News Stages, a TAP Program that works with juvenile offenders has just started back up again. To get a glimpse of what the year may have in store, check out Teaching Artist Andy Dolan’s experience of working with the young men in the facility over the past year.
We had our first group performance in February and my second group just finished their performance this fall. Over the past few months I’ve worked with this unit of boys to create a performance night of poetry and hip hop.
After cycling through different types of performance in my sessions with the boys, I found that poetry and hip-hop resonated with them. Soon, our sessions were ending with a ‘pass the mic’, where we’d sit around in a circle and freestyle to hip hop instrumentals I’d bring in, and our writing time was focused on crafting poetic images. Since our performance was going to be during Parent Group, the gentlemen decided that our theme should be “Letters to Mom.”
Parents Group was a gathering of parents and family members for the unit of boys. Eight young men, using a mix of hip hop and poetry, expressed individual letters to their mothers. They recounted hard times of growing up without a father, or a father’s drug and abusive streak. They spoke from the heart about events where they strayed from the family, and denied their families love and support. The performance ended with apologies for the hurt they’ve caused as a son and shared their visions of the future, many times including in the song how they plan to restart their relationship with their mother.
It was an amazing act of courage for these young men to not only stand up in front of a room and share their hip hop expressions, but to use that performance as a vehicle to heal wounded relationships with some of the people they care about the most. There were tears among the families. After the performance there were hugs and more tears. We sat down as a group and, using the performance as an example of communication, we had a touching conversation about how families can open pathways of communication between parents and their sons using different mediums of expression. One adult observed that the evening’s performance was a rare occurrence for himself, because it’s not that often where he’ll just sit and just listen wholly to all of what the child is saying.
Teaching Artist, Andrew Lee Dolan