Von Inga Ehret | Samstag, 26. August 2006
STUTGARTER NACHRICHTEN, August 25, 2006
by Kerstin Bund
(translation by Dr. Alfred Baer)
They could hardly be more diverse. The 30 participants of the youth initiative Rap Present organized by the exchange program, they share neither skin color, language, nor nationality. What keeps them together is the love for Hip Hop. “Hip Hop is the language which everyone in the world can understand.” The words of Eddie Nuñez resounded with deep conviction. “Chief Roc,” as he is known, is one of the 30 young people, aged 16-26, who are participating in the German-American exchange. In July, the Stuttgart artists of the Hip Hop culture visited like-minded youth in Los Angeles. Now, the American emcees, DJs, graffiti artists and breakdancers are returning the visit.
The organizers are the local youth initiative Rap-Presents and the youth center J.U.i.CE.. from Los Angeles. A mixture of geography, local culture and workshops are being experienced by these overseas guests while they are staying with their host families until Monday. The theme of the 12 day sojourn is “Media and Violence”. Hip Hop is an alternative way by which the artists can have discussions with words, song and dance.
Peipei Yuan is a B-girl, which means she dances in the way of breakdance. “I devote my entire life to this music,” says the graceful Asian. Then she gives a little demonstration and suddenly her artists’ name “Peppa” (Pepper in conventional terms) declares itself: apparently made of rubber, she dips to the beat, jumps on her hands, wiggling her legs up so that in the next moment all her joints seem knotted. “When I saw someone ‘break’ for the first time, it changed my life,” she declared. At one time, she hung out in bars and discotheques, swallowed pills and dealt drugs. “Now I am away from all that stuff and there is only Hip Hop for me.” That this can change more than a single life is the conviction of Joshua Aldrete (alias Kenzo). “For me, Hip Hop means peace in the world.”
A Word (or two) from Editor Tess Taylor about J.U.I.C.E. (Justice by Uniting In Creative Energy)
(L-R) Naddi Zschiesche of Stuttgarts Rap Present & Monica X. Delgado of LA's JUICE
So what is a classical music lover like me doing scooting around the grungy outskirts of Korea Town in Los Angeles on a sweltering midnight looking for a hip-hop event? I asked myself this same question, cursing quietly under my breath as I searched for the address on the dimly lit boulevard (why is it that builders insistently and maddeningly refrain from affixing street numbers to buildings?). And I wondered if the police car with flashing lights parked a hundred yards off was responding to a domestic violence call or other explosive incident into which I could get myself entangled. Lovely. But when I got out of my car to investigate on foot to find the venue, the beats I heard in the distance guided me to the right place.
What I found was a Unitarian church transformed into Hip Hop Central, with loads of mostly exuberant young men in their highly fashionable and expertly shredded threads against a backdrop of colorful fresh graffiti murals. I entered just as the young men (and a few courageous young ladies) were in the middle of a high-energy break dancing battle. Whatever you call doing Russian Cossack-style squat-leaps and hurling yourself into the air, landing on your head, striking fantastically complicated poses that seem to require rubber limbs, moving with robotic precision at hyper speeds and suspending the weight of your body in mid-air with your wrists, they were doing it. I was fascinated, these guys are talented. Cirque du Soleil could do with a bit of this.
Intrigued by an announcement I received the day before, Id come to investigate the promise of the press release: German Youth in LA for Hip Hop Exchange. I chuckled, German hip-hoppers? Now that’s amusing, it seems like such an oxymoron. I was interested to see how this music form was being put to work by JUICE (Justice by Uniting In Creative Energy), an LA-based hip-hop focused community center which emerged from work with high-risk youth in shelters, schools and juvenile halls.
Hip-hop seems to have become a universal language, an updated dialect of the rock & roll language with which my generation used to infuriate our parents. But what I saw last night wasn’t a sharp-stick-in-the-eye provocative, it was a group of high-energy teens expressing themselves and having a great time doing it. The atmosphere was uplifting. How much better to have all this youthful energy put into something positive rather than lolling around detention centers and juvenile halls.
From what I can see, the origins of hip-hop have not always been positive but there appears to be a strong upward trend from the underground into the mainstream with messages to organize and uplift communities, to keep kids off the streets and out of gangs, and to speak up about social and political causes. I perceive a much stronger unifying element in hip-hop today than, say, 5 years ago. By whatever means awareness reaches them, it encourages me to see a greater level of it among the younger generation.
JUICE has been selected to participate in a Youth Urban Arts Exchange in Stuttgart, Germany this summer. Fifteen youth from JUICE Los Angeles will visit Stuttgart in August, while fourteen youth urban artists from German hip-hop organization Rap Present are in Los Angeles from July 18-30.
I strongly encourage and promote cultural exchanges like this for children and teenagers at the earliest possible age, and am happy that art has put itself to practical use by being the common denominator here. Having benefited so much from my travels and lived abroad myself for a number of years, I see living and travel abroad as essential to greater global understanding and lessening of international friction. Most Americans (embarrassingly) never get beyond the borders of this fantastic country and their ego-centric attitude often reflects this. We are privileged to live in the greatest, wealthiest country in the world and despite its many problems, America is still the destination of choice for millions of people around the world and has been for decades, even centuries. In our position as a global superpower, we have an obligation to help others so that more people can partake in the wealth and opportunity here. This is only one reason why cultural exchange programs are so important. When you understand how others live and when youve traveled through a third world country where having running water and a flush toilet is a luxury, you can appreciate so much more what you have here in the States.
But I digress. I applaud Monica X. Delgado, Executive Director of JUICE, and Naddi Zschiesche, founder of the Stuttgart-based Rap Present whose efforts made this exchange possible. Says Monica, “The main premise of the exchange goes beyond sharing our two cities. We will create and document an international dialogue around Hip Hop, Youth, Media and Violence as it is perceived and experienced in our countries and communities. We are proud to celebrate and share the diverse talents with like-minded youth in Germany.” The program will include joint workshops, performances and roundtable discussions in both countries facilitated by local scholars and artists. The documented results will be edited into a short documentary and presented at public forums in both Los Angeles and Stuttgart.
Naddi told me that over twelve years ago a similar exchange took place and several German artists went to San Francisco. Twelve years later, she says they are still raving about what a great experience it was for them and how much it changed their lives for the better. The German hip-hoppers here today have fallen in love with Los Angeles and are already plotting their return.
Both organizations JUICE and Rap Present could use your support. As Pablo Picasso said, Everything you can imagine is real. So imagine greater harmony in the world and do something about it today. Start with checking out the Web sites of these two organizations (URLs below). Then drop Monica or Naddi a line. They would love to hear from you. So would I.
Justice by Uniting In Creative Energy (J.U.I.C.E.), a hip-hop focused community center, was founded in 2001 in the Rampart District of Los Angeles. Every Thursday hip-hop heads meet to practice their skills and just kick it with like-minded people. We paint graffiti murals in the community, record and produce music, emcee, DJ, and dance on a large hardwood floor. The concept emerged from work with high-risk youth in shelters, schools, and juvenile hall. JUICE’s vision to sustain a safe and permanent home for youth where the elements of hip-hop are used as a tool for social change, youth empowerment and art education.
Monica X. Delgado
Executive Director of JUICE
Tel: (213) 344-9435
ABOUT RAP PRESENT:
Rap-present is a volunteer-run youth initiative in Stuttgart, Germany whose activities focus on the world of hip-hop. Rap-present comprises nearly 20 youth and young adults, supported by about 10 helpers. Our site www.rap-present.de features a database that allows artists to publicize their services free of charge, and functions as a booking platform. Local groups see their purpose in organizing events and representing the interests of the hip-hop culture towards institutions and other groups from outside the scene. At our monthly Club we support young DJs. A number of events are in the pipeline for 2006, as well the expansion of local groups to the cities Hamburg, Berlin and Dresden, and the countries Serbia and Bosnia.
Christin Naddi Zschiesche
Tel: 0 11 49 711 319 54 38
BLACK VOICES, USC’s Only Black Student Publication, December 2005
Church Offers Hip Hop to the Community
By Bonnie Schindler
The sound of hip-hop music flows from a well-lit courtyard onto the streets in the Rampart District of Los Angeles. Inside, young people are break-dancing to sounds being spun on turntables, rhyming in sync with the tunes and finishing graffiti fills created on canvas.
This scene is repeated every Thursday at the Unitarian Church on 8th Street. Four years ago, its founder, Dawn Smith, jump-started J.U.I.C.E., which stands for Justice by Uniting in Creative Energy, as a space to get to the root of juvenile delinquency.
“She wanted to create a program that effectively used the arts for juvenile justice and prevention. She saw hip-hop culture as a way to reach those young people,” said Monica Delgado, current director of the program.
In California, close to 4,000 juveniles are locked up in various facilities across the state; their numbers are on the rise when comparing this year to previous years.
“The mission of J.U.I.C.E. is to address the root causes of juvenile crime and of youths’ need for belonging by providing a safe center operated by young people, for young people,” Delgado said.
“Our vision is to sustain a safe and permanent home for youth where the elements of hip-hop are used as a tool for social change, youth empowerment and art education.”
They do this in four parts: music, words, art and dance of the hip-hop culture. But, the free program is not only open to those classified as juvenile – its doors are open to all ages and races.
“We have open turn tables so if people want to come in and DJ, they can just bring their records, or if they want to learn to DJ, we have DJ facilitators to show the basics,” Delgado said.
Those manning the tables set their equipment up on a stage in a room adjacent to the church. Below them, women and men – known as b-girls and b-boys – decked out in loose-fitting clothes stretch and practice various break dancing moves.
“Then, we have open dance floor, so there’s a big hardwood floor for practice space for dancing; and again, we have b-boy facilitators to break down the moves, show the basics.” Delgado said. “There are a lot of, I don’t want to say armatures, but up-and-coming artists who are trying to learn. And then, there’s really professional people who are also in the same space – so there is a natural mentorship happening.”
One dancer, Marcus Napuri, was late to the game of hip-hop, yet its roots pulled him out of a dark place.
He used to be an “aggressive in-line skater” until he was injured and could no longer skate. He found himself going to raves and doing party drugs to stimulate his life. At 24, he knew it was time to find something positive and he started asking people how to break dance.
“Most b-boys are friendly, and they gave me advice here and there, but the best advice I got was from a DJ,” Napuri said.
“He told me about J.U.I.C.E., and he’s like, there’s this place in Koreatown that you can go and the dance floor is very open and there are people who are willing to help you because they are beginners themselves.”
Delgado said there are many of these types of stories within the program.
“Every young person who has shared their commitment to their craft with us has expressed that their passion, whether in dance, music, word or art, has helped them through the most difficult times in their lives, including a parent’s death, divorce, gang pressure, alcohol and drug addiction, and physical disabilities,” she said.
“By providing youth the opportunity to gain skills in emceeing, D.J’ing, break dancing, mural art, and music recording in a safe and nurturing environment, J.U.I.C.E. can empower youth with leadership, technical, and artistic skills.”
Because of their open door policy, Delgado said they see about 80 to 150 people on any regular Thursday night.
Recently, the night was not so regular, as the group was having a CD release party that the members of J.U.I.C.E., thanks in part to a grant from the University of California Los Angeles, wrote songs for, performed on, did the art work for and are now promoting.
A rapper on the CD, who goes by the name June, has been coming to the project for about three years. The 21 year old has been rhyming for about seven. He enjoys being part of the underground scene. In fact, he feels the current state of hip-hop is too commercial – most rappers now a days are walking billboards.
“You see a guy with diamonds and everyone wants diamonds, everybody wants to get chains, everybody wants to get new Nikes, everybody wants Pumas; they try to advertise and it’s weird how people act about that.” June said.
He also said the messages have lost the social-change punch that they used to pack.
“Instead of saying, go out there and vote, go prevent this, prevent gangs – I haven’t seen a real, serious thing in a long time.”
While issues such as the origins of hip-hop are a large part of the program, some participants just want to be a part of the community.
Mother Narda Ruana brings her two children and husband to the church every Thursday to get some exercise. She used to have a job, but recently lost it – the loss of extra money has restricted their activities.
“Before, we could afford karate, but now that I am not working, I cannot afford it,” Ruana said.
Recently, she picked up a flier for J.U.I.C.E. at her 8-year-old son’s school and noticed that the location was right around the block from her home; she decided to come down and check it out.
For her it is most important that her son George Juan is exercising. Before hip-hop, he would come home from school, plop in front of the television and eat. Now, he is learning break moves from the big kids.
Ruana said, “I sent him to soccer, and he does not like it – here, he likes the music.”
LOS ANGELES TIMES, August 4, 2005
WITH THE KIDS: Falling Head Over Heels
by Jessica Hundley
Youths love this after-school spot that’s all about unleashing creativity.
IN the meeting hall of the First Unitarian Church on 8th Street, a bird-boned Korean girl, no more than 14 years old, is spinning on her head. She is wearing a look of bliss and a T-shirt that says, “My dog is cooler than your dog.” And when she finally comes to a stop, she smiles mildly, puts her palms on the polished wood floor and does a neat, quick handspring back to her feet.
The crowd, and there is a large one – people of all shapes, sizes, ages and colors – hoots and hollers and cheers. It’s another Thursday night in the Rampart district, and J.U.i.C.E. is just getting started.
Founded in June 2001, J.U.i.C.E. (Justice by Uniting in Creative Energy) is what teens dream of when they hear “after-school program.” Dedicated to preserving old-school hip-hop culture, J.U.i.C.E. offers kids the chance to learn DJing, MCing, graffiti art or straight up B-girl/B-boy break dancing. From 4 to 9 p.m. every Thursday, between 90 and 150 students, ages 2 to 25, pass through the towering church doors, to sing, spin or sweat out a long day’s worries.
“The only rule is respect,” J.U.i.C.E. site coordinator Monica X. Delgado says. “We’re trying to create an environment where kids can feel safe, and where they can access their artistic skills in a way that’s exciting for them.”
Founded by social worker and community activist Dawn Smith, the organization was born of a fascination with break dance and fueled by the work she was doing in juvenile rehabilitation.
“At the time she was doing work in juvenile halls and in shelters, and she made the connection between what youth need and what is out there,” Delgado says. “She did surveys with the kids in juvenile hall and they all said they didn’t feel like there was enough youth programming directed toward them. She wanted to create something that responded to their identity.”
Mindful of the dearth of local after-school programs and arts education in general, Smith decided to focus on hip-hop culture’s true-blue roots as a way to lure kids into the program. Born in the West Bronx in the early 1970s, hip-hop sprang from African American oral tradition and schoolyard rhymes. As opposed to most modern rap, with its emphasis on “bling” and gangsta swagger, hip-hop focused on community, identity and artistic expression.
Smith has since relocated to Toronto, but after four years, J.U.i.C.E. is thriving, helping kids “build their skills in the hip-hop arts and simultaneously to build their own creative identity,” Delgado says.
“J.U.i.C.E. came to me by word of ear,” says a 22-year-old who calls himself MIC. “I came up in here and it was live, and I decided to liven it up more by adding my presence.”
Another young man, a 19-year-old with the MC name Dumbfounded, takes in the scene. “I’m glad I found this place,” he says. “I was just passing by and heard some hip-hop activity, so I went inside. I thought I snuck in, but it was free.”
The boys laugh.
“And I’m one of the sickest MCs here, basically,” Dumbfounded adds.
“And the ugliest one too!”
STOP by any Thursday and you’ll find the church bustling. In the pretty stone-paved courtyard kids sit at a crowded table in front of rolls of paper, clutch colored markers and listen, enrapt, as well-known graffiti artist Eric Walker, aka Cre8, waxes poetic on the nuances of graffiti expression.
“We instruct the artists on how to translate their graffiti skills into viable means,” Delgado says. “We warn them of the repercussions of vandalism and encourage them to translate their artwork to canvas.”
In the adjacent meeting hall, 50 or so kids are usually busy defying gravity” poppin’ and lockin’, spinning gleefully on their backs or practicing handstands.
“Break dancin’ has always been the most popular program,” Delgado explains. “A lot of these kids can’t practice anywhere else, they don’t have the space, or, if they’re on the street there’s the danger of being harassed.”
J.U.i.C.E. also has a working music studio, helmed by established record and soundtrack producer Kenny Segal.
Over the course of the past year, Segal and his students have recorded a full-length compilation album, “J.U.i.C.E. Presents: The Danger Room Files â€” Volume One,” to be released in early September. There’ll be a release party at the church, complete with MC battles and graffiti displays.
“The kids wrote songs, recorded beats, mixed everything and got it ready to go,” Segal says proudly, “Hip-hop is one of those things passed down from one generation to the next. It’s hard to get that knowledge to begin with and if you can find it, a lot of times it’s not in the best locations. We offer a safe environment where kids can come and learn from great DJs and break dancers and artists. We’re getting kids with a lot of talent who may or may not be utilizing that talent at school.”
BY the look of things, every kid seems to be harboring some sort of talent. There is not a room in the place where you can’t feel that electric charge that comes with creative endeavor. Markers are squeaking against paper; old soul is blowing from the PA system.
In one corner June Howard, 22, is describing how he first found J.U.i.C.E.
“I was surfing the Internet,” he says, “and I thought it was a good organization, something good to be a part of.”
He smiles broadly and takes in the whole church with one sweep of his arm.
“Now this is a place that I can pretty much say is like a home to me.”
What: Community project emphasizing creativity in the hip-hop arts
Where: Open classes at the First Unitarian Church, 2936 W. 8th St. (between Vermont and Westmoreland), Los Angeles
When: 4 to 9 p.m. Thursdays
Info: (213) 251-9164 or www.rampartjuice.com
UCLA TODAY MAGAZINE, VOL. 25 NO. 5, Summer 2004
by Phillip Hampton
Three years ago, Marcus Napuri was lost in the rave scene. He pulled all-nighters spinning discs at dance parties, taking and selling ecstasy and other drugs, and break-dancing in his free time. Then friends told him about J.U.i.C.E. — Justice by Uniting in Creative Energy — a community center that provides facilities and training for people to develop and expand their skills in the four elements of hip-hop: dancing, rapping, deejaying and mural art.
YOUTH TODAY: The Newspaper on Youth Work, VOL. 12, NO. 9 October 2003
In one of L.A.'s most notorious ganglands, a white-bread east coast suburbanite has cultivated a rose in the cracked concrete. Dawn Smith is a veteran youth worker for high-risk youth, specializing in connecting with youth through the arts. She displays the essence of a hip-hop youth worker: gritty survival skills, unabashed disgust with the treatment of poor urban youth. “We have a completely corrupt justice system,” Smith says. "It's racist, it is all based on economics, it's just a terrifying system.” She worked in several group homes in Los Angeles before starting a theater program for young offenders locked up for murder or attempted murder. “I have never met kids with that kind of vulnerability and wisdom,” Smith says. She asked them what needed to be done for their peers on a community level. “They told me that they knew L.A. has tons of youth programs,” she says. “But they either don’t offer things that kids are into, or they exclude the kids that most need them.”
Smith responded with Justice by Uniting in Creative Energy (J.U.I.C.E.), an after-school program that within two years has become a fixture of the city’s Hispanic and Asian hip-hop scene. Located in the crime- and gang-plagued Rampart sections of Los Angeles, J.U.i.C.E. operates on a simple philosophy: Give youth a safe place to do what they want, and you’ve made a difference. No life lessons or lectures needed. Every Thursday from 4 to 9 p.m., anywhere from 30 to 120 youths greet Smith on their way into a local Unitarian church, where they are free to hone their various hip-hop skills. About 80 percent of the participants are Hispanic or Asian (Rampart is adjacent to Koreatown in Los Angeles).
For hip-hop enthralled youth, J.U.i.C.E. is a veritable wonderland. Art students get tables full of materials and a six-week workshop conducted annually by a professional muralist. Local DJs school teens on the wheels of steel, as break dancers practice moves to the always-blasting beats. A volunteer oversees a cipher – a group of young emcees rapping freestyle. The service is more needed than ever, says Alex Poli (aka “Man One”), a graffiti artist who works with J.U.i.C.E. and has contracted to do workshops with the likes of Boys & Girls Clubs and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "When I was coming up, there was a clear break between what gangs were and what graf writers were,” says Poli. “You had to choose one or the other, [so] going around town, I wasn’t afraid of gangs. Now, you got cops, with 10 times tougher laws. You have gang members who see [graffiti artists] as a threat because they bring attention to neighborhoods. It’s pretty scary now.”
Smith does not pay herself for her work with J.U.i.C.E., saying she relies on other jobs for her salary. (Smith is the coordinator for the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department, and before that ran the Los Angeles youth division of the nation non-profit Common Cause.) J.U.i.C.E. has four-part time staff members, but mostly counts on local hip-hop veterans to work with kids pro bono. For the most part, though, the expectation is that youth will help each other in this setting. Requiring only respect, Smith says she will take any youth who wants in. “People hear that the only other people mentoring ‘dangerous kids’ are other ‘dangerous kids’ and are like, “What the hell is wrong with you?’ As soon as people walk in the door, though, they are almost always behind the project.” Getting potential funders to walk in the door has not proved to be easy. Smith has landed some small grants from the city’s cultural heritage department. Her most significant score was a $7,500 start-up grant from the Durfee Foundation, which provides funding to Los Angeles County nonprofits under five years old with budgets under $100,000. (Smith says J.U.i.C.E. operates on about one fifth of that.) Smith says applications to about 50 foundations have fallen on deaf ears. “I’m not an experienced grant writer, so that has something to do with it,” she says. “But I really think a lot of traditional funders see the word ‘hip-hop’ and throw [our proposal] in the trash.”
WESTSIDE LIFE MAGAZINE, September-October 2003
Giving It The J.U.i.C.E. Where It Matters: The Unspoken Rule of “Respect” is Truly Maintained
Justice by Uniting in Creative Energy has been operating for two years and has helped more than fifteen hundred young people.
Breakdancing itself wasn't Dawn Smith's passion, but when three hundred breakers from around the globe piled into the hall of the 8th St. Unitarian Church where Dawn holds J.U.i.C.E. every Thursday, onlookers may have thought otherwise. J.U.i.C.E., which stands for Justice by Uniting in Creative Energy, is a youth center focused on skill-building in the arts of the hip-hop culture: word, music, art, and dance. Continue reading
LIT MAGAZINE, July-August 2003
three young boys walked towards me excitedly discussing break-dancing moves
Words by Julia Shin
J.U.i.C.E. (Justice by Uniting in Creative Energy) is a hip-hop community center that provides a safe space and creative outlet for urban youth, and focuses on empowerment through skill-building: breakdancing, spoken word, DJ-ing, and mural art. While driving over to meet the founder and executive director of J.U.i.C.E., Dawn Smith, I didn't really know what to expect. Continue reading
NOHO Magazine, Vol. 4 No. 10 January 31, 2002 "Who's Going to Take the Weight?" by Juan Maldonado http://www.nohola.com/Archives/2002/Jan02LL/features.html "Who's going to take the weight?" Sometime back in the early ‘90s-the era of hip hop when conscious rap was at its peak – the group Gangstarr posed this very serious question to anyone who would listen. Meaning, who would stand up and take responsibility and leadership in the situation that people of color were undergoing. The question was posed to anyone that would listen, but it was particularly intended for those immersed in the culture of hip-hop. Fast forward an entire decade, and Guru (the lead vocalist of Gangstarr) might be pleased to find that somebody took his question seriously and is willing to tackle some of the prominent issues surrounding children and young adults growing up in those same situations. Enter Dawn Smith, hip-hop connoisseur, community activist and founder of Justice by Uniting In Creative Energy or J.U.i.C.E. for short. Continue reading