Hip-Hop: Unifying Detroit Youth

By, Allie Semperger
Published February 2014: Michigan Nightlight

Hip-hop gets a bad reputation, but a look outside the mainstream, at a small but powerful program for Detroit youth, provides a whole different view.

Commercialized rap songs that glorify money and violence have no place at the 5 E Gallery, a nonprofit visual art and hip-hop culture gallery in Detroit that inspires a return to the roots of hip-hop as a peaceful, creative, and unifying culture.

The gallery’s name is a tribute to the five main elements of hip-hop culture: emceeing (rapping), DJ’ing, writing (aerosol art), dancing (including breaking, up-rocking, popping, and locking), and the connecting element of knowledge.

In addition to supporting local artists and featuring their work, 5 E Gallery offers a diverse array of artistic programs that helps youth in the Detroit community develop important creative and technical skills.

Piper Carter, director of public relations at 5 E Gallery, is an acclaimed fashion photographer whose work has appeared in The New York Times, French Vogue (Vogue Paris), British ELLE (ELLE UK), and Essence, just to name a few. She grew up between Detroit and New York, working in NYC until she moved back to Detroit in 2008 to take care of her mother who was suffering from poor health and needed 24-hour care. “Coming back was a blessing in disguise because we had a chance to connect,” Carter says, acknowledging that the distance impacted the time they spent together. “We ended up being good for each other – she helped me learn how to be a grown woman.”

Piper Carter

Piper Carter (Doug Coombe)

5 E was founded in 2007 by renowned Detroit hip-hop artist and turntablist DJ Sicari. In 2008, Carter met Sicari and began attending 5 E programs and collaborating with him. “I thought [the gallery] was a genius idea and I’m such a hip-hop enthusiast,” she says. “To find a person and a place that loves and celebrates the real culture of hip-hop as much as I did, in Detroit – it’s wonderful.”

Carter’s passion and participation at the gallery continued to grow. In May of 2009, 5 E Gallery launched The Foundation, based on Carter’s idea for a weekly night dedicated specifically to celebrating and supporting the voices of women in hip-hop. The program currently runs on Tuesday nights and participants have included female artists like singer Jade Lathan, who recently appeared on American Idol.

5 E Gallery fosters a creative environment that also functions as a safe space which provides young people with the skills and confidence to become artists that truly live hip-hop culture. The gallery is open after school through the evening for young people to practice their creativity.

5 E also holds a regular youth program on Saturdays where young people get hands-on experiences in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, & Math) work. This weekly program is based on 5 E’s big annual community event, Dilla Youth Day, celebrating the legendary Detroit music producer J Dilla and showcasing youth performances in the arts.

On Dilla Day and on Saturdays throughout the year, kids learn about music production, media literacy, art, and cutting-edge technology that empowers them to bring their creative visions to life in new and unique ways. “No matter where you go, hip-hop in its creation and inception is made for young people – to communicate with one another, express ideas, and relate what their culture is,” Carter says. She also cites the origins of hip-hop as created out of necessity by youth in the depressed Bronx in the 1970s. According to Carter, hip-hop was the path for young people of diverse cultures (Caribbean, African, Puerto Rican, and more) to “create a new reality for themselves.”

5 E Gallery works to support young artists through artist development and mentorship. Artist development includes classes, programs, opportunities to perform, and constructive critiques. Youth are also taught about the business aspects of their mediums and how to improve their skills. In addition, 5 E connects the kids with role models like music producers and community leaders.

5 E Gallery

5 E Gallery (Doug Coombe)

“For us, I think it’s important to acknowledge that in impoverished communities of color there’s really no modeling – it’s important for young people to see what’s practiced, to see people who are successful,” Carter says. “A lot of us didn’t have models for anything we wanted to do – we realized that we really have to show young people what to do [and] give them guidance and instruction.” By interacting with successful people in their aspired fields, youth gain well-rounded worldviews with a balance of school learning and professional experience.

With a focus on ideals like truth, equality, unity, and peace, 5 E Gallery works to educate the public that hip-hop isn’t just the commercialized rap that is popularly confused for hip-hop today. Rather, hip-hop is believed to be the culmination of all cultures: a movement and a lifestyle. “We’re doing sonic justice,” Carter says. “It’s all about music that uplifts and music that heals and providing a safe space for people – youth, women, people of color – to come and learn from one another.”

Carter is a self-described positive and hopeful person, who believes that life is a journey and not a destination. She acknowledges that violence can take many forms – guns, self-hatred, gossip, bullying, etc. – and that it stems mainly from insecurity and a perceived “lack.” Hip-hop, with its focus on cultural literacy, has the power to overcome this harmful mindset.

“My hope for the children of Detroit is that they always realize and recognize their own value, that they see themselves as an important part of this world with fresh ideas and that their ideas are valuable and valued,” Carter says. “We’re in these times where we hear about abysmal circumstances, but it’s still a beautiful world and it’s important that we uplift our youth and community.”


Powerful Pantene commercial sheds light on sexist labels

By, Allie Semperger
Published January 2014: About-Face

“Don’t let labels hold you back.” This is the slogan of a new Pantene campaign that
encourages women to disregard negative sexist stereotypes and live their lives with
confidence — and, if you’d prefer, awesome hair. However, “Be Strong and Shine” is no longer just an ode to Pantene hair products.

The message is powerfully captured in a commercial from Pantene Philippines. The
advertisement successfully highlights some major double standards between the ways men and women are viewed in the workplace and society, including:

  • Boss vs. Bossy
  • Persuasive vs. Pushy
  • Dedicated vs. Selfish (working dads vs. working moms)
  • Neat vs. Vain
  • Smooth vs. Show-off

At the time that this article is being written, the video has over 20.5 million views on YouTube and more than 26,000 likes. If you take a look, it’s easy to see why.


The video is so compelling because it communicates, with simple terms and visuals, just how inherently wrong it is that women are harshly judged for doing the same things as men or just doing simple tasks like washing up in the bathroom.

It sheds a very clear light on the subject, breaking through all the absurd arguments about women’s supposed inferiority that are often reinforced in dangerously subtle ways in our society.

The Pantene commercial itself has an interesting back story. According to The Seattle Times, the ad was released online in the Philippines by its regional office without any objective to connect with American audiences.

However, the message resonated with online viewers worldwide, and it wasn’t long
before the commercial caught fire, racking up millions of hits on YouTube and forming a
community that clamored for the commercial to be shown on American television.

After a wildly condensed media purchasing process to meet consumer demand, the
commercial was broadcast on the ABC network during its classic annual news program, “The Year.”

persuasive vs. pushyThe Pantene ad has attracted influential fans like Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook.

Ms. Sandberg brought recognition to the commercial on her Facebook page, stating that it was “one of the most powerful videos [she has] ever seen illustrating how when women and men do the same things, they are seen in completely different ways.”

Some may question whether it’s hypocritical for a beauty company to promote this message.

Personally, I wouldn’t devote much energy to analyzing that idea – using beauty products alone doesn’t make someone any less of a feminist, and I’m on board with supporting
companies that raise awareness like this.

The commercial itself definitely prioritizes the message over the product and, at the very least, it’s inspiring necessary conversations about double standards and gender inequality.

What are some other double standards that could be featured in a commercial like this? Are there any other reasons you see for the success of this video?

Why the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in the Media rules

By, Allie Semperger
Published December 2013: About-Face

Academy Award-winning actress Geena Davis (of Thelma and Louise and Beetlejuice fame) founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in the Media to advocate for diverse
portrayals and equal representation of female characters in the media

The Institute and its program, See Jane, promote gender equality in media representation through research, education, and advocacy. The focus is on children’s entertainment and
media with a demographic of children ages 11 and younger.



Geena was inspired to take action after recognizing the noticeable shortage of female characters in family entertainment that she watched with her daughter. Narrow-minded, sexist portrayals of women and girls (which are especially conspicuous when there are so few female characters to begin with), can affect everything from body image and self-esteem to occupational goals.

In other words, fantasy has a tendency to become reality as children absorb the
damaging message that girls aren’t as valuable as boys

The Institute regularly reports their findings and research studies on these topics and,
according to their website, have assembled “the largest body of research on gender prevalence in entertainment,” covering more than 20 years. For instance, the following research facts were provided from research conducted by Stacy Smith, Ph.D. at the USC
Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism:

Males outnumber females three to one in family films. In contrast, females comprise just over 50% of the population in the United States. Even more staggering is the fact that this ratio, as seen in family films, is the same as it was in 1946.

• Females are almost four times as likely as males to be shown in sexy attire. Further, females are nearly twice as likely as males to be shown with a diminutive waistline. Generally
unrealistic figures are more likely to be seen on females than males

• Females are also underrepresented behind the camera. Across 1,565 content creators, only 7% of directors, 13% of writers, and 20% of producers are female. This translates to 4.8 males working behind-the-scenes to every one female.

• From 2006 to 2009, not one female character was depicted in G-rated family films in the field of medical science, as a business leader, in law, or politics. In these films, 80.5% of all working characters are male and 19.5% are female, which is a contrast to real world
statistics, where women comprise 50% of the workforce.

Geena’s organization also works with the entertainment industry, educational institutions, and other influential organizations Geena Davis speaking at the Second Symposium on Gender in the Media.(like the United Nations) to create programs and
educational tools that raise awareness about gender-related issues in the media

For example, See Jane partnered with USA Today Education to create Gender Equality Lessons for Schools. Some of the featured lessons include “Do TV Shows and Movies Influence Careers Held by Women and Men?” and “Do TV Shows and Movies Make Sexual Harassment a ‘Normal’ Part of the School

To me, it’s always inspiring to see celebrities recognize their power of influence and take responsibility for promoting important issues, specifically those that pertain to gender stereotyping and representation.

Geena Davis is admirable for committing the time and resources necessary for providing
statistics and other evidence that point to the need for change in sexist media representation.

When you were a child, how were female characters portrayed in your favorite TV shows and movies? What are other ways you would like to see celebrities use their influence to
discourage sexism in the media?