As we gather to engage in meaningful conversations surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion for the DEI Summit 2023 Community Assembly & Discussion, we’re thrilled to introduce an exciting addition to this year’s event – the Student Hip-Hop Cypher. A hip-hop cypher is more than just a performance; it’s a dynamic and interactive artistic expression deeply rooted in hip-hop culture. Originating in the streets of New York City in the 1970s, cyphers became the heart and soul of hip-hop, providing a space for artists to freestyle, share stories, and build community. The connection between hip-hop cyphers and Critical Race Theory (CRT) is profound, as both emphasize the power of storytelling and amplify voices often marginalized by society. Through this unique fusion of art and academia, our Student Hip-Hop Cypher promises to be a powerful reflection of our commitment to embracing diversity and promoting inclusivity within the University of Michigan community. Join us in celebrating the rich history and significance of hip-hop cyphers as we explore hip-hop’s intersection with CRT at the 2023 DEI Summit.

Cypher Performers

Sasha Bacon

Sasha Bacon is a senior from East Lansing, MI studying Physics and Astronomy. Her research tends to be at the interface of astrophysics and particle physics and she most recently worked on the Axion Dark Matter Experiment at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. She’s a proud member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. and a Peer Facilitator in the University’s Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program. Hip-hop and the myriad of other Black American musical traditions are her first love and she celebrates them weekly on Fridays at 11 while dj-ing her radio show ‘Calling Planet Earth’ on WCBN-FM Ann Arbor.

Headshot of Sasha Bacon

Byron Brooks

Byron D. Brooks (MoSoul) of Detroit, Michigan, exemplifies personal triumph over adverse circumstances. Byron, who was born during his mother’s incarceration and experienced a period of homelessness, is the first in his immediate family to earn not only a college degree but also an advanced degree – a master of arts from the School of Education in Diversity and Social Justice in Higher Education. As a practitioner of Hip-Hop & Liberation MoSoul strives to spread the philosophy of Ubuntu: I am Because WE Are!

To Learn More About Byron:

Headshot of Byron Brooks

Kiana “KC” Cook

Kiana “KC” Cook, is a multi-disciplinary artist and cultural producer rooted in performance practices from the African-diaspora. Pursuing an MFA in Dance at UMICH, her research interest is of how street dance forms such as Krump, Freestyle Hip Hop, Chicago Footwork and the like, were created out of resistance and emulate familial structures to embody empowerment and liberation. She has curated events, performed as an emcee and dancer, choreographed danceworks, and participated in street dance battles across the world. Most notably, she produced the events “Friends of Chi Buck” (I and II) and “WECAMEFROMHERE” to cultivate the Krump community in her chosen home of Chicago. She is part of the Kautionz Krump fam out of the Midwest.

Photo of Kiana Cook

Lailah Fritz

Lailah has always loved playing, singing, writing, and making music. Lailah started playing the violin classically when she was five and has sung in choirs and played in other musical ensembles throughout her life. Lailah earned her B.A. in Sociology and Creative Writing from the University of Michigan and also minored in Music. Lailah is currently working to finish her Masters of Social Work at U of M while also singing, playing, jamming, and writing music in her free time. Lailah is incredibly grateful for the unique way in which sharing music connects and brings us all together. 

Headshot of Lailah Fritz

Yifan Lu

My name is Yifan Lu, a graduate student majoring in  Electrical and Computer Engineering. I am from China. I am a lover of Hiphop music as well as the spirit and culture inside it. Hope to meet you soon!

Headshot of Yifan Lu

Sammy Saad

Sammy Saad is a Michigan native who grew up in the southwest corner of the state in a small town known as Berrien Springs. A unique town, home to a large Seventh-Day-Adventist (SDA) community, Sammy was among one of the only Arab-Americans in his district. He would spend his summers in Dearborn, Michigan, another unique city which houses the largest Arab population in the United States. During the school year he attended churches and learned about Christianity, then spent his summers in the mosque learning about Islam. Through these two lenses in which to view reality he learned that he was different and didn’t quite fit in, but more importantly, he learned what makes us all the same. Regardless of religion, or outlook on life he believes that as humans we all simply desire three things: to love, to be loved, and to succeed through whichever form we define success. Sammy says, “It is our innate curiosity about who we are and where we come from that connects us all to something larger”. He fosters inclusion throughout his everyday life, looking to spread love to those around him and challenge others to think deeply about their behaviors and to question societal norms. He uses music as an outlet to voice his feelings and thoughts in hopes to inspire others who feel a connection with his words.

Photo of Sammy Saad