Streetrich helps teens through hip hop

A local community group is hoping to put a B.C. Arts Council grant to good use come 2015.

Burnaby's Streetrich Hip Hop Society received $1,025 from the provincial government last week, as part of the $1.86-million pie dolled out to various art-based organizations.

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Streetrich has been around for the last two years, providing free drop-in lessons to youth who do not have the means to take structured classes (everything from break dancing to creative writing). The end goal is to help them discover their own voice through the hip hop platform. 

The grant money will help fund Safe Cyphers - a series of four workshops to be held every Sunday during February, also known as Black History Month.

"The program is for facilitators dealing with youth, who may not necessarily have a lot of training to be better teachers," said vice president Kia Kadiri. "They may not know how to create an atmosphere that's comfortable for youth, whether that's dealing with sexual orientation, discrimination or race."

Kadiri, a rapper herself, added another important component of the sessions is discussion around using proper terminology in conversations with teens.

"There are some people who are really passionate about speaking out, but maybe they use the wrong wording. If you don't know the right terminology, you have to be humble and recognize that. Don't claim to be a master of anything."

The curriculum will cover other topics, including delving into hip hop's history.

"We'll examine why it's such an influential culture and how marginalized people had a voice, how they pursued hip hop to survive, not to just express  themselves," she said. "There were gangs and violence and people didn't have a lot of choice when it came to doing drugs and being involved in that scene, but hip hop was an outlet to overcome that."

From a cultural perspective, a few hours will be devoted to looking at different genres of music, including funk and jazz.

"Specifically, how it ties into the music industry today, how artists of colour are represented in mainstream media and how to have these conversations without alienating people," she said.

The workshops will also involve a lot of self-reflection, asking participants to think about their coping mechanisms when confronted with serious issues.

"How do you navigate through that? You can't bring your own politics into the room, and I think that's a divide we have with some facilitators," said Kadiri.

All in all, it's about going back to hip hop's roots, understanding how it is represented in the present day and being able to communicate that to youth.

"It gets adopted by all these organizations who try to make it cool, but don't go into the deeper issues that come from the culture," she went on to say.

A venue for the free workshops has yet to be announced. Registration will be required because space is limited.  For more information, visit

There were two other B.C. Arts Council grant recipients from Burnaby - the Nikkei National Museum ($15,000) and Russell Sholberg ($1,750).

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