Joe Bolton

Joe Bolton on the right, showing a youth how to build a speaker in 2018.

Joe Bolton grew up in Champaign, IL, and participated in activities at the Don Moyer Boys & Girls Club as a youth. He and Will (Dr. Patterson) have collaborated for years on music and audio production projects. Further, Mr. Bolton is a maker of extraordinary talent and has served as project engineer for Street College and various courses. He has deep experience in automotive diagnostics, repair and fabrication, neon and sheet-metal fabrication, and audio engineering and DJing.

Display of Joe Bolton’s work, Art @ the Y

Some of his work is featured in an exhibit (through March 20, 2020) at the University Y, “Our Stories, Our Places, Our Resilient Selves.” 

Adam Kruse

Adam Kruse working with a youth during the Hip Hop camp, Summer 2018

Dr. Adam Kruse is an assistant professor of Music Education at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). He received a Creative Research Award from the College of Fine + Applied Arts and was awarded an M3I4 grant from the School of Music to host the first ever Hip-Hop Music Ed Symposium in 2018 in  conjunction with the Illinois Summer Youth Music at the School of Music that brought together community hip hop musicians, school music teachers, and youth from around the state to create, record, and perform original music. A keynote speaker at the symposium was Dr. Will Patterson. Samples of the 2018 camp can be seen here and here.

Dr. Kruse was also recognized with a 2017-2018 Technology Initiative Award from the College Music Society. His current research focuses on hip hop music learning and engagements of hip-hop culture in school music settings.

Malaika McKee

Dr. Malaika McKee (PhD, Higher Education Policy and Administration, University of Minnesota, 2007)  is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of African American Studies of the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign and is a Philosophy of Education Professor in the Odyssey Project – Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities. She co-founded a research lab called De.SH(ie) [Designing Spaces of Hope (interiors and exteriors)] that studies the intersections of architecture, sociobiology, and race.  She is a co-founder of the Black Aesthetic Genius Project with Mr. John Barnes. She earned a Master of Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Her research interests focus on the intersection of civic engagement and higher education with special emphasis on the experiences of students of color. Awards include Diversity Faculty Fellow at the Morgridge College of Education, University of Denver, Denver, CO; Research Fellow at the Mathematica Policy Institute in Princeton, NJ; Research Affiliate at the National Center for Super Computing Applications; and National Science Foundation University of Illinois I-Corps Team.

William Patterson

Will Patterson in his home studio, 2017

Starting in the late 1990s, Dr. Will Patterson worked with youth at the Don Moyer Boys & Girls Club in Champaign and University students on projects that included fashion, spoken arts, and STEM. Flava Wear was a social entrepreneurial clothing project that Dr. Patterson developed with young people at the Club in 2001. In 2007, he built on the success of Flava Wear to create a civic scholarship model called IPOWERED. IPOWERED was created to provide African American college students with the knowledge needed to invest their expertise in economically depressed and marginalized communities.

As Associate Director at the UI African American Cultural Center from 2005-2008, Dr. Patterson was vital to the internet-based radio station, WBML, and Griot, the literary magazine. In 2006, Dr. Patterson received the Campus Award for Excellence in Public Engagement as well as the local arts council’s ACE Award. These awards were due to his central role with the collaborative Youth Media Workshop (with WILL-TV, College of Education, and College of Media) that taught over 30 African American middle and high school students how to use media tools to produce documentaries about their communities.

In 2008, Dr. Patterson was a Fellow with the University of Illinois Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership; Dr. Patterson’s students in his course, Hip Hop and Social Entrepreneurship, proposed projects with local residents and presented and advocated for their team’s ideas to outsiders. Previous courses taught by Dr. Patterson since the early 1990s—at the UI, at the Boys and Girls Club, at the Urban League—have examined leadership, arts and social change with youth-created media incorporated into the learning process.

In 2016, Dr. Patterson began to pull various activities together under the phrase “Ghetto Genius Universe,” to recognize the ingenuity and brilliance within ghetto spaces and he presented his ideas in a TEDxUIUC talk in 2017.  Dr. Patterson defines Ghetto Genius as the cultural wealth produced from unique and new knowledge; this knowledge is born from and acquired by individuals in places and spaces that are undervalued, underestimated, and marginalized. Dr. Patterson acknowledges Ghetto Genius by immersing himself in spaces like the Don Moyer Boys & Girls Club in Champaign, a place in which he grew up.

Tiffani Saunders

Dr. Saunders is formerly an Assistant Professor of Sociology and African American Studies at the University of Illinois-Springfield. She now serves as Equity, Diversity and Inclusion consultant for the Ball-Chatham School Board.

A Few Featured Students

A youth at the Club showing the speaker she built with her team, 2018
ISYM Hip Hop Camp
Youth learning to DJ in Douglass Park, Champaign, 2018
A youth from the Club on a field trip to the Maker Lab on campus, 2018

There is tremendous talent among the youth in Champaign-Urbana and a keen interest among them to learn and lead. We are committed to connecting with more people statewide to celebrate and strengthen their arts, cultures, and histories.

Exploring the Legacies of the Tracks of Our Years