The Finale of Reflections

John Rodriguez

“You will take all you want from me
Oh, the innocence I lack
You will take all you want from me
But I will take it all back in the end”


I have love for my project, and the opportunity to do this work, because of the unexpected lessons I have learned about this country, music and myself through the duration of this program.

Firstly, I have always believed that change is possible. But this project has taught me that something greater than legislation has to change in order for equality. From Black Panthers to #BLACKLIVESMATTER, nothing has really changed but the time period. During Black Panther Era, activists complied with toning down their demand of complete overthrow of democracy for seeing more Black people in political positions; assuming that Black faces in high places would help stop Black death from government hands. However, still we are fighting and protesting for the same demands. I learned a while a go that the true definition of insanity is repeating something over and over again expecting a different result. And I wouldn’t say this experience made me a communist, but I have realized something greater than legislation has to change in order to make the greatest change.

From my experience of making beats and songs, I know that everything a person hears on a track is intentional; rarely anything is put randomly. Revisiting this album, but from a research perspective, opened my eyes to how deep an artist can go with their lyrics. One can tell their story, another’s story, or relay a message. After reading the historical ramifications of Black leaders using their influence to harm their people, and seeing Lamar’s struggle with complacency, I have vowed to use my privilege and power, as an academic student and artist, to never be complacent to injustices that occur back home and wherever. Not a lot of my brothers back home get the opportunity to research and gauge their interests, so I will make sure I always put on for them and myself.

Speaking of myself, working on this project has given me the chance delve deeper into my consciousness and analyze my own decisions. hooks’s novel Rock My Soul really opened up the conversation of what is self-esteem and how one knows their own mental state. It is intriguing how such a personal conversation is easier to hold with words on a page rather than with a person. Throughout my time hear I have also heard “the thing that makes you the most uncomfortable/scared, write that”. So, as a writer, I’ll hold myself to that and make more honest pieces.

The only thing I would change about my time here is that I wish I learned more about Sarah. Throughout your time of helping all of us, you’ve been able to see bits and pieces of our passions and interests. So far, I’ve been under the assumption that we would see each other face-to-face more over these years and that, then, I would have the chance to see your interests. But, what I have learned is that you are a great person that makes the absolute best out of what she’s given; thus, I am excited to see what is to come when you start helping others build their Digital Humanities programs. I already know I’m going to see the rest of you around campus so no need to get mushy like Daniel’s pasta.

“I’ll never lay down and die
For I am all that is love
All that is light
I’ll never compromise
For I was born of this world
To take back the night”


Reflection IV (john)

What kinds of questions have you not been able to answer? Where are you hitting snafus and snags? What are you going to try to do to surmount these challenges (it’s okay, too, if you don’t know! Feel free to express your anxieties and worries). Remember that learning happens when you don’t know all the answers from the beginning, and take heart, dear scholars!

I have not came across any complications that would hinder my construction of the project and paper. My only “worry” is finding a logical place to discuss Lamar’s and other thinker’s opinions on Obama. The only place in my paper that this discussion can logically occur is the section that discusses how systemic racism negatively affects the rich black population. Here, Lamar mentions how we should be sympathetic to Obama because he is an example of a Black man trying to do his best in a system that does not want Black people to succeed. However, Keeanga Taylor and Cornel West disagree by mentioning how we should be more critical of Obama because his policies harmed Black constituents while his rhetoric blamed his Black constituents. I believe this is an issue that will be solved when I start drafting the Literature Review. After typing out the preceding sections, I will find a way to seamlessly include this difference in my evidence into my paper.
In regards to the project, I was initially worried I would not have much media to input into Scalar. However, I found more music videos for the album, that I did not know existed, and found some interviews with Kendrick himself discussing his choices in making the piece. Currently I am figuring out how I want the video to be presented; as in do I want the whole part of the interview to play, or do I want to splice it up and distribute where needed? I would prefer to do the latter, but I fear that splicing the video would leave an awkward ending for the viewer; however, I would rather the audience see a piece of the interview that relates to the song, and not one that follows later in the track list.
I am confident in the evidence that I have so far. From here, all I have to do is prepare my paper and project while making sure that my paper can flow into my project seamlessly.

Reflection III (john)

Because I will be gone this week, please use part of your reflection to engage with two of these articles. Your reflections can/should still be personal, but they should reveal thoughtful consideration of identity and its implications on work, structurally and in its content. This reflection should be longer (1-2 pages).


Issues regarding the inclusivity of the canon has always plagued me as an aspiring writer. The mere fact that my identity controls whether or not my work can be considered “good enough” is daunting because evaluation tends to depend on the author and not the work of the author. However, this distinction has fueled me to challenge this idea of the canon and what is deemed textual or not; hence my choice to lyrically analyze an album rather than a book. In regards to the two pieces that overviewed race issues in the Digital Humanities community, I was pleased to find that the second piece answered the first article’s question of “why is Digital Humanities so white”? The community is so white because of the focus on technological production, which is limited to the privileged, rather than focusing on qualitative theoretical production equally.

In the first article, the author’s overviewed how panels primarily talked about technology, and tool productions, rather than race issues. I would argue that this anomaly is because the community is so white. White people do not have to worry about race relations because they are in a government system that benefits them. Thus, checking one’s privilege, like why a room full of white people are not discussing race, does not come to mind because that would involve acknowledging more complicated issues, like the history of the nation, how the history impacts the present, and how social issues have not progressed much over the years. Making such a realization would involve critiquing the very foundation of the government and society that people hold dear to their hearts, which makes sense why the panel would rather talk about technological tool creation instead of elaborating on why the panel is so exclusive; a topic that the second article broke down very well.

    The second piece provided elaboration on the theoretical processes leading to the creation of the White Violence, Black Resistance project. The authors disagree on the emphasis of technology in the Digital Humanities community because having access to online tools is a privilege in itself. Thus, they aimed to make simple technological production skills, like metadata application, data collection, analysis, etc, accessible to “citizens on the ground” because they were the ones experiencing the injustice at the time. Rather than make a project intended to garner the attention of academic institution’s funding, this project was made to expose the patterns of social injustice throughout our history in order to change society’s views on race and critique what should be included in the Digital Humanities canon. Thus, I argue, that the second article successfully provides an answer to why the Digital Humanities is predominantly white and a solution to fix the ailment. Rather than focusing on the advanced means to creating an online project, which is a privileged mind-frame because it implies one has immediate access to the needed tools, the focus should shift towards making technological production accessible to the very people that are excluded; in result, the Digital Humanities community would, hopefully, diversify while also paying attention to ideological critiques as well as technological tools.

Reflection II (john)

Wading through digital projects and readings, where are you finding your inspiration? What parts of things you’re reading and seeing resonate most with you? Where are the gaps in your research and what are you still looking for? What are your thoughts as you get started.


I am finding my inspiration from this text “From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation” that I have been reading. Reading through Keeanga Taylor’s content is very engaging because she tends agree with most of Lamar’s points, but speaks differently about Obama and most Blacks in political power. Taylor’s work has also reminded me that I can extract readings from my past Cultural Anthropology class to discuss race as a social construct and how systemic racism keeps people of color out of jobs.

Before reading, I expected to find information that proved that institutional racism is existent in America. However, I did not expect Taylor to be so critical of Obama, in terms of rhetoric and statistics. Their arguments are so radically that I am having a tough time thinking through how I will seamlessly include this distinction in the paper.

My biggest issue is that I still need to find evidence discussing the role of religion in the black community, destructive or helpful, and struggles of complexion within the black community. Hopefully, when introduced to more Black thinkers, I will find solid evidence for those two topics. The smaller issue is that Taylor’s book is so rich that I have almost too much evidence for the other topics that I am discussing. Granted having too much evidence is not a terrible thing to occur, I will find a way to sift through the quotes I have extracted and still remain true to the point both Taylor and Lamar are arguing.

Reflection (john)

I chose this project because, as an artist, I know the difficult process behind writing lyrics. I believe that every word is pregnant with meaning and this project operates under that. I specifically chose the To Pimp A Butterfly album because this was the first conscious rap album I have seen garner public attention, and awards. Usually, radios and mainstream outlets prefer to play music that revolves around partying, but TPAB songs managed to top charts while critiquing the very community we are apart of; the true aim of rap/hip-hop.

Discussing pro-black messages from the album is a mandatory element that cannot be changed. My time briefing with Adam opened my eyes to the fact that the album may provide a plethora of topics or evidence for my project. Given this realization, I want to extract songs that pertain to the black experience and see if research supports the message. Thus, I aim to unpack and provide “scholarly” evidence to his claims because, even though the album was popular enough to obtain a Grammy, people still think the black experience is a matter of fiction in America society. My search of evidence would ideally help me critique if social issues within the black community have improved over the past few years. I would argue that this album is the appropriate choice for my project because Kendrick Lamar succeeds well at portraying the black experience. He currently a high charting artist who speaks bluntly about social issues over sonically impressive tracks. Also, the album is highly respected and was awarded Best Rap Album of 2015.

My biggest challenge would be sifting through the massive amount of content in the album to find songs that are topical. Certain songs may require deeper analysis to see if a message lies underneath because they are complex and sometimes confusing. A potential challenge could be finding articles that are relevant to the black experience. However, if I do not, that would be intriguing because it would show how important documenting and discussing the black experience is to the academic community. I must be clear on what songs I am going to discuss by the end of the first week the latest.

In regards to my readiness for this program, the late great Marvin Gaye said it best, “Let’s get it on”.