

S4E5: Jason Nichols | Hip-Hop & Political Activism

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In this week’s episode, Henry speaks to Jason Nichols, a well-respected hip-hop artist, instructor, and public intellectual. Included within the episode are conversations about hip-hop as a form of political activism as well as conversations about the corrosive effect of social media on civil discourse. 

This episode starts with questions about the beginning of Nichols’ life and career growing up in suburban Maryland. Nichols went from being a hip-hop artist, getting a PhD, and then becoming an academic instructor, much of which was influenced by his upbringing.  

“I feel like my hip-hop kind of influenced my politics, which influenced my reading, that made me interested in the field that I study now, you know, in that I work in African-American studies and black studies,” he says. “The fact that I’m originally from Spanish Harlem, you know I’m interested in latinidad at the same time you know, because those are the people I grew up around.” 

Nichols also discusses a few of his personal and academic influences, one of which being the work of Bea Gaddy. While not a well-known figure nationally, she was a staple of Baltimore city politics and was a major influence on Nichols’ political identity. Initiating and promoting constructive and progressive conversations has become more difficult in modern times. This can be largely attributed to factors like social media according to Nichols.  

“I think that’s one of the real dangers of where our society is heading right now; is the fact that people are so siloed … you know the podcasts that I’ve developed, I keep trying to do a left-right podcast, quote-unquote, (but) people don’t want that, people don’t want to hear the other side.”  

Seeking out difficult conversations with people you may disagree with is central to what Nichols stands for. Nichols was asked if he was one of the few people who are still seeking out these types of conversations. His answer, “Definitely. I can count the number of people who do what I do on one hand, who are willing to go into certain venues, you know, have those discussions and have those debates.” 

To hear more about the work of Jason Nichols, including his many media appearances and publications, be sure to listen to this week’s episode of Keeping it Civil.

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