Mara Scanlon’s Ethics and Lit freshman seminar has just read Ishmael Beah’s A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, a memoir chronicling his story of being a 12 year old soldier/murderer in Sierra Leone. A particularly cold-blooded look at the political unrest raging throughout Sierra Leone and Liberia in the early 90s.
In one particular part of the memoir, Beah talks about being freed by a band of angry villagers thanks to a few rap cassettes he learned to mime and dance to, with songs by Run DMC, LL Cool J, Naughty by Nature, among others. A skill that grants him reprieve from their vengeance for horrific acts he sanguinely narrates his part in. Like the following: “We walked around the village and killed everyone who came out of the houses and huts.” Or: “After every gunfight we would enter the rebel camp, killing those we had wounded.”
So, what one student in the class decided to do after reading Beah’s memoir was to collect and share a number of the songs on the tapes for the rest of the class to hear. And what’s more, he cut them over footage from the BBC of the actual reportage of the situation in Sierra Leone during this period.
How very cool is this, “just a little video to talk about the music in the book.” Exactly, why not? And cut some relevant footage on top of it, and what we have a cultural frame for the reading that is both alive and creative all at once. Bully for you!