The Dudley T. Dougherty Foundation

The Hip Hop Transformation

Grant Information
Categories Arts
Location United States
Cycle Year 2018
Organization Information
Organization Name (provided by applicant) Cambridge Community Center
Organization Name (provided by automatic EIN validation)
Contact Information
Contact Name Darrin Korte
Phone 617-547-6811
5 Callender Street
Additional Information
Used for Funding from the Dudley T. Dougherty Foundation will support our year-round teen program, The Hip Hop Transformation (THHT). Program expenses include staffing salaries, participant stipends, field trips, guest speakers, and space rentals for rehearsals. These funds will enhance the experience of the young people enrolled in the program by increasing the amount of diverse learning opportunities we are able to provide.
Benefits The Hip Hop Transformation (THHT) benefits the world by working to restore hip hop music and culture to its founding values as a form of political and social expression. These values were largely lost in the late-1980s when major record labels invested in hip hop music, exploited the culture, and marketed it as something that it was never meant to be to maximize profits. THHT also benefits the world by engaging low-income and at-risk youth in meaningful out-of-school time programming that provides opportunities for 21st century skill development.
Proposal Description The Hip Hop Transformation (THHT) originated through a partnership between the Cambridge Community Center (CCC) and the Cambridge Police Department's (CPD) Safety Net Program in 2013. The program was designed to engage teens who had been difficult to engage in out-of-school time (OST) programming. THHT teaches teens the authentic history of hip hop culture and equips them with the skills to write, record, and perform original music. We do this to encourage teens to express themselves artistically and to restore hip hop culture to its founding values.

Since the start of program we have found hip hop to be a very effective avenue for engaging teens in constructive OST activities. THHT has been covered on NPR affiliate WGBH Boston and more recently, Boston 25 News. Participants have performed in front of large crowds at the Cambridge Public Library, Cambridge City Hall, Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School, Middle East Restaurant and Nightclub, The Bridge Sound and Stage, and the Hard Rock Café. THHT was also selected to receive the Larry Burke Community Policing Award in 2013 for making Cambridge a better place to live, work and raise a family.

THHT participants are made up of 14-18 year-old young people living in Cambridge and its surrounding towns. THHT is specifically targeted for young people who readily identify with, and/or are interested in hip hop music and culture, as well as those who could benefit from 21st century skill development. Students often join THHT through referrals from school teachers, youth-workers, or Community Outreach Officers from the Cambridge Police Department's Safety Net Program for at-risk youth.

THHT has shown consistent success engaging and retaining individuals who have proven to be difficult to engage in other programs. Teens can be particularly challenging to engage in OST programming - even in programs that are offered at no-cost. Low-income teens can face additional barriers to participation, such as family responsibilities and/or the expectation to be earning a paycheck. The luxury of free time to attend OST programming is not something all young people enjoy. Our program is designed to engage young people where their interests already lie and provide enough value that they choose to spend a portion of their limited free time with us. Teens will also receive a stipend for their participation in the program to help alleviate some of the barriers to engagement.

Participants bring with them a wide-array of assets and strengths. Over the years, we have had skilled singers, songwriters, rappers, D-Jays, producers, dancers, and visual artists participate in our program. Their contributions have shaped and guided the creative direction of the program from its inception. Beyond tangible skill-sets, participants bring with them their stories, experiences, and knowledge that others can learn and grow from. The program is intentionally designed to rely on the contributions from the young people in the program to develop the content. Every song, album, video, and performance is driven by youth voice and creativity. All we do is provide the structure and support for young people to tap into the passion and skills that they already possess.

Internally, we measure skill acquisition, comprehension, and retention qualitatively through regular interviews and discussions with program participants, and by observing our students' overall academic, social, and job performance outside of the program. We utilize this information to develop individualized support plans for each of the young people enrolled in THHT. Our staff connect with parents, school teachers, guidance counselors, youth workers, and mentors to ensure an holistic and consistent approach in supporting our young people's growth and development.

Externally, our program is evaluated annually by the Reaching All Youth (RAY) Initiative - a committee convened by the City of Cambridge that focuses on 21st century skill development of teen-serving programs in Cambridge. This evaluation consists of two site visits and interviews with the teens we serve. At the end of each round of evaluation we debrief what was found through these efforts. We evaluate growth and development in the following areas: Leadership and Responsibility; Productivity and Accountability; Communication and Collaboration; Initiative and Self-Direction; Flexibility and
Adaptability; and Creativity and Innovation.

Moving forward, THHT is working to employ quantitative analyses to assess the behavioral health build-out component of our program. Psychometrically valid assessment tools will be utilized to measure socio-emotional and mental health outcomes of teens that have completed our program. THHT is currently working with students and faculty at William James College (formerly Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology) to evaluate these outcomes.

In addition to engaging teens and instilling 21st century skills through their work, we also take our role as activists for authentic hip hop in our community very seriously. A central component of THHT is to dispel myths and rumors about what hip hop is and return hip hop culture to its founding roots - before major record labels invested in it and turned it into something it was never meant to be. What young people hear on the radio and in mainstream media today is far from the politically-charged, socially-empowering hip hop music from the 70s and early 80s. Our students are artists, but they are also activists. We refer to our performances as outreach events for authentic hip hop. We make sure our music is appropriate for all ages, so young children can listen to authentic hip hop without their parents worrying about the messages they may be receiving through the music. We do not call our program a "positive" hip hop program - we prefer the word "authentic". Life isn't always positive and THHT gives young people a chance to use their authentic voice to express whatever it is they are feeling - positive or not - and be heard.

Earlier this year we were honored to be chosen to receive three-years of funding from Massachusetts Cultural Council’s highly-competitive YouthReach program. While this funding only covers a portion of the cost of the program, it provides us with some level of sustainability as well as validation of THHT’s value. We have also applied for funding through The Boston Foundation, the Max and Victoria Dreyfus Foundation, Voices 4 Youth, and the Bennett Family Foundation. Each summer THHT is supported by the City of Cambridge Office of Workforce Development’s Summer Work and Learning Program.

With the past success of the program and continued support and involvement from the local hip hop community, THHT has a very bright future of providing teens with opportunities to pursue their passions, express themselves, and engage with the world around them. As we continue to build partnerships and develop funding sources, the future of THHT becomes more and more secure.