For my final blog entry, I will provide an overview of the work I did while in Uganda, discuss project sustainability and future plans, and share a few lessons learned from my Fulbright experience.
One Hand Stand
The goal of my Fulbright project was learn how the Hip Hop Therapy Project (HHTP) could be strengthened to better serve the young people participating in it. In this effort, I conducted a needs assessment exercise with the aim of using the findings to inform the project’s growth and development.
After speaking with over 30 young people and meeting with other project stakeholders I decided to focus my efforts on:
Developing more training, performance, and competition opportunities for project
Increasing the number of youth benefiting from the project
Increasing access to age-appropriate HIV-, sexual-, and reproductive healthrelated
information for project members
Immediately after the official end of my Fulbright grant, I had the opportunity to coordinate a “Breakdance for Peace and Positive Social Change Campaign” with funding from the Northern Uganda Transition Initiative (NUTI). This involved organizing 11 school-based and 4 community-based breakdance performances in 4 districts of northern Uganda. The performances used dancing, acting, and music to communicate messages about peace and positive social change. Sixteen members (8 boys and 8 girls) of the Hip Hop Therapy Project (HHTP) were selected to participate in the campaign. The campaign included three performances from members of Breakdance Project Uganda (BPU) and three performances from members of the HHTP-one with only girls, one with only boys, and one with both boys and girls. Each performance was followed by an interactive session in which audience members got the opportunity to win prizes by sharing the lessons they learned from the performance. There were also dance competitions at each event during which audience members got a chance to show off their dance moves. › Continue reading
In addition to my focus on strengthening the Hip Hop Therapy Project, I was also interested in learning more about why young people in northern Uganda were drawn to Hip Hop music and culture. I informally interviewed approximately 20-25 youth participating in the Hip Hop Therapy Project. Most of the young people I spoke to were young men between the ages of 14 and 18. I asked each of them the following questions:
• What do you like about Hip Hop?
• What do you dislike about Hip Hop?
• How did you first hear about Hip Hop?
• Who is your favorite Hip Hop artist and why?
• What influence do you think Hip Hop has on young people in northern Uganda? › Continue reading
One of the things that has fascinated me the most while working on my Fulbright project is the role that breakdancing can play as a tool for girls’ empowerment.
In northern Uganda, like in many parts of the world, traditional gender norms dictate that women and girls be quiet, respectful and subservient to men. Girls participating in the Hip Hop Therapy Project adhere to these social norms. They are very quiet and shy.When they come to greet me (and anyone older than them), they kneel or curtsey. They speak very softly and rarely look you in the eye.
When it’s time to hit the dance floor however, they become transformed. When it comes to breakdancing, these same girls dance with as muchconfidence and attitude as the boys. I’m still amazed every time I
see one of the b-girls enter a “cypha” (freestyle dance session). Although the cyphas are largely dominated by boys, the girls jump into the middle of the circle and dance fearlessly! It’s as though the dance floor serves as a sort of equalizer. On the dance floor, girls and boys are equally respected based on their skill and talent as dancers and not on their gender.
It’s a beautiful thing to witness and I hope that some of the confidence and self-esteem the B-girls gain from their breakdance experience will translate in other aspects of their lives.
I have been conducting interviews with young people participating in the Hip Hop Therapy Project on their views about American Hip Hop music and culture (a report on that to come shortly!). During one of these interviews, a young man named Ojok Thomas told me he was a rapper so I asked him to rap for me.
He rapped a song he wrote about “returning to the Grand Land”. I wanted to share it with you because it is a wonderful illustration of how Hip Hop is used throughout the world (including Gulu!) to express social concerns and frustrations. › Continue reading