Beats, Rhymes & Justice (BRJ), a collaboration with our partners at Audio Pictures LLC., was recently featured in VICE. BRJ is a part of the larger Rikers Education Program that brings social justice oriented project based education programming to young people ages 16-22 at Rikers Island.
BRJ uses digital music production, lyric writing and media literacy to engage young people in producing and recording songs at Rikers Island. Students learn to create and record songs using iPads and music production software as well as critically examine a variety of works from hip-hop artists including Tupac, Nas and Kendrick Lamar.
The program was created in March 2015 in partnership with Audio Pictures LLC., a Queens-based production and sound design company that also develops hip hop education programming. Audio Pictures LLC. has been instrumental in developing the program, the curriculum and working with us to deliver and expand the program. Over the last year we have run the program more than six times in two different facilities at Rikers Island with a great deal of success, with the young people who are incarcerated, with the Columbia students who participate in the program as well as the correctional officers and staff at the Department of Corrections.
Friday Night Hip-Hop on Rikers Island
By John Surico
Our seats are arranged in a circle around a laptop connected to speakers. The track is “Dear Mama” by Tupac—a poignant love letter from the late rapper to his mother, apologizing for the jail cells she had to visit him in. Everyone sits quietly, reading the lyrics as the song plays through.
One of the first lines resonates here: “When I was young, me and my mama had beef / 17 years old, kicked out on the streets.”
“I feel him, like…” one teenager, quickly wiping away tears, says into a microphone after the song ends. “I got kicked out when I was 17, and my mom wanted nothing to do with me. And my dad, I don’t even fuck with him.”
The mic gets passed around, as the other members of the circle—all dressed in their brown jumpsuits, with white socks and black velcro shoes—react to the 1995 ballad. Some don’t say much; others open up. The mic eventually makes its way back to another teenager who refused to talk the first time around.
You can find the full article here: Friday Night Hip-Hop on Rikers Island