This is a video clip from a recent HELP workshop with a group of dedicated Ballou HS students during our daily afterschool program…
WE are recruiting artists, tutors, and young professionals for paid and volunteer positions working in our GA Afterschool Program (GAP). On Saturday, September 25th, we will be hosting an Informational Session at Bloombars (3222 11th STreet NW) from 11am – 1pm. All interested applicants should bring a resume/bio/CV, applications will be available on site. For more information, please contact email@example.com
WE NEED YOUR HELP!! ARTISTS! PROFESSIONALS! YOUTH ADVOCATES! CONCERNED CITIZENS! We are hiring tutors, arts instructor and administrative positions for now, so PLEASE EMAIL ASHERU@WETHEWILLING.ORG TODAY!!!
Through a 21st Century Learning Communities grant, Guerilla Arts is pairing up wth Howard University’s Center for Urban Progress (CUP) and Neighborhood Networks to provide afterschool academic and arts enrichment to the surrounding Garfield Terrace and Park Morton Housing Developments. As a result, the Guerilla Arts Afterschool Program (GAP) will provide authentic, arts-based exposure opportunities to student participants through artist-led workshops, music, film, various field trips, and other activities. The purpose is to stimulate the holistic development of the student participants, while giving our top-notch, award winning staff of professional artists the opportunity to give back to their communities in an authentic, hands-on way.
Every day, GAP begins with a one-hour whole group literacy activity and team building exercise through the use of our unique curriculum, H.E.L.P., the Hip Hop Educational Literacy Program. From there, students will convene for community snack time and quick group circle to explain/discuss the agenda for each day. Students then break out into their chosen workshop groups of interest, and work on arts-related, project-based workshop lessons provided by our unique brand of arts instructors. Current workshops include the following:
Photography, Visual Arts Club (mural art, digital arts, etc.), and Studio Production. In the Fall, we plan to extend our services to include a Rites of Passage program for Young Women and Young Men ages 12-18. Other programming for the Fall will include classes and outreach to parents and guardians, as well as the participation of various community service projects, as part of the ongoing Green Line Initiative, a campaign to bring about environmental awareness to largely underserved communities through the use of the arts as a means of community beautification.
IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN A VOLUNTEER OF PAID POSITION WITH GUERILLA ARTS INK, PLEASE EMAIL ASHERU@WETHEWILLING.ORG TODAY!!!
Gabrien Benn took part in an interview that has been featured in the June issue of Ebony Magazine. Entitled, “Whose Your Daddy: Four Men On Fatherhood”, the article is a must-read. Download the 5-page excerpt from Ebony below.
This was a moving moment, I had the honor of performing alongside HHP in support of several thousand student protesters in Cape Town, South Africa. Organized by Equal Education (EE), a community member organization that advocates for quality and equality in the South African education system and engages in evidence-based activism for improving all of the nation’s schools. On this day, they assembled students in Capetown to rally to increase the number of libraries in the nation’s schools. Currently there are only 8% of schools with suitable libraries, so they took to the streets demanding EQUAL EDUCATION FOR ALL!!! It was amazing to see these students take to the streets, determined to make a political change thru non-violent means. After this performance, the students grabbed picket signs and marched to Parliament House to make their list of demands felt. The whole experience was eye-opening and reminiscent of the videos we used to watch on the civil rights movement 40 years ago here in the States.
Equal Education held a hugely important and completely successful event on Human Rights Day, 21 March 2010. This event represents the full arrival of a major new force in South African civil society.
Today, more than 10 000 people gathered on the Grand Parade in Central Cape Town in support of Equal Education’s Campaign for School Libraries and Human Rights Concert.
Those assembled marched on to Parliament where they delivered a Memorandum endorsed by more 50 organisations, petitions signed by 65 000 people, and copies of EE’s research report into school libraries, to the Director-General of Basic Education, Mr. Bobby Soobrayan.
Equal Education is campaigning for every school in South Africa to have a fully functional library. At present, this is only true for 8 percent of public schools. Phathiswa Shushwana, a grade 10 learner at Luhlaza High School and a member of Equal Education, gave a brilliant speech emphasising that education is a basic right and that poor areas are in desperate need of libraries, as learners in these areas don’t have books at home. She added that libraries improve literacy as well as motivate students.
COSATU General Secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi, pledged COSATU’s full support for EE’s campaign, and said that every school ought to have a library, a laboratory and proper infrastructure. He encouraged teachers to support the Campaign and to play a greater role in improving the education system. Similarly, he encouraged students to be disciplined, to arrive on time all the time, and to do their homework. Asked for his thoughts on the march, Vavi said that it took him back to his youth as a leader in the student movement in the 1980s, and that it was exciting to be part of this event.
Simphiwe Dana referred to herself as “a survivor of Bantu Education, not a product of it” and said that her mind survived partly because she had books in her school library. She urged government to restore dignity back to the children of South Africa.
HHP was the main performer of the day. He said that the onus is on learners to take responsibility for their education and future, and that today was a historic day because everyone was pulling together for change.
Yoliswa Dwane of Equal Education, in the final address to the crowd, said: “Today, the majority of children in South Africa are not able to read, write and count adequately, and this is mainly because of poor quality education and unequal access to resources in South African education.” Adding that, “unless, inequalities are addressed in this education system it will not transform our society and it will continue crippling and killing softly those who attend working class schools.”
Notably, Nobel Prize winning author, Wole Soyinka, Prof Njabulo Ndebele, Vuyiseka Dubula, Graeme Bloch and Cheryl Carolus were also in attendance.
For more info, and to find out how to get involved, please visit: http://www.equaleducation.org.za/
Over the last few months, I have been able to get some local media coverage around H.E.L.P. in the classroom: The first was this article, written by Marcus Moore for the Montgomery County (MD) Gazette. The article follows a teacher by the name of Helen Dana, who is using H.E.L.P. in her classes at Quince Orchard High School. Helen is an inspiration for other teachers who are looking for new and innovative ways to make the content connect with their students everyday lives.
The next big look we got was on local News Channel 8 and NBC affiliate News Channel 4. Here are the videos:
(Notice in this clip, the newscasters began the interview in a very cynical manner — you know, in that mocking tone: “Using Hip Hop to teach…reading?!?”. I turned them around to seeing things my way by the end of it though…
Here is the News 4 article, which followed me around as I facilitated a HELP workshop with a social studies class at Ballou HS in SE Washington, DC. Here is the video and article from the website:
More press to come, we are just getting started!
By Gabriel Benn
Northern Iraqis meet Southeast DC “Iraqis”
A good friend of mine, Lisa Pegram, gave me the heads up on a rare opportunity to bring my students to meet a delegation of Iraqi students here visiting the States on a 4-week tour. This particular meetup was part of a 2-day series of workshops around leadership and cultural exchange through Hip Hop.
So I bring my students to the Meridian mansion in NW to meet the Iraqi students, and they were immediately impressed with the surroundings, as we all were. Now as for quick background information, many of the Ballou students who attended the trip call their SE DC neighborhood “Iraq”, due to its violence and third world-type conditions, so to meet a group of students from (the real) Iraq made this meeting even more ironic.
After presentations by our SHARP team led by Toni Blackman*, US Hip Hop Cultural Ambassador, and Baba Ras D of Revel Youth Shine, all of the students were given multiple opportunities to bond and work together in a series of creative, interactive activities that everyone seemed to enjoy thoroughly. At this time, the session director adjourned the students for lunch. The students walked out to the main hall to begin digging in to the food — and if I thought there would be a culture clash before then, I had NO IDEA…
The lunch prepared for us was a 4 pack of those huge, 8-foot Subway subs along with all the condiments. The Iraqi students began to poke around at the sandwiches, basically to see what was inside of each one*.
At the very sight of the Iraqi students picking up the tops of each sandwich and moving on to the next, our DC students were taken aback and stood frozen in amazement. At first, their initial reaction was to pass on this whole lunch thing and not eat anything at all. “Mr. Benn,” one of the students called out to me, “they are TOUCHING all over the sandwiches!!! We can’t eat these!!” To briefly explain, this is a textbook example of “hood politics” coming into play. See in the hood, the rule is simple: with regards to food, if you touch it, it’s YOURS. You don’t touch any food that you do not intend to eat yourself. As we had to explain to our students later, in Iraqi/Arab culture, it is customary to not only eat with your hands, but to freely share food in a communal manner. As I told one student, “Today is the day that you will have to dig deep, put all that to the side, and just enjoy the experience.” Our students managed to pull it together, and lunch went great.
In the afternoon session, I introduced myself to the group, and handed everyone a Boondocks title of the HELP series to begin working on an activity. The particular activity I chose was based around a statistic that the Washington Post published a couple of years back, stating that the death rate in Washington, DC is very close to that of wartime Iraq. The “DC” Iraqis and the actual Iraqis began an interesting discussion about this stat, and then each wrote a response in the workbooks.
One young Iraqi girl, who didn’t talk much in the session, seemed saddened by the discussion. She didn’t want to share her response to the group, but here is a portion of what she wrote*: “I thought Iraq was the only place like Hell, I never thought that the US had that problem too…”
Shocking , on many levels.