Making Waves: Elementz Gives Young People a Place to Connect and Create
The mission of Elementz Hip Hop Youth Arts Center is to inspire and engage inner city youth through innovative hip hop arts programs, leadership development, and community building. By providing a safe place and engaging programs for inner-city youth, Elementz empowers young people to find their voice and connect with their community.
Founded in 2003 in Downtown Cincinnati, Elementz now has over 300 youth members. Members take classes in recording, beat-making, graffiti art, DJing, hip hop dance, and other key elements of hip hop culture. In 2009, 69% of Elementz members came to the center three or more days a week.
After surveying more than 1,000 youth in the community, Elementz decided to focus its programming on hip hop culture. As explained on their website, “Hip Hop is the voice of young people today. Hip Hop has been the biggest selling musical genre since 2000, and the overall culture continues to permeate everything that youth do – from their fashion to their speech.” Elementz encourages and performs socially-conscious hip hop—a subgenre of hip hop that discusses social issues, conflicts, and the lives of ordinary people.
Three years ago, Brother Abdullah and Tiffany Suriah Harmon of Hip Hop Congress held Elementz’ first-ever Youth and Parent Appreciation Dinner as a way to keep the spirit of family alive. “The youth talk about Elementz being a family. We notice sometimes that parents aren’t involved, and we wanted to say ‘we are part of your support system.’” At first, the staff provided a simple meal and a DJ, but this year the dinner included an entire program of poetry, storytelling, and performances. For some of the younger dancers, the Appreciation Dinner was their first opportunity to perform publicly.
Brother Abdullah explained, “Elementz Executive Director Tom Kent and I have been talking about bridging the gap between elders and youth—to help people who aren’t connected to become connected.” Tom is a member of Christ Church Cathedral downtown, and he invited fellow church member Mrs. Merelyn Bates-Mims to join the Elementz family dinner. She shared her story of experiences with family, at universities, and in Africa. “I remember hearing stories from elders and I didn’t always appreciate them,” says Abdullah, “But I still remember pieces of them. We want elders and youth to understand that hip hop is truly not that different—it is storytelling.”
Brother Abdullah will being sharing parts of the Elementz story at an early evening reception this Thursday at SWITCH in Over-the-Rhine. Everyone is welcome to stop by and learn about how they can become involved. “Our youths aspire to be doctors, go to college, be professional artists. They need to meet others who have done these things in order to see themselves in a success story. Elementz is always looking to build new relationships in the community.”