Inside the Program
We create music video gifts for everyday heroes; this is the central task that we take on each time we step into a school or classroom. We do this for several reasons, some of which include educating youth on the world we live in while providing avenues of expression around these issues. We also wish to demonstrate the power of giving in a society that preaches individualism. Last, we want youth to develop an understanding that there is an alternative to entertainment stereotypes that are perpetuated in the media. While exploring these ideas and values in some contexts can feel burdensome and tedious, we find that young people are joyful and having fun while invested in these hip hop projects. This seems important, especially if we are asking students to invest more in school and learning.
I thought it would be useful to share our process in this endeavor on a day-to-day basis. We of course refine and edit this process as we learn from the students and navigate different settings and contexts, but the framework is generally consistent, looking something like this:
Day 1 of each week we start with a lesson on humanity. We usually have a short video to show the students because the video tends to grab their attention. From here, we introduce the issue that we are going to focus on for the remainder of our work week. This is the part of our process that involves a little bit of research, intentional listening, and dialogue. It is where students delve into the center of a problem and understand its complexities, while also becoming exposed to a figure who has worked to tackle the problem.
Once students view the video and receive some education on the issue at hand, we discuss what we have watched and expand on the lesson by noting important ideas, and then move on to gather additional information from websites or articles.
After the 5-10 min discussion we play a few beats and allow the students to vote on which beat to use that fits the emotion of the topic. The more they like the beat the easier it is for them to write lyrics and express what they have learned. We give them time to write and when they finish their verses, they often share in front of the class to help inspire others who need help writing. After this is done, the class makes decisions about what verses to use, who will write the “hook”, how the song will be ordered, etc. This is a shared decision making process that involves everyone’s input. Once all of these decisions are made and the written components are complete and arranged, we record their verses to create the song. This is often all done on the first day. If we don’t finish recording, then we do so on the following day.
The following days, Wednesday and Thursday, are video shoot days. This gives the students time to create cool scenes for their video and memorize their lyrics.
Again, the end result is a music video for the kids to share with their friends and family. To see themselves in action like their favorite music celebrities gives them great excitement. Youtube has become the new MTV and anyone can now be in the spot light. An example of the final music video that came out of the lesson documented here can be found at the top of the page.