Youth Violence Prevention Arts Collaborative | City of Ideas

Posted 11/14/2012 by Collaborate Boston Application

Issue to be Addressed:
Approximately 640 gangs with more than 17,250 members are criminally active in the New England region, according to The National Gang Threat Assessment Report of 2009 released by the National Gang Intelligence Center (NGIC), the 2008 National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) data, and local law enforcement. Gang-related violence is increasing due to competition among gangs for control of territories. African American, Asian, and Hispanic gang members often use violence to gain control over the retail-level and midlevel distribution of illegal drugs in many locations. Violence between Bloods and Crips members recently has escalated as a direct result of a conflict between the gangs for control of retail-level drug distribution.

The male youth at DYS (Department of Youth Services), who are mostly gang members, are isolated from society, exposed to violence and danger, suffer from low self-esteem, and historically demonstrate less resilience. These black & brown boys, ages 14-15, often face financial hardship and difficulty securing employment after reintegrating with society. Many of them, therefore, struggle with powerful feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness.

This collaboration will serve these boys by combatting low self-esteem using arts education as a vehicle for self-discovery, an outlet for creative expression, and a means of empowerment.

Project Proposed:
The proposed collaboration between Genuine Voices, Urbanity Dance, and Department of Youth Services will offer music and dance classes to young male boys, ages 14-15, who have been committed to DYS juvenile detention centers. These classes will be held at Casa Isla and Elliot Treatment Center, which both serve predominantly black and brown male youth from Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan. The purpose of each class is to expose incarcerated and at-risk youth to the arts, music and dance – reducing the rate of violence within the juvenile detention system and within local communities.

This collaboration aims to achieve the following goals to enable these susceptible youth to live a positive life of good standing in their communities:

-To reduce social conflicts and create harmonious communities -- using art classes to neutralize tension between rival gangs and to create harmony through music & dance
-To enable those who are disadvantaged in various ways to help themselves and others -- offering youth valuable artistic and life skills that will help them find work and improve their communities

-To encourage informed civic participation on local, state, and regional levels -- assisting youth in their re-integration with society

-To promote participation in the performing arts

Role of Collaboration:
Genuine Voices has a proven track record in successfully sending reformed male youth back into society, while successfully reducing DYS spending ($60,000-$80,000/year per delinquent). Since the organization was founded in 2002, Genuine Voices has built a long-lasting partnership with DYS to offer music classes and serve juvenile boys throughout Massachusetts. Since April 2012, Urbanity has had the opportunity to offer dance and movement workshops to youth at a number of Genuine Voices locations. The proposed collaboration will advance the existing efforts of Genuine Voices, Urbanity, and DYS.

A Collaborate Boston prize will enable Genuine Voices, Urbanity Dance, and DYS to further advance their existing work with young black & brown boys, ages 14-15, in Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan.

DYS boys are highly involved in serious gang activities and their charges are very heavy. Art-based programs have a restorative influence and help to heal the youths’ agony, develop their survival skills, and build their self-esteem and teamwork. Focus shifts from their adversities to constructive activities, providing them with skills in the planning of a finished music production or in the creation of a dance. Whether or not these boys go on to practice music or dance professionally, they gain valuable people skills that will help them find work and improve their communities.

As juvenile boys become engaged with music and dance, they have no time to engage in social and rival gang conflicts. Each class is designed to create harmony and neutralize tension between rival gangs. The boys who participate in a music or dance class are given the unique opportunity to make a change in their behavior by learning to communicate and respect each other, becoming less violent and less likely to harm others in the end.

Other information:
With limited resources, Genuine Voices and Urbanity Dance have only been able to offer one-time dance workshops (1.5 hours in length) at Casa Isla and Elliot Treatment Center. During the workshop at Casa Isla, one boy in particular decided to observe the last choreography activity either because he didn’t think it was "cool" or didn't want to be vulnerable with the other boys in the room. At the end of the workshop, however, he was the one who asked when Urbanity Dance would be coming back. When he was told not for another two months, his response was: "No, you all should be coming here every week!"

If one class or workshop is having such an effect on the boys, imagine the possibility of weekly music and dance classes. Genuine Voices, Urbanity Dance, and DYS have already witnessed the power of art in the lives of these boys -- a Collaborate Boston prize will simply help further this mission of transforming each juvenile boy through the arts.

Primary Contact:
Genuine Voices is a Boston-based nonprofit that teaches music, musical composition, and computer-based music “sequencing” to youth in juvenile detention centers and other educational and institutional settings across the United States and worldwide. The organization believes that it can assist youth in their ability to make positive life decisions by fostering their musical abilities and skills. The programs offered through Genuine Voices aim to provide youth with the experience of planning and creating finished music productions, which provides positive experiences, practical and social skills, and self-esteem.

Partner 1:
Urbanity Dance is a Boston-based contemporary dance company composed of 20 dancers that come from strong technical backgrounds in dance and aim to use their formal training to affect change by pushing the limits of dance technique. Urbanity is dedicated to providing quality art experiences both on and off the stage. Believing in the creative interplay between art and community, the company has supported neighborhood collaboration and the constructive channeling of vitality -- especially fostering life enhancement for children and youth through dance. In addition to providing quality arts instruction at its South End location, Urbanity leads workshops and residencies in Boston Public Schools and throughout the community that empower students to find their own creativity and artistic voice.

Partner 2:
The Department of Youth Services (DYS) is the juvenile justice agency of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The mission of DYS is to protect both the public and prevent crime by promoting positive change in the lives of youth committed to its custody, and by partnering with communities, families, government and provider agencies toward this end. DYS accomplishes this mission through interventions that build knowledge, develop skills and change the behavior of the youth in its care.

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