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Using Hip Hop To Bring South Floridians Into The Library

Wilson Sayre

By setting a few soliloquies from Hamlet to a beat, Oscar Fuentes - also know as the Biscayne Poet - showed that the poetry in rap songs is not all that different from Shakespeare.

It was part of the Hip Hop Shakespeare workshop at the Arcola Lakes branch library in Liberty City. 

“Shakespeare has always been like a highbrow of literature and the language,” Fuentes says, “and today you have amazing writers, amazing hip-hop writers that are not given the credit they deserve as intellectuals.”

Arcola Lakes branch is exploring new ways to get people excited about libraries though its programming. Funded by the Miami Foundation’s Public Spaces Challenge, the idea is to break down the walls between community and library through non-traditional programming. 

Parsing the two together - the seriousness of Shakespeare and “cool” cache of rap - Fuentes hopes to encourage the 20 kids or so in the room to write and perform their own poetry.

Samira Rojas, 11, was surprised at the Shakespeare-rapping Fuentes.

“I’ve read Shakespeare but I've just read the words,” she says, adding that the rapping made it more fun.

As she flips through a notebook full of words in stanzas, she says this workshop was the first time she’s really taken the time to write poetry.

In a circle, the kids snapped their fingers and read their poems aloud. Rojas, who said she was nervous at first, looked like she was having fun.