“I’m starting with the man in the mirror…I’m asking him to change his ways”
“Don't ever change, keep your essence…the power is in the people and politics we address”
“It's been a long, a long time coming…but I know a change gon' come, oh yes it will”
These lyrics from three different artists helped to shape me into the man I am today. Are we providing an inspirational musical soundtrack to our children? Let’s give them a voice.
My name is Ahmen and I’m known as the Batman of Social Impact, as a nonprofit leader by day and a hip-hop artist by night. I’ve worked in low-income communities across the country and led groundbreaking initiatives in early childhood education, afterschool, foster care, juvenile justice, and more. As a hip-hop artist, I use music to help people to find their passion, discover their potential for change, and take steps to bring that vision to reality.
In this project, my music will be a tool for children to advance their wellbeing and ability to become changemakers. We will focus on two of my new songs:
A song about the urgency of this moment in 2016 and how we can tap our passion to enact powerful change and defy the naysayers.
A song about a major choice we face – do we deal with difficult situations with hate and divisiveness or with empathy and love?
This project will give children the opportunity to immerse themselves in the lyrics through designed curriculum, to create their own projects that represent what the songs mean to them, and to share their creations with the world. It is a powerful opportunity to innovatively promote children’s wellbeing, and the vision is 100% possible. For instance, my organization recently ran a program called Project Citizen with groups of middle school students. Through the course of a month, they identified issues of local importance, researched the problems, developed recommendations, and implemented solutions. Their issues of choice were thoughtful and compelling, including an end to gun violence and policy brutality and expanding clean drinking water. The projects made it clear that a) youth deserve the opportunity to exercise their voices and b) when you engage youth in creative ways, they can shake established systems and improve both their own wellbeing and the wellbeing of the communities that surround them.
The project will follow these steps:
1) Kick off
I will work with Ashoka's team to identify potential schools and educators who can facilitate the project. While Ashoka's network of Changemaker schools provide an immediate and efficient opportunity, I would be open to a wide variety of potential partners.
Children will engage in the music through curriculum that I will design in collaboration with partners and my colleagues in the field of social-emotional development. They will be prompted to:
- Dissect the lyrics to understand their meaning
- Apply the lyrics to their own lives, e.g. why should you pursue your passion?
- Apply the lyrics to major issues in society, e.g. why is empathy important after the incident in Orlando?
Children will be able to translate their reflections and learning into their own recreations of "Our Time" and "We Choose Love." I will provide frameworks for various forms of application, such as:
- Creating their own music videos for the songs
- Writing their own lyrics or poetry with themes of "Our Time" or "We Choose Love"
- Launching service projects that convey the themes
- Creating other works of art or expression that help the children to embody the themes
At this point I would collect metrics on the success of the project, such as # of participating children, # of participating schools, and # of application projects. As the project progresses from its pilot phase, I would partner with experts in the field to evaluate the opportunity to implement a reliable pre-/post-project survey to assess social-emotional growth, 21st century skills growth, and other relevant competencies for children.
4) Sustainability and scale
There are two primary objectives in this step: enabling sharing and expanding access. With a grant from this challenge, I would develop a web presence where children and educators can share their "Our Time" and "We Choose Love" application projects.
Additionally, the web presence would serve to help the project expand to new participants, from creating a network of changemaker musicians to bringing new schools and partners into the effort. I hope to offer the curriculum and tools for application for free through the website, thereby maximizing the potential reach and impact of this innovative project.
I will also share successes from the project to:
- Shed light on the power of positive hip-hop music to energize children
- Reframe the global conversation regarding the power of children to dictate their own future and wellbeing
- Engage new partners in the effort to promote children’s wellbeing through a greater sense of self, belonging, and purpose
After the initial phase with "Our Time" and "We Choose Love," we will add new music to the portfolio and expand the curriculum. Irrespective of the genre, the goal will be consistent: utilizing inspirational and authentic music in a sophisticated way to galvanize the next generation of changemakers.