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I am HEAR – Month Long Celebration Where Words Matter!

Youth count the cost of their words all month long. I am HEAR was a month-long celebration for National Youth Month in April. The City of Norfolk Department of Recreation, Parks and Open Space collaborated with Teens With a Purpose to celebrate youth through a four-part series of community events that celebrate the power of words and really HEARING what they mean. I am HEAR was held every Thursday in April at the Vivian C Mason Arts & Technology Center for Teens.

The first part of the series tackled music, a very important part of any teens life. Through Listen 2 The Lyrics workshop, youth were empowered to be active listeners. They participated in a very cool listening session with a talk-show set-up which put local rappers on the hot seat. Seated across from these rappers were three young listeners that carefully pulled apart the lyrics of the selected songs. Grace Wiggins of Listen 2 The Lyrics, facilitated an open forum where young listeners, attentively and actively listened to artists Double XL, Brandeesh and Focus. These young listeners analyzed the lyrics through questions about the meaning behind these lyrics. The evening started with a concert by Teens With a Purpose members which was open to the community, young people performed their own positive and original music on an outdoor stage outside of the facility. Listen 2 the Lyrics is an organization based out of Baltimore and uses hip-hop as a tool to develop positive attitudes towards education through critical thinking and problem solving skills in order to increase high school graduation rates of at risk male students and to create positive self image among them. Youth will work together to learn how to make a conscious effort to effectively listen to music of their choice, in order to give serious consideration of how it relates to their lives

The second event focused on youth poets & rappers, with the TWP Emcee Olympics which allowed them to battle using their own words. This event featured well-known regional poet from Washington DC, 13 of Nazareth as the special guest for the evening. The third part of the ‘I am HEAR’ series explored the impact that words have on self-esteem. The Words Matter workshop allowed Youth and the community the opportunity to recite and perform original poems and songs and express how the words impacted them as they listened. The workshop concluded with a very open discussion about these topics. The ’I am HEAR’ series concluded with a concert by Teens With a Purpose’s own Music Made Simple, the music division of the local youth development. They performed original songs like “Lyrical Rollercoaster” and poems. There was also a special workshop and performances by local artist Dynasty which combines original music with illustrations in comic-book style drawings which told his own personal story of overcoming adversity.

During this month, Teens With a Purpose also conducted a community HIV testing event. Youth members of TWP performed for the community as they waited to get tested. The testing was conducted by the Urban League of Hampton Roads and Garden of Hope provided gift cards for the first ten people tested. The turn- out was very successful, there were more people willing to get tested than kits available for testing. The month was documented on local social media site Instagram using #IAMHEAR to get the youth’s social sphere of influence in on the action.

The City of Norfolk entered into a lease agreement with local non-profit Teens With a Purpose-The Movement (TWP) in the fall of 2012 to provide a designated location for teen programs in the city. The center is also home to the Department of Recreation, Parks & Open Space’s (RPOS) Youth Services Bureau, which provides city-wide teen programming such as the Norfolk Youth Council and After the Bell after school program. The change in location will allow for increased partnerships between the groups, in turn providing more opportunities and programs for area teens.

The Vivian C. Mason Arts & Technology Center for Teens is open Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m and will be holding a teen leadership summer camp, Camp Inspired starting in June. The Vivian C. Mason Arts & Technology Center for Teens is located at 700 E. Olney Road in Norfolk Virginia.

Special thanks to: Art Thatcher & Cliff Russell of Norfolk Recreation Parks & Open Space (NRPOS), Grace Wiggins of Listen 2 The Lyrics, DJ Kira and of course the brave artists: Brandeesh, Double XL and Focus

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