Last year, a program was brought to my attention called Stories With Style, a student-centric project which gives young people the opportunity to share their stories through rap, beat making and art while working with professional artists in a full-blown, on-site recording studio.
This program would be interesting in any setting, but, given my other work in the social justice field, it really caught my attention because the school, J.C. Montgomery, was a part of the Kings County Juvenile Center in Hanford, California.
Now, full disclosure. On one of the other podcasts I produce, News Beat, we have reported on the movement to close juvenile detention centers / youth prisons across the country, and of that movement I am a big fan. That being said, while they exist, I can think of no better way to help those within cope, express themselves, and learn the valuable life skills in the ways that only Hip Hop music and culture can deliver, than through the efforts of JC Montgomery principal Elizabeth Norris, longtime educator Ed Campos, and accomplished music artist, producer, filmmaker and director, Josh Levine, aka OPTX.
After speaking with them, and viewing the project’s powerful video production “It’s Not 2 Late,” I felt confident that these students, in this institution, were being given a vital opportunity that would allow the world to appreciate their powerful voices, important messaging, brilliant perspectives, personal stories, and their style.