Harambe is a celebration of learning and inspirational moment held daily before classes at the Arts & Tech Academy of Ballou HS in SE, Washington, DC., and at Cesar Chavez Parkside in NE, Washington, DC. Facilitator of Harambe session is Baba Ras D of Revel Youth Shine (RYS) & Guerilla Arts Ink, LLC
“Harambe” is a Kiswahili term that means “We agree to come together and pull together to ensure the victory of Light Over Darkness, Good Over Evil, Love Over Hate, and Life Over Death”. This is the vibration we are striving to engage our children in, when many of them are surrounded by despair. Salute to Baba Ras D and Jabari “AuraGin” Exum for sharing their passion and truly exemplifying what it means to be a “Guerilla Artist”.
Revel Youth Shine, Inc
Quantity Description of Service
Akoben Rites of Passage Program is a premiere manhood training exploration for
young men who are approaching Manhood/Woman in the near future. The young
men and woman of Akoben will meet once per week for the school year 2011- 2012.
This journey in self discovery is designed primarily to inspire the Scholars to choose
Creative Self Expression, Critical Thinking, and Right Conduct as an Alternative to
In the Spirit of Harambe, the Scholars will agree to come together, to pull together,
to ensure the Victory of Light over Darkness, Good over Evil, Love over Hate, and
Life over Death. Thus all participants will have the responsibility of adhering to the
expectations of the Program principles while also maintaining compliance with all
rules and regulations therein.
Students will be introduced to the principles of Harembe
Students will be will participate in exercises the promote Team Building
Students will participate in exercises the promote Creative Self-Expression
Students will participate in exercises that promote Critical Thinking Skills
Students will participate in exercises that promote Right conduct as an alternative to
Students will select the most preferred activities to practice and prepare to preform
Students will practice performance pieces and start videotaping
Students showcase their understanding of the Harambe principles though
performance and video tape
This is a video clip from a recent HELP workshop with a group of dedicated Ballou HS students during our daily afterschool program…
For the Guerilla Arts students at Garfield Terrace, an open house means free food. Students jumped at the chance to have free pizza and candy – even if it meant having to listen to adults.
The purpose of the event was to tell the kids about the calendar project Guerilla Arts is launching. As part of Gabe’s Parental Involvement curriculum, students will have the chance to take their pictures with their parent, favorite relative, or caregiver, at the computer center, as a way of having the whole family involved with Guerilla Arts. Those photos will make their way into a community calendar.
The project was well received, and the kids were very enthusiastic – so much so that several of the girls wanted to do a performance. They picked their favorite song (Justin Bieber!). The boys didn’t seem too impressed, but the girls didn’t care.
For the next several weeks, the Guerilla Arts program at Garfield Terrace is encouraging students to invite their parents or favorite caregiver to the center to be part of the community calendar.
Gabe wanted to create the program to allow parents another avenue to be engaged with their children, away from the regular rigors of every day life.
On the day of the open house, Donna wanted to spend some quality time with the kids, and of course, her 2 year old cousin Devon. This pose is picture perfect for any month of the year.
Daquan told me what he learned about gardening – harvesting, to be exact. The Harriet Tubman elementary school student shared with me how he went to the White House, a field trip with his class. They were invited by the First Lady Michelle Obama to harvest from the “First Garden”.
He said he had a great salad – and he remembers getting to cut up chicken to add to what they pulled from the soil.
He also said that Mrs. Obama “Was really nice.”
When a 6’5″ man with long dreadlocks and a booming, (if not imposing voice) comes into the room, everyone stops to listen. Some of the students at Garfield Terrace call him ‘African Man’, others say, ‘The Big Man with the drums is coming!’ Whatever the moniker, Baba Ras D commands the attention of those around him.
Baba Ras D considers himself a cultural ambassador, introducing the world of the arts to kids who have faced seemingly insurmountable challenges.
Gabe was confident Baba Ras D would be a perfect fit for Guerilla Arts, and knew exactly where he could make a contribution. Incorporating movement and song into his lesson plans, Baba Ras D is part of Gabe’s Rites of Passage program, teaching children confidence and character through his drum beat.
Here, at Garfield Terrace, he lets student Ayanna flex her muscles as a percussionist.
At Garfield Terrace, Mr. Ira Brown is the one who keeps things running smoothly. He makes sure that all the students sign in, he keeps them in line, makes sure the computer room stays clean (his rule – absolutely no food or drinks in that room). When I met him one day, he saw twins Myana and Tyana come in (the first kids to come into the center that afternoon). He said, “When I left here last night, the computer center was clean. When I came in this afternoon, there were candy wrappers on the floor. You want to use the computer room, you sweep the floor!”
While Myana and Tyana would neither confirm or deny they were the culprits in ‘Candygate’, they took the broom! Both cleaned up, and when it was straightened up to Mr. Brown’s satisfaction, they were allowed to hop on the computers.
Mr. Brown’s Rules:
- No running
- No cursing
- No eating in the computer room
- No destructive behavior
- No fighting
And the kids respond. That’s what’s cool about Mr. Brown. He will throw a student out if they do any of these things. But students listen to them. Not only do they follow his rules, they keep coming back. Despite being a task master, kids respect Mr. Brown – and like him!
The computer center is usually a given as far as where a lot of the kids go after school. While they may like Gabe and the Guerilla Arts Program (students usually have to complete a 45 minute lesson before having access to the rec room), at the end of the day, it’s the computer they want, and the chance to chat about their friends on Facebook.
So, what happens when the computers go down? It was like a ghost town – at least the day that I went there. Kids ran in, and ran right back out when Mr. Ira Brown, one of the site monitors, told them the computers were down. But one of the students, Myana, decided to challenge Jati to a match of Connect 4. Yes, the game still exists, and guess who won?
JOIN the One Nation March for Jobs, Education & Justice – October 2nd
Several Guerilla Arts students take us around Garfield Terrace. In their own words, this is where they hang with their friends when they aren’t hitting the books.
A few of the Guerilla Arts students reveal who the most important people are in their lives.
John is one of the students in the Guerilla Arts program, living at Garfield Terrace. He says that drawing comes easily to him, and that he wants to be a famous artist one day. Below is his personal sketch of Mickey Mouse.
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/
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.