Native American culture meets hip-hop

Ira Sairs and Ira Sairs

Thomas Burnett and Kristin Cooperkline are out to shatter stereotypes surrounding Native American life in America. As president and treasurer of the Native American Unity Council (NAUC), they hope to shed light to Bowling Green natives and non-natives on the realities of what it means to be Native American in today’s world. The organization was founded in 2002. ‘We noticed there was a student group for a lot of the other ethnicities and cultural backgrounds on the campus but none that represented Native Americans,’ Burnett said. ‘We really try to emphasize, not only to the people who are interested in joining the group but to people who attend our events as well, natives are not stereotypes who live in the past,’ Cooperkline said. ‘And we’ve worked really hard to make sure that that message comes across.’ The NAUC puts on annual fall events that attempt to blend the traditional with the contemporary, which is something that happens in a lot of Native Americans lives, Burnett said. This past November the NAUC put on a three-day event that included Native American poets, speaker and performers including Grammy Award winning musician Bill Miller, Cooperkline said. One of the main motivations for the annual fall event is to demonstrate that Native Americans are diverse groups engaged in the arts and community. ‘They don’t all look the same, act the same, dress the same, practice the same things, they’re very diverse,’ Kooperkline said. ‘They’re very contemporary. They’re just people with a specific cultural background, and just like any other group in the United States they have traditions but they also have very contemporary practices as well.’ Tonight, the NAUC will host North Californian and Native American hip-hop artist JSD (Joe San Diego), in the Black Swamp Pub. ‘I don’t want to pigeon-hole us and say he’s not family friendly but this is a rap concert and you know, he’s not a preacher,’ Burnett said. ‘Expect explicit lyrics, but he’s not violent or anything like that. He just really, really enjoys doing this.’ ‘ Burnett hopes the event will help expose natives and non-natives on campus to the NAUC and the sense of community the group can provide. ‘A lot of students now know they have Native heritage but they haven’t been as connected with it as they would like so it’s a starting point to learn more about that particular part of themselves,’ Cooperkline said. ‘But it’s not exclusive. Interest and respect are the only requirements for joining the group.’ ‘ JSD will perform tonight at 9:30 p.m. in the Black Swamp Pub.