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Review for Mural Music & Arts Project, East Palo Alto, CA, USA

Rating: 5 stars  

The Mural Music & Arts Project (MMAP) is the most fulfilling organization I've ever worked with. Working with MMAP does not feel like a job or a non-profit. It feels like working with a family and families constantly grow. This means that it is open to change and accepts new ways of teaching and new ways of knowing. MMAP is a place that allows you to educate and inspire in creative and even unorthodox methods that I believe need to be instituted in the public schools. I served as a history and art instructor under the "History Through Hip-Hop" branch. In the early 2000s it was not common place to see Hip-Hop as genuinely academic. Back in high school, I had to really push the administration to acknowledge a Hip-Hop history essay, album, concert, and documentary as a legitimate senior project. A couple years after my graduation, I was at Stanford University looking for a summer job where I could use my passion for the arts and Hip-Hop to teach the youth in the local East Palo Alto community. I had just about given up my dream until I was referred to what was then called the East Palo Alto Mural Arts Project. I was brought on board to a new branch, History Through Hip Hop, that was intended to teach literary techniques, music production, and hip-hop history to middle school and high school students. It was a dream encounter to say the least. Over the next 7 years, we expanded the small branch into a full fledged program, mentoring hundreds of local youth, building a professional recording studio, recording albums, performing at events around the bay, and establishing a youth run blog. It was great yet tough to hear them say that they wished History Through Hip-Hop was how school was. It was great to hear that our youth dreamed about a Hip-Hop education system but tough to hear that their experience in school was so lousy. MMAP allowed me to teach how I thought the youth would understand, through rhyme. In class, we used language that would both reach them and challenge them, mixing vernacular with SAT words. It was very important to me that I had the freedom to do this and MMAP allowed me to mold the culture of the program. And that is what a family allows as well. As family's expand, new cultures are wedded together and the larger family is molded in new ways. This is how it feels at MMAP. You have a voice; you have a way. If there is one phrase that sums up MMAP, I'd have to quote Kanye West and say, "This is family business."

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

watching the community rejoice at the sight of a new mural. Each time a mural is unveiled, I swear it's a sunny day. Also, I did not go to grad school for music production but MMAP felt like something of a graduate program. As I taught youth music production, recording methods, and literary techniques, I increased my knowledge of the subject and ability to communicate concisely.

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

I would mainly increase funding to its current branches such that it has the option of either expanding its staff and areas of outreach (moving to other Cities). I think moving MMAP to cities that is important because. East Palo Alto. MMAP's base has alot of youth focused non-profits in their 2.5 mile radius. I would never recommend pulling out of EPA, but I would suggest moving beyond even S.F. and Redwood city to cities in the country with less youth programs like MMAP.

Role:  Professional with expertise in this field & I was a history and art instructor for the Hip-Hop Through History Division. I taught music production skills, recording skills, literary techniques, mentored middle school and high school students, choreographed youth performances, and taught contemporar.