Edgar H. Tyson, PhD (April 9, 1963 – February 24, 2018):
Dr. Tyson was born and grew up in Paterson, New Jersey. He received his Bachelor’s and Master’s in Social Work at Barry University and his PhD at the University of Tennessee. Dr. Tyson first pioneered Hip-Hop Therapy (HHT) in 1996 while working in a residential facility in Miami-Dade County for abused and homeless youth. As both a researcher and clinician, he grounded this innovative practice in empirical research for 22 years before his sudden passing. Tyson first presented Hip-Hop Therapy and his research findings in 1998 at the 20th Annual Symposium for the Association for the Advancement of Social Work with Groups in Miami, Florida. In 2002, he published his groundbreaking study in the Journal of Poetry Therapy.
Dr. Tyson began teaching at Fordham University’s Graduate School of Social Service in 2007, where he became a tenured associate professor. Previously, he had taught as an assistant professor at Florida State University and the University of Georgia. In his own words, Tyson’s main areas of focus were “cultural competence in assessment of child mental health and behavioral outcomes; applying contemporary, urban youth culture (e.g., hip hop) in prevention and intervention research; and developing and strengthening hip hop-based delinquency prevention and civic engagement models for youth.” His academic training was bolstered by over 20 years of social work practice in community-based, psychiatric, child welfare and juvenile justice settings, and he had made a “lifetime commitment to strengthening community-based organizations and institutions with a mission to pursue social justice, collective-efficacy of underserved communities, and growth and development of youth (Fordham GSS, 2018).
J.C. Hall, LMSW:
Hall is from Long Island, New York and is a Hip-Hop artist by the name of Fienyx (pronounced “phoenix”). Hall received his Bachelor of Science in Psychology at Fordham University in 2010. While pursuing his Master’s in Social Work at Fordham University’s Graduate School of Social Service, Dr. Tyson became Hall’s professor and mentor. Hall relied heavily on Tyson’s foundational HHT model during both years of his clinical practicum. Tyson’s supervision served as an integral touchstone for Hall while he incorporated his experience as a Hip-Hop artist into his approach.
From 2011 at an East Harlem neighborhood center through 2012 at a South Bronx nonprofit organization, Hall advocated for and created Hip-Hop therapy groups within these agencies to service both high school and GED students. With much success, Hall was given the opportunity in 2013 to build a state-of-the-art recording studio at a transfer high school in the South Bronx in order to further develop his program. The early days of this process were captured by filmmaker Kyle Morrison in the short documentary Mott Haven, which showcases the use of Hip-Hop therapy for communal healing in the wake of a school tragedy. The film has screened at several renowned film festivals across the United States, winning a handful of Best Short Documentary awards in the process.
Various outlets have covered the Hip-Hop Therapy Studio at Mott Haven Community High School, and Hall attributes the program’s success to Dr. Tyson’s research and guidance. In addition to developing a close friendship over the course of several years, Hall and Tyson cultivated a strong working relationship, both presenting together at numerous events and collaborating on scholarly works.
Alongside Dr. Tyson and one of his program graduates, Hall first presented his Hip-Hop Expressive Arts Therapy (HEAT) model at the annual 2016 Coalition of Juvenile Justice’s National Disproportionate Minority Contact Conference (Tyson, Hall, & Montero, 2016). Earlier that year, Tyson asked Hall to contribute to his textbook on Hip-Hop therapy as a featured author, and they were in the final stages of preparing for publication before Tyson’s passing. With the help of Tyson’s family, Hall is in the process of compiling Tyson’s writings and years of unpublished research with the intention of completing the project as planned in his honor.