On May 23, 2009, I organized a “Back to School Breakdance Challenge” for the youth participating in the Hip Hop Therapy Project. The purpose of this show was to provide these youth with an opportunity to showcase their skills and talent and to reward them for their hard work and dedication. It also served as the official launch of Breakdance Project Uganda (BPU) in Gulu. The event was a success with 200-300 people in attendance and fifty youth ranging in age from 8-20 years old performing and competing in the following categories:
– Beginner Top Rock
– Advanced Top Rock
– Beginner Foot Work
– Advanced Foot Work
– Beginner Popping
– Advanced Popping
– Beatmaking (using traditional African drums to create break beats)
– Best Overall B-Boy
– Best Overall B-Girl
Winners of the smaller competitions (Top Rock, Foot Work, Popping, and Beatmaking) each won 20, 000 shillings ($10) and a handheld radio/walkman/tape recorder.
Winners of the overall competitions (Best B-boy and Best B-girl) each won 50, 000 shillings ($25) and a brand new bicycle.
All 50 of the participants received a BPU T-shirt, a certificate of participation, and a gift bag containing pencils, pens, erasers, pencil sharpeners, cookies, candy, and balloons.
I chose prizes based on conversations I’d had with youth during the needs assessment exercises I conducted when I first arrived. For example, I found out scholastic materials are very important to young people in northern Uganda and that bicycles, being a main mode of transportation, are highly valued.
I used some of the money I received from Fulbright and mtvU to organize the event and also received funding from Nabil Elderkin. Nabil is a photographer and video director who has worked with such artists as Kanye West (He directed his video “Welcome to Heart Break”), Common, K’Naan and many more.
He is currently making a documentary on Breakdancing in Uganda. The documentary follows Crazy Legs and two other members of the Rock Steady Crew on their visit to Uganda last spring and also focuses on the work of BPU. Nabil was interested in including the show I organized in his film and graciously agreed to provide some funding for the event.
I’m really grateful to him for his support, without which the show wouldn’t have been possible. The youth really enjoyed themselves and many of them thanked me and asked me to continue what I was doing. One of the parents, whose child won a bicycle, called me to say thank you. She said that she never imagined in her life that her family would own a bicycle and that they now have transportation; I was very touched. I plan to use the rest of my time here looking for funding to continue holding workshops and turn the show into an annual event. These kids have so much talent and are eager for more opportunities.
Below is a short clip of part of the beatmaking competition. For each round there was a beatmaker and b-boy or b-girl dancing to their beat. The first half of the clip shows Opiyo Oscar as the beatmaker and b-boy Opiyo Denis and the second half shows Ivan Julius as the beatmaker and b-girl Apiyo Winnie.