THE BRONX — A South Bronx nonprofit has developed a hip hop-themed education curriculum that members want to bring to 15,000 students throughout New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
Windows of Hip Hop, an organization that promotes learning through music, recently established an online fundraising campaign to raise $75,000 for taking their curriculum on a tour of schools in the tri-state area.
The curriculum includes a fitness program, skits that deal with issues like gang awareness and drug abuse, and a "call and response" routine meant to help teach students about local history using hip hop.
The group made its first visit to a Bronx school in January, when hip hop pioneers Grandmaster Melle Mel and Grandmaster Caz went to St. Joseph Elementary to talk about jobs in the entertainment industry and listen to students perform for them.
"We really wanted to bring that into different schools and go on a tour with that," said Windows spokeswoman Nicole Perrino, "We just want to try to raise as much as we can to bring that program to some other schools."
In The Bronx, for instance, the group could encourage the students to study how hip hop was developed in the borough and then write lyrics incorporating that history with their personal history, according to Paul La Salle, the group's chief development officer.
"Something really simple, like, 'My name is John. I was born here at 138th, also the same place where Big Pun was born.' Something like that," he said.
Nearby neighborhoods should have plenty of hip hop history for the group to draw from as well, La Salle added.
"We believe that there’s a lot of historical contextual issues throughout the tri-state area that merge well and meld well with hip hop and what we’re doing," he said.
La Salle described hip hop as an extremely appropriate way to educate students, especially given how familiar most of them are with it.
"It’s entrepreneurial driven, and it's one of the few art forms that’s dependent on a writer/songwriter/performer type of aspect," he said. "It encourages individuals to better their English language skills, better their communication skills, as well as their reading comprehension skills."
The money that Windows of Hip Hop is trying to raise for their tour will cover costs such as hiring staffers, traveling, renting equipment and producing handouts and other materials for the students.
The group offers rewards for people who donate certain amounts of money, such as posters, t-shirts and water bottles.
"I think this is probably one of the most cost effective programs out there: $5 a student," La Salle said.
There are 22 days left in the fundraiser, and the group has raised just $331 out of its $75,000 goal so far.
However, members are not particularly worried about coming up short.
"And if we fall short of our goal? No problem. We will reassess and adjust," the fundraising page reads. "Hip Hop teaches perseverance, ingenuity, and determination. We will see this done."