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.
The HHTP members played an active role in defining which issues would be addressed during their performances. The all girls performance focused on tolerance and forgiveness, the all boys performance focused on non-violent conflict resolution, and the mixed boys and girls performance focused on gender relations and girls’ empowerment.
An interesting side note: while developing the all boys performance on non-violent conflict resolution I asked the boys what kind of things do boys fight about at school. They said power seeking and feeling disrespected but the number one reason is… GIRLS! We fight over girls! So their performance focused on two guys fighting over a girl and ultimately resolving their conflict through non-violence.
In the combined boys and girls performance on gender relations and girls’ empowerment, you first see the boys doing a routine to “Me, Myself, and I” by De La Soul and then the girls trying to join in. They are chased away and ridiculed by the boys, so they go off and practice on their own. They come back to music from Nas’ “I Can” and tell the boys “I know I can, be what I want to be, if I work hard at it, I’ll be where I want to be!” They then perform their own routine and the boys are amazed and give them respect when they’re done. The performance concludes with a joint routine by both the boys and girls. This campaign was a lot of fun to organized and demonstrated that Hip Hop performances can be both entertaining and informative!