Be sure to watch the amazing documentary The Hip Hop Project tonight and see the extraordinary work by Chris “Kazi” Rolle in encouraging young people to tell their stories. He gives kids who feel invisible a chance to own their experiences, express their frustrations through art instead of violence. I interviewed Kazi a few years ago and was very impressed by his insight and charisma — and by his accomplishments.
Chris “Kazi” Rolle, who founded the program when he was a homeless teenager, told me that he was inspired by “Hoop Dreams.” “A lot of inner city kids see sports as their way out.”
Rolle wanted to give them a chance with something they could do themselves, without relying on anyone outside the community. So he adopted what he calls “the pill in the dog food” approach, “pulling them in with what they like,” hip-hop. His goal is to reach “the kid in the back of the class – he is always scribbling something.” When they arrive, they want to imitate what they have heard. “Young people live from the outside in; TV and radio tell them who they have to be.” But he brings them back to the origins of hip-hop – “it started as political” and encourages them to tell their own stories by listening to them and encouraging them to listen to each other.