I had ran out of patience and ideas. These kids aren't learning. This community doesn't care. These kids are being raised by the radio stations and images of gangstas and strippers. They can tell you all the celebrity gossip but can't even spell celebrity....or gossip. I'm done. I'm sure every teacher or social worker has felt this way but we always find a way to regroup and cook up something new to try again. As much as people like to talk down on this current generation, somebody better give a damn about them because they are the future of this world, the future of this culture. They will soon be the decision makers and world shakers. You may not understand or like their language but you better learn and adapt real quick to be able to reach them in a way that they can understand.
I know these kids are diamonds in the rough and can be taught and can be reached but we have to find a way that connects with them. Hip hop has always been my medium. I love hip hop and so do they, so let's use it as a tool. I played the Kendrick Lamar album in the background and handed them all slips of paper that said "I got royalty inside my DNA." as they took their seats (well, most of em...the normal busy bodies were digging in the toy boxes, running around, trying to dance on top of the tables, hitting each other or just yelling). I asked them what does it say? Most of them couldn't read it all, but the ones who could, yelled in unison, "I GOT ROYALTY IN MY DNA!!!!!" I love affirmations, they don't know, but they just spoke that confidently over themselves. I asked, "What does that mean?". Silence mixed with shuffling and a few "I don't know"'s filled the room. We talked briefly....meaning like 30 seconds (attention spans are a MF) about what that truly means to them...They get it. I asked them to draw out who they truly are and who they will become on their paper. I also had them color images of royal men and women.
This was therapeutic. There was a stillness and calmness in the community center that I usually never feel, as they quietly concentrated on coloring, releasing their creativity, imagining themselves as royalty and calmly rapping and dancing in their seats along to every single word of "Humble", "DNA", "Loyalty" and "Love". It was almost as if the images they were focused on gave them a glimpse into reality, a break from what they are bombarded with on a daily basis. It was almost like Kendrick's words and the beats sent them into a trance of knowing that they could be exactly who they are, right where they are and still be ROYAL. It was like their drawings of their future of having a lot of money, having a big house and no longer living in low-income housing projects, becoming a teacher, a mother or a rapper took over their thoughts for just a moment and they felt confident and free.
This world is always quick to write these kids off as if they are lower class, unintelligent, out of control or unreachable. They aren't. You have to look closely and see the royal blood coursing through their veins and remind them of it daily. They need these reminders because all they see are images and reminders of everything that they aren't and shouldn't be. This world is also quick to write off hip hop as ignorant, useless, violent or degrading. It isn't. Whether you love it or hate it, these kids are impacted by it and understand it. Use it for its original purpose, to impact these communities and be the voice for the silenced and overlooked, to reject the status quo and just be authentic and raw and confident in that.
Teachers, social workers, volunteers or anyone else who does the hard and thankless work in these communities....don't give up. Never fall into the belief that someone is unreachable or less than human, choose to see the royalty in everyone and use the tools that you have to build those bridges to reach them. Check out the media tab for dope, world changing and life altering female rappers that you could use! Affirm the royalty in you, affirm the royalty in others and be hip hop wherever you are....don't let anyone tell you that it has no place in the office or classroom, its not just an art form, it's a lifestyle and it has the power to mend, heal and transform even the darkest hearts and places.