Augsburg News

News Archives - 2004

Keme Hawkins: Researching Domestic Violence and the Hip-Hop Generation

September 2004
Keme Hawkins sitting in front of a large, urban mural.


It was the summer before my senior year and I knew I wanted to apply to graduate school. It was important for me to get some research experience and quick. As a McNair Scholar, part of my scholarship included participating in undergraduate summer research. I had become a scholar just before the funding for the program was cut. Dixie Shafer, the director of McNair Scholars Program and now director of office of Undergraduate Research and Graduate Opportunity, helped me to identify programs across the U.S. that offered summer research opportunities. The University of Minnesota’s McNair Summer Research Program accepted me.

There I worked with the Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American Community under the mentorship of Dr. Oliver Williams from the College of Human Ecology, School of Social Work. It seemed a strange home for an English major but my McNair adviser assured me that it would be a valuable experience. The Institute holds annual conferences that focus on specific aspects of domestic violence and this year’s conference theme was “Domestic Violence and the Hip-Hop Generation.” In keeping with the theme I tailored my research to complement the research already in progress and formulated a study that looked at whether or not people are influenced by the suggested gender identities in rap music and how that affected their dating and marital relationships.

The scholar’s group would report weekly to seminar where we would be debriefed on each aspect of the research process: developing an introduction, explaining the significance of the study, forming a hypothesis, doing a literature review, forming methodology, compiling results, creating a discussion and making recommendations for further study. The dispensing of our stipend was contingent upon completing each research step by a certain time while also doing work to help prepare us for graduate school like writing a personal statement, putting together a curriculum vitae and making a list of graduate schools to apply to.

My research concluded with the Domestic Violence and the Hip-Hop Generation conference in Queen’s New York at York College. Because my professor thought so highly of my work and was impressed with my knowledge of hip-hop music and culture, I was invited to take part in a plenary session where I discussed the impact of sexist rap lyrics with the rap group Holla Point and practitioners who work to combat domestic violence.

As an English major, entering the world of social science was not as unnatural or discomfiting as imagined it would be. While the social sciences study human behavior so does English literature. Literature is a study of the human condition through non-fiction accounts and human imagination. Having the opportunity to do interdisciplinary work has not only given me another perspective on how to think more broadly within my own field, but it has also allowed me to get better focus on what kind of graduate program I would like to apply to. African-American Literature can offer me the best of those worlds. Having a definite house or genre or body of literary work to study based in a social science is the ideal place for me.