Workshop Facilitators Use Hip Hop Music and Media Literacy to Make Reading Real for Youth at Oak Hill Juvenile Detention Center

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Arts and education advocacy organization, Guerilla Arts Ink, brings "HELP" to Oak Hill Juvenile Detention Center. Asheru, and other artists use Hip Hop music and popular media along with a series of language arts student activity books, called H.E.L.P. (Hip Hop Educational Literacy Program) in an innovative enrichment workshop at the Washington, DC facility. Thanks to the vision and commitment of Oak Hill's nonprofit managing group, See Forever, Guerilla Arts is making a real impact on youth using real world content and themes.

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Youth at Oak Hill Juvenile Detention Center in Washington D.C. are receiving an innovative alternative education experience. Independent Hip Hop musician and professional educator, Gabriel Benn (aka Asheru), along with a team of other talented artists recently began conducting a series of enrichment classes at the facility. These classes, called "HELP", use materials and an approach also co-created by Benn. A series of student workbooks (Hip Hop Educational Literacy Program) provide differentiated language arts instruction based on culturally relevant and engaging Hip-hop songs and artists. Popular songs by musicians such as Ludacris, Kanye West, Nas, 50 Cent, Common, and, most recently, Lauryn Hill provide high-interest themes and content for reading and writing practice. In addition to reading intervention, H.E.L.P. activities develop critical thinking skills and many other academic outcomes. At Oak Hill, the Guerilla Arts guest instructors also integrate media including movies, video, Internet, books and songs into these effective student workshops. Guerilla Arts instructors weave both reading literacy and media literacy into a dynamic and inspiring student experience.

Guerilla Arts Ink ( is a community organization dedicated to providing a link between the arts, education, and social service communities through creative and revolutionary means such as innovative educational programming, curriculum development, arts consulting, character education workshops, cultural arts/music education, entrepreneurial partnerships, and the development of educational multimedia productions. Through the support of its Artist Registry, Guerilla Arts gives artists the opportunity to work hands on with students as part of an Artists-in-Residence program. Through its community partnerships, diligent artist outreach and belief in the concepts of "community teachers" and the "community as classroom", Guerilla Arts has successfully provided arts programming and cooperative learning environments within the Washington, DC area for over 2 years.

Oak Hill is operated by nonprofit organization, See Forever ( The "HELP" workshops are just one example of how See Forever implements its mission to create learning communities in lower income urban areas where all students, particularly those who have not succeeded in traditional schools, can reach their potential.

Hip Hop Educational Literacy Program was developed by Educational Lyrics, LLC (, a Washington D.C. publisher dedicated to providing quality instructional materials that challenge illiteracy by engaging and motivating reluctant and struggling readers through relevant content. The next H.E.L.P. Teacher Guide and Student Workbook release will be based on the award winning animated television series "The Boondocks". The H.E.L.P. program is ideal for alternative education, after-school, school classroom, tutoring, and home environments and may be purchased at


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Thomas Schamel
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